U.S. Air Travel Is For The Birds

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - December 26, 2007

What the heck happened to air travel in the United States? Domestic airlines are getting their bottoms handed to them by their foreign competitors, at least in the service and overall experience department. If my recent voyage is any indication of the state of commercial air travel, I am certain travelers will leave our U.S.-based carriers for their overseas competition.

My family and I are on our annual trek to the tropical glory of the Midwest. Our itinerary features snow, sleet, wind, wind chill, ice, drifts and seeing our breath when we talk. I love it.

The experience of getting from point A to point B is another story.


We chose a major domestic carrier to take us to Grand Rapids, Mich. In all honesty, the curbside check-in was excellent and the aircraft was in top shape. It wasn’t the facilities that caused consternation, it was the service. I am not looking at “King For A Day” treatment, but basic courtesy isn’t too much to expect. I won’t bore you with the minutiae, but once we boarded our first plane and de-planed our last, the quality of staff was suspect.

I had the chance to travel on a domestic carrier’s foreign competitor earlier this year. Perhaps I have been spoiled. The staff on that nine-hour flight was delightful. Each was so pleasant, cheerful and genuinely happy to see you on board. The service was tremendous. It was as if the staff from an upscale restaurant had been transported to the airplane. The attentiveness and friendliness made the trip so enjoyable.

This recent flight was an eye-opener. The attendants were literally barking directives at the passengers, would heavily sigh when asked a question and never smiled. How tough is it to smile, even if it’s fake? Not only are the air fares through the roof, but paying for a meal on a plane just seems wrong. When you are paying almost $1,000 for a ticket, you would think the airline could throw in a sandwich. At least, throw in a smile.


The proverbial last straw was in our final leg of the flight. The attendant, while explaining the safety procedures, turned the serious information into a cheap stand-up act. The references to crashing and not hearing yourself screaming seemed a little over the top. The message is, if there really were an emergency, would they joke their way through the evacuation?

Final thought. This is not intended to be a diatribe, but more a “does this happen to you?” story. I know there are caring and dedicated professionals who do the very best they can in a trying environment. However, there are those who simply should look for another profession. They clearly are unhappy with their job, they give their company a bad reputation and they make the customers’ travel experience disappointing. Again, not a broad-brushed indictment, but you know who you are. Why not just go?

As much as I defend American products and services, our loyalty does not extend to boorish and sub-standard products. The next time I book a flight, I will look to another carrier that clearly appreciates our business and will give us the best experience for our hard-earned dollar. It’s not that we are not supportive of American business, it’s that there are some American businesses that are not supporting us - and are thus not worth supporting.

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