Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Modern Air Travel

Remember when flying was romantic? Now I hate flying. It is a horrible, unpleasant experience. I just returned from a week at my brother's in St. Louis. My mom & I flew Continental Airlines. While we flew Economy class, our flights cost over $325 each round trip, with taxes & fees.

On our departing flight, we were crammed into the tiny seats of our plane. My knees hit the back of the seat in front of me, and I am only 5'4". The magazine & emergency card were in the seat-back pocket in front of me, which was ripped away from the seat and hanging loose. I reached in and found everything in there sopping wet. So much for reading the emergency instructions. There was no padding left in the seat cushion, which flattened completely when I sat down. I reached up to turn on the air to find that the vent buttons of both seats in my row were missing. So, no air.

Then the pilot announced that we would be leaving slightly late because "they" (as though "they" had no connection to Continental Airlines) had forgotten to clean the plane's lavatories, and that this would be completed quickly. Minutes later we took off. Needless to say, I didn't use the facilities.

Our return flight was even worse. The seat cushion was thin again, but no obvious disrepair. Then, about 10 minutes after takeoff, in a bank of clouds, our plane rocked and rolled. I was sent up, down, and sideways -- twice -- into Mom's seat. I grabbed her arm thinking, this is it. I almost threw up. Most violent turbulence I ever went through. I kept saying, Go up or go down, as in, get out of these clouds, you fool pilot. We finally emerged from the clouds into the sunshine. Nothing from the cockpit. I guess throwing the passengers from side to side in a small plane is de rigeur to them. No announcements, they didn't even mention it until an hour and half later when we were ready to land -- "Hope we don't have any turbulence like we did on take-off." Huh.

The CEO and the board of Continental Airlines should be forced to sit in a seat the size of their airline economy seats while they do their work. Rock 'em about every two hours without explanation. Pour water over the papers on their desks randomly. Turn off the HVAC system. See how they like it.

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