Home Up



Airline Service Security

By Roy D. Follendore III

Copyright (c) 2001 by RDFollendoreIII

September 27, 2001

Being a guy from a farm with two solid feet squarely planted on the ground, my Father-In-Law has never felt that airline flights are for him.  In fact I don't think that he ever felt that people needed to be flying around that way.  I didn't used to feel that way. There is no doubt that I feel deeply for the passengers, crew and families of the hijacked airlines but after the events on the 11th of September I have come full circle to tend to agree with him.  While I believe that there is less danger in flying than in driving, I don't intend to fly on a commercial aircraft again unless I absolutely have to, and I don't think anyone else should either.   I guess I didn't feel this way before terrorists began flying commercial jets into buildings.  But, it wasn't because of terrorism that I reached this conclusions.  Perhaps like everyone else, I just thought of taking an airline flight as a necessity.  They were always there.   I used airlines when I wanted.  It was an easy option.  I got to thinking about that recently and I really don't think commercial flights actually are an easy option.  

There are many real and fundamental problems with airlines and not just the fact that they have disarmed the good guys and through their management and poor aircraft design allowed hijackers to take over their planes.  (See my previous writings on this subject.) These problems of the airlines are symptoms of a much greater problem.  I think that the premise of commercial aviation was founded on some very real concerns that were never being addressed.  I think the airline industry has extended the paradigm too far and to wide without having thought about the foundations of their business. 

One of these problems is reflected by the one thing that almost everyone can recognize.  The pricing system for tickets have for years  been simply crazy.  The difference between two tickets sitting next to each other can be thousands of dollars.  Another problem is that flights simply don't go where we need them.  When you added it up, to get from Dulles to say Memphis Tennessee on a commercial jet for instance, even before the new security delays took almost as much time as a single engine aircraft.  At many major airports, domestic passengers can expect to sit on the tarmac longer than they will be in the air.   As a private pilot myself I know that statistically this time is far more dangerous than the time in the air.  But even when you get to where you think you want to go, it still does not mean you are where you think you are.  It is often impossible to know what ramp you will be coming to when you get where you are going.  To get out of an airport can often take more than an hour, with much of that time spent walking with bags.  

Another problem is airline service. There really hasn't been any that counts for beans.  To ask a question about your tickets you often have to stand in line for 20 minutes or more.  The fact is that airlines treat passengers pretty much like livestock.  They cram people into seats that they know are too small because they make more money that way.  It is very difficult and distressing for everyone to get in and out of commercial aircraft.   Even at its best people so closed together begin to instantly stink, they are often sick and coughing on everyone else. People are farting and babies are constantly crying from their ears, airsickness, and boredom. Their Mothers and Fathers change their nasty diapers practically in your lap. Some parents allow their children to run up and down the isles screaming and the airlines allow parents to hold their children in their laps.  This is a pleasure for those sitting next to them.   These smells mix inside the closed recalculating aircraft passenger  cabin.  To our credit we ignore all of these thing for the sake of humanity but there are things that can not be ignored.

Airline food is a nightmare, which is amazing in itself because it is used to pacify the passengers.  Airlines lose your baggage, and when they don't they throw it around and damage it.  They then put what remains of your bags on conveyer belts somewhere in a building the size of many football fields and have you try to find out if it made it where you did.  They make you listen to the same speech, about safety every time the plane takes off.  They tell you how you must sit, what you can and can not have near you, give you liquids to keep you shut up, and then tell you when you can go pee.  Many times airline employees pour hot and cold drinks in your lap. If you are in the outside seats you have to barge your way through to get to go stand in line at 30,000 feet to pee.  If you are on the inside seat you are constantly being barged into by those who need to go to the toilet  in the outside seats.  If you happen to have a seat near the toilet you can be assured that the odor will be rank before the end of a flight of any distance.

I won't even go into the onboard movies.  There is nothing like flying across the Atlantic ocean watching Madonna's "Evita" one way and "The English Patient" the other.  Before that memorable trip was over I would have gladly used a parachute if I had one.  That is airline entertainment. 

Sure the airlines are part of an industry that moves millions of people through the air, but I could have just as well said the same thing by shooting millions of people from giant cannons. The ultimate problem is that airlines need to start over with the basics of what it means to be human and reconsider the nature of their business. They should not start with the design of an existing aircraft or an existing airport system. The truth is that the interior of airports and aircraft are not very well designed for people.  Aircraft are better designed to carry bombs better than people.  Airports are better designed for rail stations.  But the total truth is that the entire airline industry is just not well designed for people.

New security measures are needed, but to load them onto an already poorly considered and failing operational set of problems is compounding the preexisting situation that never was really stable from a consumer perspective.  Strip searching passengers won't increase customer satisfaction.  Neither will policies that prohibit using the time spent in aircraft productively.  PanAm has just announced that all carry on baggage will no longer be allowed.  This means no electronics, it means no briefcases.  It means wallets, purses and diaper bags only.  This means that businessmen will not be able to do work while the aircraft is in flight for six to twelve hours.  

Maybe instead of Air Marshals our Government should introduce anesthesiologists to simply knock out everyone so that they can be loaded on the conveyer belts to their destinations.  

Just think, it would feel just like science fiction teleportation!    




Copyright (c) 2001-2007 RDFollendoreIII All Rights Reserved