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Rantworthy: Open Letter to the Airline Industry

Dear Airline Industry,

It’s been a while since we talked and I’d like to address a few issues with you if you’ll take time out of your busy schedule of practicing the hammer throw with my luggage.

I applaud the industry’s commitment to technology and convenience.  The new kiosks for electronic check-in are a phenomenal idea.  Too bad not all good ideas are in turn good in practice.  For 50 percent of travelers the kiosks are very easy to use and understand.  For the other half of travelers it’s like handing them a Rubik’s Cube and New York Times crossword puzzle to solve before they can get on an airplane.  It’s the later half that slows everyone else down.

Many travelers have to speak with a human before they get on a plane. It’s just the way they are.  Instead of having 20 kiosks and two ticketing agents, you need two kiosks and 20 gate agents.  While we can only guess how many travelers may know how to use your electronic check-in system, we know exactly how many of your ticketing agents can.  Let the people who cause the traffic jams at the kiosk go suffer through your ticketing agent typing on her computer for 30 minutes to produce two boarding passes and one baggage claim check.  The rest of us will gladly use the kiosk because we have the requisite experience operating a microwave and can deal with the technology.

Excuse me if I revisit one thing before we move on here.  What exactly are your ticketing agents doing when they go off into la la land typing for ten minutes to check you in?  If I can check in with a swipe of my driver’s license, how come your guys can’t make the same thing happen?  I can dial a cell phone with my ass and trade away my life savings on line with a click of a button and you can’t even get a couple old farts on their way to security without retyping War and Peace.  What’s the deal?

Many of those tech savvy passengers of yours are forgoing the entire airport check-in because they aren’t even attempting to check bags anymore. Charging for checked bags has created something I like to call the “carry-on monster.”  Because you want to charge anywhere form $15 to $25 for each checked bag on some airlines, you have put a scare into the cheapskates who didn’t trust you with their luggage in the first place.

The cheapskates now try to carry on two sedan sized bags in order to avoid being charged to check them. After all, they already think you’re too stupid to deliver their bags to their final destination in the first place; they’re not going to pay you to prove them right.  Now responsible bag checkers like myself spend the beginning and end of each flight helping 70 year-old snowbirds stow and retrieve 90 pound carry-on bags that should be stored in the belly of the plane and subject to the same abuse as everyone else’s luggage.

Don’t tell people you are charging them to check their bags.  Simply add it to the cost of the flight.  Lord knows what your hiding in the cost of a plane ticket since the price of fuel dropped and your prices didn’t.  It’s better we don’t know.

One thing I’d pay extra for is a little peace and quiet as we are taxing toward the runway.  I know the government requires you to go through an entire charade about safety at the beginning of each flight, but it’s not necessary.  In fact, it’s annoying.  I don’t want to break your little hearts here, but absolutely nobody is paying attention to the oxygen mask dance you guys do at the beginning of each flight.  There are high school substitute teachers getting through to more people than you guys do.

Most of us are too busy either high-fiving our luck in having an empty middle seat or fighting over an armrest with the offensive lineman who just happened to find a cozy spot in our lap.  We don’t care what the flight attendants are saying.  Besides, the person giving the speech has done it so often that they race through it like it’s walking on hot coals.  I can’t make head nor tails of what’s being said.  I can’t remember to put the seat down for my wife, much less that some butter dish is supposed appear out of nowhere in one situation and my seat cushion is to be used for something else in another.

Give us a few minutes of peace and quiet and hopefully we’ll be all asleep by the time we get in the air and you’ll save a lot of money on free sodas and coffee.  As for the government requirement that you give that little spiel – your secret is safe with us.  If we hit a mountain at 300 plus miles per hour I can guarantee there will be nobody around to complain that you didn’t tell them their seat cushion could be used as a flotation device.

My final complaint is the one I think you can solve the most easily.  You just choose not to because that’s your nature.

The miracle of modern commercial flight is something nobody takes for granted.  We can get on plane in New York and just few hours later land in Los Angeles, London or Beijing – how cool.  The airline industry delivers millions of people and their luggage to destinations around the globe each day with little or no problems.  You guys do it safely too! It’s truly amazing.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that modern Global Positioning Systems (GPS) now lets the industry pinpoint routes, locations of planes and just about anything else it takes to get passengers from point A to point B in the most efficient manner.  Modern technology has really streamlined the process of travel in many ways.

So, why in the hell can’t you guys get that stupid jet way lined up and the airplane door open in less than thirty minutes?  On a one hour flight 40 percent of time on the plane is spent waiting for some genius to open the door and let us out.  What’s the problem?  You pilots fly blind through fog using only instruments and you can’t get a 15 feet by 15 feet opening to cover up a three by six feet door from three feet away in under thirty minutes?  Something is wrong there.

I’m tired of watching your wrecking crew fling the checked baggage into carts while I sit there waiting for some kind of space station type of link to the jet way.  I should exit the plane before my luggage does.  My luggage doesn’t have to pee like I do at the end of a flight.

I’m not sure if you have someone in house to help you with this problem, but you could call NASA.  They capture satellites orbiting the earth at an excess of 17,000 miles per hour.  I’m pretty sure they could solve this problem.  If you can’t afford NASA, you might call my elementary school Principal Mrs. Gordon.  She could empty a school of 500 paste eating kids in about three minutes during a fire drill.  I’m sure she could do wonders with a group of adults a quarter of that size.

If you have to charge us a fee, please go ahead.  Don’t tell us about it.  I’ve already explained how travelers react to that.

I hope you take my suggestion to heart.  Or at least take them into consideration.  After seeing what you charge for those awful in-flight meals, I’m pretty sure you don’t have a heart.

Brad Kanus

Ps. I better not find myself on a “watch list” after you read this.