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Would You Still Fly If You Had Other Choices?

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The lights of Los Angeles seen from the plane window in December


Would you still fly if you had other choices? This is a question I recently pondered after a series of flights, long delays, high extra fees and bumpy rides. For me, this question isn’t terribly difficult – I don’t enjoy flying and never have. I do it because I have to do it. But recent changes to airline services are making me seriously rethink.

I understand that public companies have a duty to their shareholders to maximize profits. I understand that fuel costs can be high and long-term employee benefits can also be costly. But the nickel and dime-ing that is going on right now is making me wonder.

Alcohol has always been a costly perk (though I understand it dehydrates you, sometimes that glass of wine is the only thing that stands between you and telling off the stranger practically sitting on top of you as you try to work). When they started charging for airline snacks, we all nodded and said nothing (I bring my own most of the time). When they managed to make the legroom for coach seats so minuscule that even I complained about being too tightly squeezed (I’m 5’3” on a tall day), I complained but decided that the cheaper tickets were worth it.

Somewhere in there we also accepted the outrageous change fees for plane tickets – we decided it was the price of having an unpredictable schedule. The less than speedy Internet access that is sometimes (though not always) available is wildly overpriced on some airlines, but we jump up and down with glee when it is available.

Now we are being asked to embrace tickets that do not allow you to use the overhead bins unless you have an upgraded ticket. The price difference might not be huge, but it seems not only difficult to police, but also annoyingly petty. We’ll probably accept this because we’re already deeply annoyed at the people who bring too much stuff and block up the overheads anyway. But really?

And don’t even get me started on the entirely bogus “cookie” practice that jumps prices of an airline ticket if you look at a particular flight more than once online and don’t clear your browser. That feels like dirty pool to me.

The thing is, we sigh and pay all of these fees because as long as the plane actually takes off and lands, at our core, we feel good about it. Seriously – I’m never going to give an airline a terrible rating if they actually got me to my destination alive. This point was proven to me when I got only a partial leg reimbursement and a $125 voucher after a “mechanical issue” forced me to miss a connection and sit in an airport for 11 hours in December. Sure, it took two submissions to get that compensation because the first time customer service didn’t read the complaint, but I got back here alive, so I was never going to tank their review. Plus, it isn’t the fault of the pilots or the flight attendants that the experience of flying is leaving me hoping that teleportation really does become a safe thing.

[Update: Of course, all of this was written before I had to consider the possibility of being removed from a plane I was already on, or the threat of violence if I didn’t “volunteer” to take another flight.]

So, what are the alternatives? I love train travel, but it’s not fast or easy in the United States anymore (though I understand Amtrak is hoping to improve that). Guess what? It’s also not cheap (I’ve been dreaming about a train trip to Vancouver that makes my bank account cry). Road trips make my heart sing for their flexibility, but unless I’m staying in state, it doesn’t help. And those oceans make travel by car a bit tricky.

What I do know is that without viable alternatives, we’ll get to smile and nod as changes to disclosure rules and additional fees rack up. Sure, there is competition, but there does seem to be a baseline for all the major airlines. I guess I can wait for one of them to go rogue – I heard talk of Delta bringing back free food on cross-country treks, and it seemed like a supreme act of rebellion.

Now that you’ve sat through this rant (entirely written while sitting in the DMV), I want to hear from you. Have you found alternatives? Do you love flying? Have you found the perfect airline that combines safety, service and price? Does the prospect of adventure counterbalance all of the negatives? Sound off in the comments!

20 Comments on Would You Still Fly If You Had Other Choices?

  1. Airlines in the States are the WORST! Why has every other country been able to figure it out and treat patrons like the customers they are. I remember reading about train transportation in the States at one point and some fast trains some groups were trying to install but of course BIG business and the govt didn’t want to help because it would be more efficient and cost effective for our citizens so tracks were built that are now left unused. Because that’s awesome. Yeah.. I’m with you and would personally love to train across the country.

    • PatriciaSteffy // March 9, 2017 at 4:23 am // Reply

      I keep gazing at the LA to Vancouver train schedules. So expensive to go in any way that will allow me to actually sleep, but it seems like it would be such a great adventure (and a much better way to see things). As for the airlines, I keep waiting for a miracle.

  2. I usually fly JetBlue. I can fly it 90% of the time. The major exception being when I go to visit my mom. If theres a problem, they bend over backward to fix it. When I go to Europe, I usually take their partner Are Lingus, another airline I love.. I have no qualms about flying and if it is affordable (often cheaper and faster than US train tickets) it makes sense for me.
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    • PatriciaSteffy // March 9, 2017 at 2:31 pm // Reply

      I’ve good luck on JetBlue! Alas, they don’t fly to where my parents are (or at least not close enough for it to make sense). I’m just keeping my fingers crossed at this point that they expand their destinations!

  3. Megan Indoe // March 9, 2017 at 6:01 am // Reply

    I really hate flying domestic in the US, it seems like they nickel and dime you for everything, including paying for carry ons now, and to top it off the seats seem to get smaller and smaller. We have flown on budget airlines in Asia that are more comfortable. On top of that they are so expensive!! I really wish we had a better rail system in the states or better bus options. Greyhound and other bus services (last time I checked) just seem like they take WAYYY too long to get anywhere. It leaves you stuck! Hopefully Elon Musk and the hyperloop become a reality and change the way we travel all together.

  4. I used to also think American Airlines were terrible but even British airways is stooping to some of these practices. Having just flown to Seoul in business I can safely say that even though that is better than economy, if time wasn’t an issue, I would go overland every time
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    • PatriciaSteffy // March 9, 2017 at 2:33 pm // Reply

      I really enjoyed traveling by train in Europe. Sure, it could be time consuming, but it was a great option. Let’s just hope we get back to having those options in the States!

  5. Never have experience the negative stories of airlines in the states. Hopefully not anytime soon. But I think I would chose to travel by train, you can then enjoy the scenery!

  6. I’m really hoping U.S. based airlines get hip to the program. I’ll never understand why it costs me over $100 to fly to the next state over, when I can fly to a completely different country for less than 20 bucks in Europe. Also, I remember last year taking a budget flight in Asia, and although the flight was less than 2 hours they served us an entire meal! I couldn’t believe it! I hate the nickle and diming that goes on in the states. Sure, it happens other places too, but it definitely seems more prevalent in the U.S.

    • PatriciaSteffy // March 9, 2017 at 9:32 pm // Reply

      It really does. That’s why some of the newer airlines tend to make the news — they try get the customers that the big airlines are losing just by making the process less hellish.

  7. I am totally with you on this! I often fly short haul in Europe & airlines there are notorious for penny-pinching. I really hope teleportation does become a thing, or maybe a Harry Potter style floo powder would save us all! I fly because I have to in order to reach my destination. Ultimately all airlines know that & will keep squeezing every last penny out of us until teleports are invented!!
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    • PatriciaSteffy // March 10, 2017 at 1:39 am // Reply

      I love the idea of floo powder saving the day! It’s a bit messy, but so much easier in so many ways. 😉

  8. I honestly, honestly LOVE flying. When the day comes that teleportation is a possibility, maybe it will be the day that I say goodbye to my love of the aviation industry but my dad worked for the airline industry for years before passing away so to me, an airport and an airplane feel like home. I do hate the dirty cookie price hike but I blame that on the interwebs.
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  9. Half the time flights have to be your mode of transport as it gets you across countries and continents way faster! But, I would rather trade it for the wonderful experience of a road trip and the luxury of cruise when I have to cross continents. But, anyhow, you cannot escape the flights.
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  10. I personally hate airplane travel. The best experience I had was flying from London to NYC business class because I got an involuntary upgrade from British Airways. If flying was like that all the time, I’d be more enthusiastic. I can’t drive but I love traveling by car or by boat!
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    • PatriciaSteffy // March 11, 2017 at 2:30 am // Reply

      I’ve had some good luck with boat travel, too! It was a wonderful way to see Norway (though the seas were rough for the initial crossing from England). I’d love to find a way to do that more often.

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