July 15, 2012

Air travel can be an insane hassle

Summer is traditionally the busiest travel time of the year. Anyone who has traveled anywhere by air recently, however, knows that getting on a plane can be an insane hassle capable of ruining even the most carefully planned vacation

.I used to think it was poor customer service or pure greed that was turning the airline industry into a cesspool of broken travel dreams. The airport gauntlet has become so terrifying, though, that I no longer think it can be the result of accident or oversight.

For some reason, someone is actively trying to keep us from flying on planes.

Consider the airplane experience as currently configured.

First, you purchase your tickets for what you consider a reasonable price, then add in nuisance fees. A fee to choose your seat. A fee for two extra inches of space. A fee to board early. The biggest, of course, is the fee to actually bring luggage on vacation with you.

If you want to bring a suitcase, it will cost you. And if that suitcase contains more than three clean changes of underwear, it’s going to weigh more than the prescribed limit, which will cost you still more.

Carry-on bags are momentarily still free, though I haven’t been on a flight in three years in which there was enough room in the cabin for all the free carry-on bags — the excess always have to be placed in the storage compartment anyway, though you would have been charged for doing just that minutes earlier.

If you planned in advance, like a good traveler, you still face a 50/50 chance of the airline randomly changing your reservation. These changes come for no apparent reason, and the airline never calls to ask “Hey, is this OK with you?”

They could move your departure time up seven hours. They could give you a 17-hour layover in Detroit. They could swap your return destination from Burlington, Vt., to Istanbul.

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