Why I Don’t Fly

I like to think of myself as a supporter of the local economy. There is one sector, however, in which I do not participate.  I do not fly.  I haven’t flown regularly since 2009, when I retired.  And I don’t miss it.

I used to fly a lot. Try living in Hawaii and working for the Navy if you want to  rack up airline miles.  For eleven years I was flying a couple of times a month to San Diego or Norfolk or DC.  I developed the invaluable skill of being able to sleep on a plane. Now, I actually can’t NOT sleep on a plane.  I’m usually snoozing before takeoff.

And thank God for that! The Friendly Skies aren’t so friendly any more. Better that you sleep through altercations with unruly passengers who actually expect the plane to take them to where their ticket said.  Better that you not have to see the Delta crew snatching a stroller from a mother traveling with three infants, or hear the horrified reactions of the  passengers. People on airliners these days act exactly how you would expect people or animals to behave without adequate space, or room to move around. Just like the rats they used to show us in college. Cramming people into a 12″ width seat may be legal but it’s not smart. The conditions on the typical airliner wouldn’t meet the standards of the Geneva Convention,  but we volunteer to put up with it, because we’re accustomed  to unrealistic airfares.

I especially don’t understand people who FLY to SFO. By the time you spend an hour getting to the airport, an hour checking in, a couple of hours in the air and circling to land  and an hour getting a rental car, that’s five hours and you’re still at SFO.  If you drove, you’d be checking into your hotel.  Or enjoying yourself.  

I know we’ll hear from Gregg Foster that things are’t that bad;  Gregg and the Fly Humboldt folks do a fine job considering what they have to work with.        

As for myself, except for going to China, or Hawaii or Europe – I still have a couple of bucket-list type trips in me-I will be traveling by car, bus or train.  Did you know that you can get to China without flying?  You have to get to Alaska, then take a freighter to Korea then a couple more boat trips,  but it can be done. Let me know how it goes. 


10 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Fly

    • Thanks for this! The NyT website doesn’t have any links to that date. Like The New Yorker , they’re stingy with their links. Don’t blame them.

  1. “I especially don’t understand people who FLY to SFO”
    Security at SFO is far worse. Some days it would be faster (and certainly more pleasant) to drive up here and fly back to SFO than to go through SFO security.

  2. I absolutely agree. My last flight was in 2000 when security was tight, but not nearly like it is now (from what I have read since I have not actually experienced post 9/11 flying). Everyone just seems so stressed out–the ground crew, the gate crew, the flight crew, the passengers. Add the fact that passengers are nickeled and dimed for things that were previously included in their fare. So I’m with you in saying that I will probably never fly again.

    I put both Amtrak and Greyhound on notice as well because even train and bus travel have been downgraded over the last several years. Train travel is no longer like the Super Chief, the Lark, the California Zephyr and the other grand trains of the past.

    I will travel, but it will be with my own car where I am not at the mercy of the “common carriers”.

  3. Cool! I got my name in a blog.

    Actually I won’t say things are that bad. The customer experience has gotten worse. Those of a certain age remember the almost luxurious experience of flying. Those who are younger, see the historic photos of the “golden age.”

    So, what’s driving this? Many things. This article is a little dated, but it’s interesting, https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/surprise-airline-ticket-prices-have-fallen-50-in-the-last-30-years/273354/.

    Here’s another chart showing the inflation adjusted drop in prices over the years. https://public.tableau.com/views/AnnualDomesticRTAirfares/Dashboard1?:embed=y&:toolbar=no&:tabs=no&:display_count=no

    The airlines, like many other industries, have had their margins squeezed and have to make it up in volume. According to the World Bank, in 1970 there were 310 million passengers carried internationally. In 2015 that number is 3.4 billion! That means more people per plane. It also means more planes in the air with airports not growing fast enough to accommodate them. So the system, both infrastructure and people, are stressed.

    Do people remember retail customer service? The elegant service, attractive, and often artistically designed, stores? Many are gone the way of the dodo because we as consumers make the decision to give up amenities for lower prices. So the customer friendly department stores fall to the big boxes. Now the big boxes are falling to mail-order. Sort of the same thing. In the airline industry, it’s the ULCC’s that helped change the motto. ULCCs – Ultra Low Cost Carriers (Southwest, Spirit, Jet Blue, etc.). Drop the fares, drop the extras and pack ’em in. And the customer LOVED them. Well hated them, but flew them.

    Because I do have to work with the airport and airlines, I have to keep a sense of humor. Here are a couple of my favorites. The second is a video from Spirit Airlines, which was the most hated airline in America. Oh, it’s also financially successful.

    This one is Louis CK – Don’t watch if you don’t like bad language – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ezouMwT__U

    Spirit Airways – Embrace the Hate – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMONcHY1Jeo

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