Fly The Unfriendly Skies

Fly The Unfriendly Skies

“This is the story of America. Everybody’s doing what they think they’re supposed to do.” Jack Kerouac

Flying is stressful these days.  Passengers are more nervous to fly than ever. Going on a plane gives people a lot of anxiety. It is annoying to get to the airport an hour or two before a flight. Security is a headache. Fear of terrorism makes flying scary.  Flights are crowded. Fewer people are willing to volunteer to take a later flight. By the time you are on the plane, you just want to get where you are going safely.

My older cousin worked for United Airlines. It was at a time when stewardesses were always beautiful and families of employees could travel for free. Planes weren’t crowded and he was proud that he could always score first class tickets for his parents. My cousin’s license plate was FTFS    Fly the Friendly Skies. He loved his job. He was sick for a while and died young – a week before 9/11 happened. We were glad that he missed that.  What would he think about this particular incident?

There is no explaining away the forceful removal of a person with a ticket from an airplane seat who is bloodied in the process, because the airline has overbooked the plane. Computers are not always able to solve human problems. People who fly on Sunday nights tend to have to be in work Monday as well. We have no idea what was going on in his head, how he felt about flying to begin with or what he had to do to cause that reaction.

I read an article about this particular passenger’s character and mental state.  An unknown number of passengers travel with every kind of mental disorder. Many have sat next to me. It is alarming that they are trying to turn this around and blame him. I don’t know how I would have reacted being told that I was randomly selected to leave the plane so a stewardess could get to work. It wouldn’t have been pretty.

If airlines are going to throw people off flights where they will be losing income from their jobs, vacation days, non refundable hotels or activities, they have to offer better compensation. My price is a first class cross-country ticket or 50,000 frequent flier miles but that is just me. 

Several years ago, my friends and I were walking slowly through an airport to change flights to return home from a school ski trip. When we got to the gate, we were told that the flight was overbooked and we would have to spend twenty-four hours in Brussels. It made sense not to let us get on, if we couldn’t fly.  I was a bit surprised because we were sixteen and seventeen years old, part of a chaperoned school group and in a foreign country for the first time.

No one paid us, took our luggage off or called our parents who were waiting at the airport the next day. It was clearly a different time and a European airline. We were escorted to an elegant old hotel in the center of Brussels.  Dinner  had a dress code and since we did not have the correct attire or any attire with us, they asked us to eat an hour early and prepared a special dinner so we could taste some local food. We walked around the city and went to some bars where no one asked us for ID. In the morning we saw more of the city and then they came and picked us up and escorted us to the gate for our flight. We had fun and got to see Brussels. 

I still get nervous if I am at the end of a line going on a plane that it will be overbooked and I will not get on. Do I have to worry about being dragged off a flight as well? Given all the highly mediated flying incidents, did they really need to do this?  Bad behavior doesn’t stop being bad behavior just because the airline says it is legal.

Fly safe, (and I mean it)

JAZ

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