Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Air travel: the new bus

I'm currently in Los Angeles for business, so yesterday gave me an opportunity to experience the most current airline service (in this case, Delta). While I didn't note any earth-shattering changes from when I last flew in January, I did make a few observations.

Beverage service. This is one of the last remaining freebies on flights, and as such, I predict it won't stay that way for long. Airlines can't deny people the ability to stay hydrated, so I'm sure they'll always provide water for free. But I won't be surprised if airlines start charging a buck or more for each soda or juice you request. Already, Delta gives you a plastic cup's worth of soda, poured from a can, where previously they gave you the whole can.

Food service. It's not news that airlines now charge five bucks or more for a soggy, cold sandwich. But what I noticed yesterday is that they're really pushing them now. Instead of offering them on request, they now patrol the cabin with a cart of food, passing out menus that offer a selection of several different types of soggy, cold sandwiches. I guess they're not just trying to cut costs by charging for meals, they're now trying to turn a profit.

Friendliness. I imagine it's no joy to deal with the average flyer day in and day out, but I still can't help wondering why flight attendants have become so surly. I'm not saying they're all rude as a general rule, but it has become increasingly rare to encounter a truly friendly and caring flight attendant. It now seems the norm to feel like you're inconveniencing them if you make any request at all, no matter how trivial (a pillow, a full can of soda, and so on).

Cassie's brother Michael summed it up best when he commented last week that planes have become "the new bus." So get in, sit down and shut up. They'll get you there safely; if you want anything else, you're on your own.

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