No food. No leg room. No service. As Americans already know, flying coach these days is not a pleasant experience, writes The New York Times.
Things are so awful, that today’s fliers “now view getting on a plane as roughly akin to entering the ninth circle of hell.” Hell, by the way, is multiplied by the number of children you have in tow.
Here’s what the Spirit Airlines’ chief executive e-mailed an employee who was complaining about a delayed flight:
“Please respond, Pasquale, but we owe him nothing as far as I’m concerned. Let him tell the world how bad we are. He’s never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny.”
As bad as flying is today, I started wondering what it might be like in 20 years, starting with boarding the plane:
“Good morning passengers for Excited Airlines Flight 106. We believe you, our customer is our most important asset.
“Sadly, our 1,000-seat plane is slightly overbooked. We are offering 500 volunteers free bathroom passes – good at all vended airplane or airport lavatories – until we can find you a future flight in the next day or so.”
Mumbling from passengers.
“I urge you volunteer now. Otherwise, we will randomly pick names out of a hat; the lucky losers will NOT receive a lavatory pass.”
Grumbling from passengers, but hundreds of hands go up.
Forty minutes later.
“We will now board our First and Business Class customers.”
Coach passengers look on longingly as a steward helps the elite travelers with their carry-on luggage. The smell of lobster sautéed in butter begins to waft up though the gate tunnel.
“What lovely people,” the intercom voice says. “Okay, as for steerage – I mean coach – we will board by stall in reverse order.
“Passengers in Stall R, you can begin boarding now. All carry-on bags will be confiscated and sold on E-Bay to help make up for your ridiculously low fares. Don’t forget to pick up a parachute from the bin.”
Fifty passengers walk through the gate to the back of the plane. The flight attendant ushers the group into a small holding pen where there are no seats, just white chalk lines and numbers indicating where passengers must stand.
A sign on the wall states “No pushing or shoving. Talking, sneezing, coughing, grunting IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.”
The rest of the plane quickly boards.
“Miss …” asks a passenger.
“Speak once more and you will be escorted from the plane,” replies the flight attendant. “Remember, your silence makes for happier passengers.”
Flexible tubes hang down from the ceiling. “Each passenger has been allotted 6 ounces of water. We recommend taking one sip every 30 minutes. All hoses have been swabbed with rubbing alcohol.”
Except from the first class cabin, flight attendants vacate the plane. A small video monitor in front of each holding pen goes through safety measures as the plane taxis to the runway. “Although not required by law, Excited Air urges you to now put on parachutes, which also can be used as floatation devices.”
Video cameras pivot to face a complaining passenger. A cattle prod comes out of the ceiling and shocks him into stunned silence.
As the plane reaches altitude, alarm bells go off. One of the engines, which was built 40 years earlier, is failing. The cabin begins to depressurize.
“Stalls C, G, J, M, P prepare for jump.”
The few people without parachutes scream louder than everyone else. A few adults struggle into the parachutes they had been standing on to reach the drink tubes. Parents double check the straps on their children’s chutes.
The floor instantly opens and passengers freefall into the morning air. Most of the parachutes open automatically.
Later, after Flight 106 lands at its destination – it’s too costly to turn back – Excited Airlines President John C. Smith writes an e-mail to an employee concerned about one victim’s spouse, who was complaining about poor service.
“Please respond, Steven, but we owe him nothing as far as I’m concerned. Let him tell the world how bad we are. The spouse has never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny.”