The fat guy spilling over the armrest next to you; the douche-bag hauling on your headrest from behind; the brat screaming non-stop across the way in 12C; the aromas wafting from the lavatory; are all pleasant distractions from the deep vein thrombosis inducing stress positions required to contort oneself into a coach class seat.
Yet despite all of that, Slate’s Matt Yglesias suggests we stop whining and learn to appreciate the wonders of modern air travel.
I have to say, I agree.
By focusing exclusively on the awfulness of the airline experience we ignore the ridiculousness of the alternatives; chiefly the driving or sailing for days on end needed to otherwise reach our destination.
Moreover, Matt reminds us:
Air travel is fantastically safe. . . The death rate for car travel was 72 times higher. Think about what kind of discount you’d want if a gate attendant asked you to swap your flight for one leaving five minutes later that’s only half as safe as the original plane. Then double that risk again. Then again. Then again. Then twice more. That plane’s still safer than driving an equivalent distance.
With respect to discomfort and affordability:
If you’re willing to pay late-’70s prices for your air travel—which is to say double present-day fares—you can book yourself into business class and enjoy a luxury travel experience.
Said another way, you get what you pay for. Over the years passengers have demonstrated time and again that they prefer cheap flights to more comfortable ones. When given a choice, we’ve repeatedly chosen less expensive and crappier air travel, so that’s what we get. If we wanted a better airline experience, we’d pay for one. But because we won’t pay for it, we don’t get it. It’s really as simple as that.
And, my personal favorite, Matt’s take on airline delays:
As a person who, whatever his other flaws, is extremely punctual, I’m here to tell you that you’re often late too. . . . The difference between you and the airline is that the airline has to report its on-time statistics to the government while you get to just make excuses. When you can show me that you’re showing up on time 90 percent of the time, then complain.
Of course my preference wouldn’t be to give the airlines a free pass here. I’m more of the view that if we imposed fitting punishment on people who waste our time, perhaps by sentencing each offender – whether a personal associate or an airline executive – to an equivalent duration confined in a coach class seat, we could end chronic tardiness once and for all.
Barring that, we do have another option for avoiding the aggravation of air travel. We could just stay home. Now that strikes me as the most awful alternative of all.