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Fly Me a River [Mark Steyn]
National Review Online ^ | June 20, 2005 issue | Mark Steyn

Posted on 06/08/2005 6:17:39 AM PDT by Constitution Day

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To: feinswinesuksass
But, I have also had great service on a Southwest flight.

I have no idea how they do it, but it seems like all Southwest employees are just having a great time. The seem to genuinely love their jobs. I remember lots of trips from Dallas to Houston on SW where the stewardesses would practice their standup routines in place of the regular seatbelt briefing. I have no idea how they get away with that from the FAA.

When you're in a kick-the-tires-and-light-the-fires mood, SW is awesome. Since they don't have seat reservations, people get the hell on the the airplane and sit the hell down, so as to claim their favorite seat. They appear to load in less than half the time as other airlines, and without anyone really being pushy.

41 posted on 06/08/2005 3:07:38 PM PDT by narby (Ignorance is Godís gift to Kansas.)
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To: Constitution Day

Steyn needs to fly 1st Class more often.


42 posted on 06/08/2005 3:22:39 PM PDT by B4Ranch ( Report every illegal alien that you meet. Call 866-347-2423, Employers use 888-464-4218)
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To: Mister Baredog

I certainly hope Conrad Black and friends pay his fares.

But actually, you forget that Mark Steyn, unlike most of us, flies mostly internationally. This is a much, much, much more expensive proposition than domestic flights. They are also much longer and that makes things a lot more difficult in terms of comfort. This is one reason the international flights are better; they can last 12 hours plus.

Going from Manchester, NH (where I believe Mark's based) to Annan, Jordan costs at least $1,695 per Orbitz.

Clicking on "Shortest Flights", which I highly recommend on this trip, gives a fare of about $1,883.

So his commentary on those flights is sadly accurate. They really are some of the biggest purchases you will ever make, and in a few hours they are all gone. If I buy a $2,000 camera it at least stays with me for a few years.

D


43 posted on 06/08/2005 3:33:31 PM PDT by daviddennis (;)
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To: Constitution Day
Sigh. I like Steyn, but these anti-airline rants drive me nuts. First: airline tickets are vastly cheaper than they were in the regulated "good old days" and many costs (fuel, labor, technology) have gone up. The ticket price now covers the bare minimum cost of the gas, crew, and maintenance needed to get your butt from Point A to Point B, and sometimes not even that. Yet people still expect more leg room, free drinks, and all the luxuries of a fine restaurant. If you want to pay Greyhound prices, you will receive Greyhound service. If you understand economics and want to pay for a high level of service, it is still available in your choice of business/first class or a private charter. It is also apparently available through Middle Eastern government-run monopoly airlines, who I can guarantee charged Mr. Steyn much more for a given flight than he could have paid in the U.S.

Second: it doesn't get much more classless than complaining about the physical attributes of flight attendants. They're not bloody cocktail waitresses in a strip club; they are on the plane primarily to handle emergencies and save your life if there's a problem. Their recurrent training every year doesn't involve makeup tips, it involves the best way to get 250 people out of 6 doors in 90 seconds during a fire. Intelligent people might rather have experienced and intelligent flight attendants than some doll three days out of training; I notice no one ever complains that a pilot with 30 years of experience is too old and ugly to do his job. Now, the flight attendants do have a secondary function of providing whatever level of service the airline can afford on your Greyhound-priced ticket, and they will be happy to do so if you are reasonable and polite. If not, I don't feel particularly sorry if it takes you a while to get your pretzels.

Which brings me to, Third: the reason flight crews feel more unhappy about going to work is largely that too many people, quite frankly, are boors. People who probably would be quite well-behaved at a restaurant somehow completely forget how to be polite human beings at an airport or on an airplane. The following are a few rules that, if applied consistently and universally, would be guaranteed to raise everyone's level of satisfaction with airline travel:

1. A tank top and cutoff jeans might be okay for mowing the lawn, but they are not okay for airline travel. You don't need to wear a suit and tie these days, but you do need to shower, brush your teeth, and put on something you'd otherwise be seen in public in. If you can't afford a collared shirt and a pair of slacks, you didn't need to spend any money at Travelocity.

2. If you want someone's attention, say "Excuse me". When you ask for something, say "Please". When you get it, say "Thank you". Say these things politely. Do not say them sarcastically.

3. Do not yell at a ticket agent or flight attendant. Do not threaten one. No, they don't know who you are and how many billions of frequent flyer miles you have, and they don't care. You may be their customer, but you are not their boss, and the ruder you act to them the less likely you are to get what you want. Despite what you may think, they do not control the weather, air traffic control, aircraft maintenance, or late arrivals. In fact, there is virtually no cause of a delay or cancellation over which they have any control whatsoever. They will do their best to help you get where you want to go as soon as it is possible to do so and the experience will be much easier and quicker if you are polite and calm. If that doesn't matter to you, perhaps you could consider how much of a stupid ass people think you are when you're yelling and fuming at the gate agent about your delay while a thunderstorm rages outside.

4. If you are rude to someone, you deserve not to get what you want. In reality, you'll get it if it's possible and you won't if it's not, but in the meantime you'll have wasted your time, the employee's time, and the time of others waiting behind you. You also may have made the employee just a little less pleasant from having to put up with you. You should have learned in kindergarten that rudeness is not acceptable. If you did not, please go back for a refresher.

5. There is virtually nothing at an airport or on an airplane that can be helped by you getting mad. Even if there were, its cause is virtually guaranteed not to be the employee in front of you. I doubt a flight attendant or gate agent has ever caused a flight delay, cancellation, lost bag, missed connection, or an insufficient supply of Diet Sprite. If they can help you, they gladly will if it's possible. If not, and you feel you just must vent to someone, write a letter to the airline's customer service department.

6. Don't waste any time that you don't have to. Don't check any bags unless you absolutely must (and you can spend a week in Europe just fine with only a check-on, so carefully consider "must"). Have all your metal stuff in your bag before you go up to security. Don't have any banned items. Don't wear any clothes, belts, or shoes that set off the metal detectors. Take advantage of e-tickets and e-check-in. You'll find that you can get from the curb to your gate in about 20 minutes without really having to talk to a single person, and once off the plane you'll be out of the terminal in five minutes.

Geez, that rant ended up being longer than the original article! Maybe I should submit it for publication :-p But I guarantee every word of it is true. Happy flying!
44 posted on 06/08/2005 3:56:27 PM PDT by Turbopilot (Viva la Reagan Revolucion!)
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To: Turbopilot

Not that I disagree with you or anything in regards to "get what you pay for", but aren't you being a little hypocritical? You just condemned the author of that article for criticizing the looks (I thought that portion of the piece was out of place as well) then you start slamming passengers who are wearing jeans and t-shirts? What the heck? I believe the point of the piece was to point out that we have no alternative. And you are right, the airlines can't afford to redo the seats to give us more legroom, but wait, they redo the seats quite often to pack ONE MORE ROW in... I'm 6' 1", and those airline seats are SMALLER than seats on a bus. They cram you in there in order to increase their profit. I'm telling ya, if someone came along, and put comfortable seats in an airplane, they would own the skies...


45 posted on 06/08/2005 4:03:35 PM PDT by plewis1250
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To: Constitution Day

I've noticed that in North America the discount carriers are the way to go now. Before they tanked, jetsgo had good service in-flight (it was their service on the ground that sucked) and their hosties were babes.


46 posted on 06/08/2005 4:12:15 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Canada's worst nightmare: Terrorist attack on Americans, launched from Canada)
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To: stainlessbanner
Steyn should go find an arab to pilot a chartered plane

Most of the airlines in the middle east get their pilots from the UK, Europe, the US and Canada. There just aren't enough Arabs who can afford the training needed.

47 posted on 06/08/2005 4:14:40 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Canada's worst nightmare: Terrorist attack on Americans, launched from Canada)
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To: CzarChasm

IIRC the Shakespeare quote is accurate but out of context it has become the most widely misunderstood statement ever made in the English language. The "kill all the lawyers" statement was from an advisor who was asked how to go about establishing totalitarian rule, and the meaning was clear: that lawyers would stand in the way of tyranny.


48 posted on 06/08/2005 4:21:35 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Canada's worst nightmare: Terrorist attack on Americans, launched from Canada)
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To: daviddennis
They really are some of the biggest purchases you will ever make, and in a few hours they are all gone. If I buy a $2,000 camera it at least stays with me for a few years.

Good point, and I know you wouldn't put that camera in checked baggage, LOL.

49 posted on 06/08/2005 4:22:18 PM PDT by Mister Baredog ((Minuteman at heart, couch potato in reality))
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To: devolve

More great music from you!
Thank you for posting it.

And, thank you for the ping.
It's very good to see you. ;o)


50 posted on 06/08/2005 4:24:03 PM PDT by dixiechick2000 (President Bush is a mensch in cowboy boots.)
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To: Gunrunner2

My own impression is that Americans now tend to behave better abroad than they do in the USA. Maybe it's because they're not afraid of getting sued.


51 posted on 06/08/2005 4:24:39 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Canada's worst nightmare: Terrorist attack on Americans, launched from Canada)
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To: narby
My trip on BA had this nice old guy for a steward that was chatty and just a hoot to listen to on the PA

Best cabin crew I encountered was with Air Canada of all places. The safety briefing got everyone's attention: "In the unlikely event that the oxygen mask drops from the ceiling, stop screaming..."

52 posted on 06/08/2005 4:29:23 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Canada's worst nightmare: Terrorist attack on Americans, launched from Canada)
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To: narby
I have no idea how they do it, but it seems like all Southwest employees are just having a great time. The seem to genuinely love their jobs.

I guess their CEO was listening when Sam Walton pointed out that the way you treat your employees is the way your employees will treat your customers.

53 posted on 06/08/2005 4:31:09 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Canada's worst nightmare: Terrorist attack on Americans, launched from Canada)
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To: plewis1250
they redo the seats quite often to pack ONE MORE ROW in

Unfortunately the economics of flying are such that six more seats can make or break the profitability of the plane. With the lowest possible fare becoming ever easier to find thanks to the internet, customers are now gained or lost for as little as a dollar.

54 posted on 06/08/2005 4:41:06 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Canada's worst nightmare: Terrorist attack on Americans, launched from Canada)
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To: Squawk 8888

I honestly find this EXTREMELY hard to believe, considering the NUMEROUS amounts of "non-revs" (used to be one) that fly. If profit margins were THAT tight, "non-revs" would not exist...


55 posted on 06/08/2005 4:48:40 PM PDT by plewis1250
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To: Squawk 8888
customers are now gained or lost for as little as a dollar.

I think you're right. Customers forget how uncomfortable they were on their last flight and just choose the cheapest fare. The result is we all suffer merely because we won't spend another few bucks per ticket.

I think the solution might come from a back door somewhere. Like Southwest has quick turns because they don't reserve seats, which induces people to sit down ASAP.

The problem is that ever airline must compete, so it's a race to the bottom of comfort and service.

I don't have an idea to fix it. There needs to be something between first class with quadruple the fares and fine china, and down in steerage.

56 posted on 06/08/2005 4:52:51 PM PDT by narby (Ignorance is Godís gift to Kansas.)
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To: plewis1250
If profit margins were THAT tight, "non-revs" would not exist...

You do have a point but the economics of flight are almost as bizarre as the physics ;) On a more serious note, the biggest challenge of making money in the business is getting bums into every seat, because airline seats by their nature are the ultimate perishable commodity.

57 posted on 06/08/2005 4:55:25 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Canada's worst nightmare: Terrorist attack on Americans, launched from Canada)
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To: narby
It is a tough one but I do think the niche carriers are the best hope- Westjet's fleet upgrade is the centrepiece of their new marketing campaign. Their one-class cabins are roomier than cattle class but they still position themselves as a discount carrier. Your point about Southwest loading up quicker is another good example of how airlines should to find something that the customers would value enough to pay more than rock-bottom. Virgin Atlantic is another good example of finding something that is more appealing than a low price.

I do believe it is possible to improve things because of what's happening in retail; nobody can undersell Wal-Mart so most of their competitors have decided to try delivering something that WM cannot, which is a pleasant shopping experience.

58 posted on 06/08/2005 5:04:55 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Canada's worst nightmare: Terrorist attack on Americans, launched from Canada)
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To: plewis1250
What I condemn is snarking at flight attendants for not looking like 20-year-old Playboy bunnies. Saying that physical attractiveness standards aren't appropriate for trained safety workers doesn't contradict my statement that people should have standards of hygeine and grooming in a crowded public situation.

And you said you don't disagree with me on getting what you pay for, but then you said there's no choice. There are choices, and you do get what you pay for when you make your choice. Want more space, amenities, a pre-boarding lounge, etc.? Pay more, and get a first-class ticket. Want even more space, better service, no security hassles, and your own schedule? Pay even more, and charter your own flight. Or, pay bargain-basement prices and get bargain-basement service. If airlines could charge 200 people enough to cover the cost of a flight, they wouldn't need to squeeze 220 seats on the plane.
59 posted on 06/08/2005 5:05:17 PM PDT by Turbopilot (Viva la Reagan Revolucion!)
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To: Turbopilot

I'm with you on that. Many people today do not believe me when I tell them that the Canadian Air Regulations used to require that all flight attendants be registered nurses and are surprised when I tell them that there are regs governing the minimum number of cabin crew. They were under the impression that flight attendants are hostesses and have never appreciated that these people are aircrew.


60 posted on 06/08/2005 5:10:55 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Canada's worst nightmare: Terrorist attack on Americans, launched from Canada)
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