Airline Service Continues to Deteriorate Sharply
As I flew east Thursday on a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Boston to attend a college reunion, I asked United attendants what they thought would become of the airline industry 15 years from now.
"Only the rich will be able to afford to fly," answered one of them. "Air travel for ordinary citizens will be a thing of the past."
Of course, that depends on the price of oil. Maybe if M. King Hubbert and his "oil peaking" theories are correct, no one will be flying all that much, because, he said, by 2020 world oil production would fall drastically, and our way of life would change.
No sooner did I arrive in Boston, but I read that on the way back Sunday, United will be charging $15 for the first piece of baggage checked, and that U.S. Air will soon begin charging passengers $2 for either soft drinks or bottled water. The obnoxious American Airlines pioneered the charge for the first piece of luggage.
As a New York Times article speculated yesterday, it won't be long before at least the coach class passenger is charged for going to the toilet.
Or, as someone suggested at dinner last night, they will begin to charge $5 when, in an emergency, oxygen drops from above your seat, and you will die if you don't have the right change.
Airline service, at least in the U.S., is getting so awful that in California I take the train, and, if I have the time, I even take the train sometimes across the country. It is more expensive, but it isn't personally insulting, and they still serve food.
Among the worst carriers these days are United and American. Yet many of these personnel still try to be as pleasant and helpful as they can, even when their salaries are cut -- yet again.
It is a mess, and public resentment is growing. A lady told me recently that she hates going to the airport. "Every time I have to remove my shoes," she said, "I get angry again at the terrorists."
Coming home from Europe recently, I flew Lufthansa, where the service is still good. I wonder why the Europeans cope so much better than we do in these hard times.
Tim Russert, Washington bureau chief for NBC News, and a frequently blunt commentator on both NBC and MSNBC on national politics, is dead of a sudden heart attack Friday afternoon He was only 58. Both the coverage on many networks has been massive and totally laudatory. Scarcely any politician would be treated with as much respect.
Russert who was also moderator of the long running Sunday interview show, Meet the Press, was popular also because of his book about hiw working class father, who survives him, his Irish ethnicity and his sports enthusiasms (the Buffalo Bills) among other attributes.
But it was his willingness to say clearly what he thought was happening, more clearly than the other commentators, which made him a hero to many. In this fascinating political year, he will be especially missed.