Dec 21, 2007

Up, Up And Away

So I’ve been doing a lot of airplane travel these past few weeks and I’m coming to the conclusion that the airlines are pretty much doing themselves in. Not all that dissimilar from the way American car manufacturers did themselves in.

People have just gotten to the point where they expect air travel to be a completely horrible experience, filled with long delays, lost luggage, interminable lines and surly staffers.

And we are almost at that point where there’s really not much the airlines can say to make people like them again. So what I’m seeing is people rejiggering their vacation plans to avoid air travel all together. I mean it’s become that unpleasant. Combine that with rapidly rising airfares and you’ve got some big trouble ahead as people permanently write off flying or cut back on it severely.

Now the Bush administration—as well as local authorities-- have been making noise about having the FAA cut back the number of flights and all that but I wonder if it’s not too late. There’s a real risk that like the aversion to American cars, the aversion to domestic air travel is a behavior that’s become too ingrained to break.


RFB said...

As much as I've bashed Amtrak, my sister arrived from DC yesterday aboard the auto-train. Non stop DC to Orlando (Sanford.)

She could not say enough good about it. Loved it. Sleeper cabin, Dining car. Leave in the afternoon, arrive in the morning, sleep most of the way. Got your own car when you get there.

Drawback: $500 per person round trip. Even when factor in that you don't have to rent a car, it's still a little more.

She said she'd do it again in a heartbeat over air travel.

Anonymous said...

Good to have you back. I love the train anyway so this is all good for me.

Anonymous said...

Jetpacks knows how I feel about my acela experience.


Anonymous said...

it's always mystified me why the eastern US doesn't have a top bullet train system by now (like other western countries) instead of moaning on about how bad poor underfunded Amtrak is.

and air travel has truly degenerated hasn't it? free internet access will really help numb the pain.

Alan Wolk said...

Agree 100% about Amtrack. It's ridiculous that we don't have better train service throughout the US, the Northeast in particular, where just driving from city center to airport can be a long and grueling trip.

Not sure why we can't get our act together with that and improve the system and the fare structure. It seems like it would be a win/win situation all around, even for the airlines, who'd benefit from the reduced crowding at airports.

Anonymous said...

in order to have better trains service, you must start with the tracks as they have in japan and france. that would entail planning, due diligence and an open mind to technologies not made in america. all pretty tough pills for amtrak, mta and various others to swallow.

you can't have a train, like the acela, go 85 mph on tracks meant to sustain 35-45 mph.

as for the comfort on air and train travel, amtrak has a better handle on the seating, but most commuter seating is designed mathematically, not rationally, i.e.; average body sizes and weights according to outdated surveys equals the seats your keister can't fit in now because you're stuck between jake and the fat man.

the emphasis is on number of bodies pre compartment to revenue intake. less bodies (more comfort) = less monies.

but in reality, when was the last time, other than a holiday, you were on a sold out train, plane, autobus?

Anonymous said...

agree tld,

infrastructure is needed. but first the USA has to come to grips with the fact that some things (like bullet trains) need to be subsidized by the state for the greater good.

two years ago, i was on a bullet train from berlin to Wolfsburg (the VW factory). i was a tad hungover and dreading a bad Amtrak/British rail type experience. turned out it was heaven! great breakfast. comfy seats. quiet. no rattling rail cars. better than any regional airline.
so it is possible.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

“you can't have a train, like the acela, go 85 mph on tracks meant to sustain 35-45 mph.”

True. Just walking to the snack car or restroom is more turbulent than any flight I’ve been on in some time.