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Well, I got back last night. Remind me never to fly Southwest again. Not that I meant to fly Southwest this time. I didn't realize Southwest and ATA were in business together (the nature of which partnership I'm not quite clear on). So I didn't quite pick up on the whole "this leg of the flight operated by Southwest Airlines" bit. I used to be just fine with Southwest. Afterall, they had ridiculously low fares compared to everyone else, and I didn't mind driving to Providence or Manchester to save money. That was before they started their cattle calls.

Really. Those cattle calls suck. I could have, and gladly would have, paid an extra $15-20 to have an assigned seat. Assigned seats increase the likelihood that I won't be suffering in excruciating pain a couple of hours into the flight.

(I interrupt this post to say that K is awesome, because (1) she is and (2) she told me to write something good about her.)

Excruciating pain? Aren't I exaggerating a bit? Not usually. I derive a great deal of my height from my legs. They don't fit in the small space provided by the airlines. Unless I am in business/first class or in an emergency/bulkhead row, my knees are jammmed into the back of the seat in front of me...to the extent that people in front of me have complained that I push up on their seat. I have patellar tendinitis which tends to flare up when I've been sitting in a cramped position for extended periods of time. Hence, excruciating pain. With assigned seating, it's easier to get either emergency row seats, a seat with a vacant seat next to mine, or an aisle seat. I have little such control with these cattle calls, though.

However, I lucked out this time around. For the ATA flight from Boston to Chicago Midway, I sat in a window seat with nobody in the middle seat. I was able to lift up the armrest and stretch my legs into the space for the middle seat. On the Southwest flight from Midway to San Diego, I went to the very back of the airplane, hoping the available seats towards the front would fill up first. The strategy almost backfired, as there were only two empty seats on the flight and one person seemed to be eyeing that empty middle seat to my left; but it remained empty, and I gladly put up with bathroom odors in order to stretch my legs. No such luck on the return flight from San Diego to Midway. I tried to head towards the back of the plane again, but a flight attendant insisted all the seats back there were taken. I sat in a middle seat between two average-sized women, figuring they were less likely to crowd me than a man. I was resigned to spending the next four hours fairly uncomfortably.

But would I? There was a mechanical problem with the plane, and after sitting at the gate for half an hour we were forced to change planes. I couldn't believe my luck when I boarded the second Southwest plane that morning. There was a window seat open in the emergency row, with no seat in front of it and nobody sitting in the middle seat. I snagged it immediately. And then, miraculously, nobody sat in the middle seat next to me. I think it was the only open seat on the flight. With this unlikely and fortuitous outcome, I certainly didn't mind leaving San Diego an hour and twenty minutes late and having to rush to catch my connecting flight. As for that flight, when I requested the seat assignment three weeks ago, the flight was only half filled, so I requested a window seat in an empty row. However, the flight (and, subsequently, my row) filled up. I lucked out again, though, in that the guy who was supposed to sit in the aisle seat took my window seat, and the woman in the middle seat was the size of your average preadolescent child. I had to put up with constantly being bumped by passengers on their way to the lavatory and by flight attendants, but that's a minor inconvenience. All in all, the flight was tolerable.

Still, next time I don't want to take my chances. The cattle call idea is stupid and inefficient. I'd rather not leave my seating arrangements to luck by flying Southwest in the future.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 15th, 2005 10:52 pm (UTC)
I won't fly any more, partly for the reasons you've mentioned. In addition to the constantly diminishing amount of space available for each passenger, the airlines treat their customers like dirt. I need space for my feet and I need to be allowed to get up and walk back and forth a few times during the flight. This latter requirement annoys the attendants enough to make them absolutely rude. And the extremely high price they demand seems more the result of mismanagement than higher fuel prices or whatever other excuse they're using.

Another reason I will no longer fly is the fiction that the harassment generated by the "security" goon squad in the name of "preventing terrorism" is intolerable. If I can't freely carry my medical supplies, without having to carry a ream of documentation to prove I need the stuff, then I don't want to go. There is no rational reason for them to declare that the little pins I use to stick my fingers to get a blood sample, with a point no longer than 1/8 inch and the diameter of a thumb tack, are dangerous weapons. I can barely bend enough to put my shoes on under the best of conditions and I don't intend to take them off in public and have everybody see how much trouble it is for me to put them back on. Besides, their Keystone Kop techniques don't improve security at all and probably aggravate the situation as far as "terrorism" is concerned.

San Diego wants a new airport. I hope they wind up building it out in the Imperial Desert, where I can ignore it completely.
Jun. 16th, 2005 08:27 am (UTC)
Re: Flying
the constantly diminishing amount of space available for each passenger

In fact, most airlines have been increasing the amount of space. One some airlines this is very noticeable. The seats are slightly (but not much) wider, and there is generally more leg room. I just happen to be a significantly sized man, so although I notice the improvements, they aren't enough for my long legs.

the airlines treat their customers like dirt

As someone who flies several times a year, I have seen no evidence of this. They no longer provide full meals except on certain airlines, but they try to be very accomodating and friendly. My experiences have been positive overall. I simply don't think the cattle-call method works, but that's Southwest's gimmick, and I don't think anyone participating in these cattle calls feels he's being treated like dirt.

I need to be allowed to get up and walk back and forth a few times during the flight

Imagine if everyone were allowed to cruise the aisle -- what a mess! :) If everyone were allowed to stroll up and down the aisles all the time, the flight attendants would have a difficult time doing their jobs. If you need to walk back and forth a few times, go to the lavatory a few times.

the extremely high price they demand

Are not that high. The prices are much lower than they used to be. I can fly cross-country for under $200 and internationally for under $500. I know prices used to be much worse. Now, I agree that there is a great deal of mismanagement that leads to all sorts of problems with marketing, pricing, bankruptcy, jobs, etc.; but despite that, prices seem better than they were 10 or 20 years ago, especially when you factor in inflation.

There is no rational reason for them to declare that the little pins I use to stick my fingers to get a blood sample, with a point no longer than 1/8 inch and the diameter of a thumb tack, are dangerous weapons.

The needles aren't considered dangerous because of their size. They are considered dangerous because they can (and have been in the past) used as an agent to deliver AIDS and other potentially fatal conditions. The last thing you need on a plane is panic and chaos because someone claiming to have HIV is waving a needle around. I think I'd rather be shot dead than contract AIDS and wither away slowly. It is perfectly reasonable to ask people who need to carry needles on planes to carry documentation as well.

my shoes

I agree that asking us to take our shoes off is excessive. We can all blame the shoe bomber for that. You'd think, though, that they would use better screening methods that wouldn't require shoe removal.

their Keystone Kop techniques

Haven't experienced this either since the first several months following 9/11. The whole security experience is quick and efficient and not much different than pre-9/11. Simply put all your metal and electronic items in your carry-on, take out any laptops, remove heavy coats and big shoes, and walk through the detector. Occasionally, someone gets selected for a random screening, but it's not a very invasive screening (just some extra wand waving) and nobody misses a flight as a result of it. The whole process takes only a few minutes, including the wait in line.


I'm not trying to change your mind about flying. But you haven't flown post-9/11 while I have flown a great deal, and you seem to have several misconceptions based on past experiences that simply don't bear up today.
Jun. 16th, 2005 11:46 am (UTC)
Re: Flying
Yes, I'm going by my last few flights, which took place years ago (1996). Until then, I observed the shrinking seats and increasing attendant / security goon rudeness.

Meanwhile, my health has deteriorated, particularly over the past twelve months. I hear horror stories from people who do travel, especially Delia. I've seen news stories about people losing legs or their lives following a long flight.

Even if things have improved, I don't intend to give it the test of first-hand experience.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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