Today's news about the guy who got kicked off a Hawaiian airlines flight because he complained about a $12 blanket reminds me of why flying can (and often does) suck.
Sorry Don Draper, but flying from New York to Los Angeles, an exhausting six-hour flight, is just not sexy anymore. And when you're in economy class, it's even less so. Here, the Garage Girls got together to round up our top four reasons why flying can (and often does) suck. We can thank our last flight this past August on an undisclosed airline, especially the leg from JFK to LAX, for giving us some serious inspiration and material. And to be fair, we've had plenty of great flights on this airline, too, it just happened that this one was particularly bad. Note: Stay tuned for the Garage Girls TV series, because you know we're going to write this into an episode! P.S. There is no airline called Red Jet.
No. 1. The Look First-Class Passengers Give You When You're Boarding.
Did you ever notice the look those passengers in first-class give you when you get on a plane after them, and they're all drinking mimosas out of flutes with their generous extra leg room (extracted from economy class, of course), fluffy quilts and stylish seat sections with designer 2.0 names like Mint Class or Posh Crustacean Elite? Yeah. This is the first reason flying can suck.
And no offense if you're lucky enough to get seated in Mint Class—good on ya—but First Class passengers have a certain look if you actually make eye contact with one of them. It's sort of a cross between a "sorry, SUCKA," with a tiny hint of guilt-ridden discomfort, which comes across unfortunately as the same awkward face a dog seems to make when it's doing its business on the grass.
These days, the preferential treatment first-class "club" passengers get seems to trump even people in wheelchairs and families with small children. Yeesh. But don't feel guilty. You deserve it. Just one word for you, though: Titanic. And we know how that turned out.
No. 2. How Airlines Now Charge for Stuff That Used to Be Included or Free
Today, Courtney brought to my attention a hot little online news piece that reported how a 66-year-old man got booted off a Hawaiian airlines flight because he complained about a $12 pillow. Now, I don't want to get all Norma Rae on this one, but I sympathized with this man even before I double-clicked the details. Haven't we all noticed how things that used to be free on flights now cost us money? Snacks. Pillows. Blankets. Extra leg room. Checked bags. Movies. Even aisle seats get a goosed-up surcharge these days.
The man who complained about the lofty price of his blanket requested the phone number for corporate, and this got him marked a troublemaker by flight attendants. But it was this comment: "I'd like to take someone behind the woodshed on this one" that prompted the pilot to dump fuel mid-air and divert to Los Angeles. One passenger told CBS News it was a ridiculous decision to divert the plane. "First of all, it cost $12,000 for them to land [in Los Angeles] and it's a $12 blanket," she said. Ultimately, the disgruntled passenger was escorted off the plane and determined by police and federal authorities not to be a threat, so he was released without charge. That flight to Hawaii was delayed by at least four hours.
Of course, the guy wasn't a threat. He just didn't want to pay $12 for an airplane blanket! I say this from experience as I had a similar over-reaction to a $10 charge for a blanket on my flight last August. I saw Courtney raise her hand to buy one of those blankets, and I nearly slapped it down.
"You are not buying that blanket!" I scolded.
"But I have no pants," she retorted. She made the mistake of wearing shorts.
Later, she offered to share hers with me, but I refused on principle alone.
"No, thank you,." I said. "I'm not going to give them the satisfaction." Plus, their $10 blanket was small and paper thin. Not much good it could do anyway.
I remember having a tiff with at least two flight attendants over this, too. To be fair, I was tired. And our earlier flight had not only been delayed, but we had to sit on a hot plane in Syracuse for two hours before we could be cleared for takeoff. And this was after they delayed our original flight for an unprecedented two days. Later, we learned that some crackpot had threatened to shoot up the airport terminal at JFK. (That guy probably was charged $15 for a bottle of water.) But our undisclosed airline had us board our flight anyway. When we asked why we couldn't take off, the pilot told us there was inclement weather again, which was the reason given for the first 48 hour delay. Our pilot was probably afraid the real truth would make us belligerent. He was right.
"I'm going to report you to the FTC," I said to the flight attendant, mad that the cabin was set at near-freezing temperatures. At the time, conspiracy seem liked the only viable explanation. Was the Illuminati were behind this one, too?
"I think you mean the FAA," he said smugly.
"No, I mean the Federal Trade Commission," I continued undeterred. "You jack up the air conditioning and then, start selling your blankets for really exorbitant prices. I think it's a sales tactic the FCC should know about." Thank God, the flight marshall didn't get out his gun and shoot me right there for that comment. It wasn't as bad as the woodshed remark, but still. Not my best moment. The flight attendant took it in stride, though. And I could tell, by this point, other airplane passengers were starting to listen in to our heated conversation. They were probably filming with their iPhones.
"You think this is a big money-making scheme," he said, almost laughing and tossing his head back. "We only have 50 blankets total, ma'am. So we'd make what? $500 dollars?"
Yeah, it did sound dumb when he played it back to me like that. But my retort? A horrified gasp. The flight attendant instantly regretted revealing to me that they only had 50 blankets on board for the entire plane.
"What?" I shrieked. "You only have 50 blankets for all of these freezing people?" You'd think we were on board a cruise ship without enough life boats. "Do you see everyone here with their hoodies over their faces, clutching their sides? I think the FAA will want to hear about that!"
Truth be told I was likely more miffed by what I imagined I saw Mint customers getting behind the curtain of first class: fluffy white personal sized cocoons composed of down-filled comforters.
Luckily, I didn't get booted off this flight. But this gets me to reason No.3. of our list of why flying can (and often does) suck.
No.3. The Air Conditioning Setting on Planes.
OK. It should be noted that, according to reports by other passengers, the guy on the flight to Hawaii had complained about the air conditioning just before he did about the price of the blanket. Just saying. Unfortunately, it's hard with a flight of 300 people, to make everyone happy when it comes to temperature control. Yes, some people run hot. Some people run cold. That said, though, the temperature on this previous flight were darn cold by all accounts.
Even though it was mid-August, I had smartly worn several layers of clothes, including two sweaters, one of which I had to give to my 10-year-old daughter because she was freezing, too. When I couldn't take it anymore, I hit the button for the flight attendant, something I never ever normally do. And it took her about 20 minutes to arrive at my seat.
"Is there any chance you can turn down the air conditioning?" I asked as politely as I could. How could she not notice that my teeth were chattering. "It's very cold." And I wasn't the only one. Passengers around us, including my own family, and all of the rows in front and behind us appeared to be dealing with the Arctic blast as best they could. My husband, a mechanical engineer, had actually starting stuffing (somewhat conspicuously) his NASA News Briefs magazines into the ventilation ducts just above his window in effort to thwart the icy breezes.
"I think you mean turn up the air conditioning," the female flight attendant said with a smile. Clearly she wanted to argue semantics. "You mean up, not down."
"No, I think I mean turn down the air conditioning because it's so cold," I tried to explain again, not sure how she could possibly be confused by this.
"No, if we turned down the air conditioning, it would get colder," she corrected. "So what you're trying to say is that you want us to turn it up."
I took a deep breath and tried again. "I'm not sure how you need me to convey this, but just know that it's too cold in this cabin. And I'm hoping that you can adjust the temperature so that it's warmer," I said slowly. "Can you do that?"
"Some people like it this temperature," she said.
"Look around," I added. "People are huddled together. I don't think they like it this cold." Some other passengers nodded in agreement, but she just stared at us blankly.
"I can't feel my nose," I said, more urgently. "And I haven't been able to feel the top of my head for like 20 minutes."
"I'll ask the boys and see what they can do," she said, and then, she trotted off. I wasn't sure what "ask the boys" meant, but it's possible that was in-flight code for I'm going to do nothing because the temperature did not change. And that's when they started selling those $10 blankets.
Reason No. 4: Flight Attendants.
I still maintain that you turn air conditioning down if you want it warmer. You don't turn in up. If I would have said, I wanted the temperature turned down, that would have been the opposite of what I wanted. In this case, I might have said turn it up had I been referring to the temperature, and not the air conditioning. But for the record, I was clearly speaking of the air conditioning. Turn up the temperature or turn down the air conditioning. Either way, it was frickin' cold on that plane. And that flight attendant knew it.
Update: For my birthday, Court bought me a large, heavy, in-flight blanket with a hole for my head, and some generous pockets for snacks. Take that Red Jet!