The Airlines as Metaphor


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Any rational person acknowledges that the citizens of America no longer have any value to corporations or politicians. Only your labor, your meager earnings and the corporation's unchallenged ability to manipulate your desires and emotions have any significance to them.

A perfect portrait of Corporate America exists today at 39,000 feet. The airline industry's complete disregard for the average customer's comfort, safety and happiness is contained within the 10 feet of width and 7 feet of height that is the cross section of the average aircraft in service, today

The airlines, though, try even harder than most of their corporate comrades to rub your face in their categorical lack of respect for you as a person and consumer. They no longer even pretend to concern themselves with any end result but taking your money and giving you absolutely as little as possible in return.

Consider the seating provided for those not in first class. The seats are six across when the plane was designed for five. The leg room has diminished to the point that it is physically impossible to exit a row without all of the other passengers in your row moving into the aisle. The top of the seat back is just above the shoulder blades of a 6'5" man while his knees are firmly planted into the back of the seat in front of him. It is hopeless for two people to try to pass one another in the aisle. This uncomfortable situation would be insult enough until you realize that the possibility of actually exiting the aircraft in an emergency is virtually nil because there simply isn't room to maneuver quickly even without the added obstacles of fire and smoke and the panic of twice as many bodies as the plane was designed for.

All of this discomfort simply so that the airline (and its stockholders) can enjoy higher profits at your expense. Your safety, your health and your comfort are all ignored in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

Even as the refreshment cart trundles down the tiny aisle, the airline continues to belittle your importance. Believe it or not, the bean counters that work for these paragons of generosity decided last year that passengers didn't need eleven peanuts but were satisfied with nine. Every bag of peanuts now contain just nine nuts (as opposed to the airline's board of directors, which can consist of up to ten).

Want a soda? Want a whole can of soda? Hee hee! What a dreamer! Each can of soda the attendants wheel down the aisle must serve three passengers, not just one. That means that the little $.20 can is divided into $.07 servings and the $.03 worth of peanuts equal a huge $.10 snack per passenger. All this for the $420 cost of the ticket.

The saddest part of all of this cheapness and greed is that the only people available to complain to are the folks that are actually doing the work that keeps the airline running. The flight attendants are caring and professional and certainly do what little is in their power to make the flight as pleasant as they can. The executives who decide just how overt to be in showing their disdain for their customers sit comfortably in their offices, flying not on their own scheduled airline but in private executive jets.

If you write to them to comment on your high level of dissatisfaction, as I have, what you receive in return is a short statement that they are sorry that you didn't enjoy your flight and that they hope you enjoy your next flight with them more. Not even the pretense of an apology nor a promise to make things better. Why should they care? You have to fly on somebody's airline and since they so obviously collude in their actions, you won't find a safer or more comfortable seat anywhere else.

Gentle readers, the airlines are only the most open about their greed and complete indifference towards their customers. HMO's force the sick out of hospital beds in order to maximize profits. Food manufacturers cut the size of their products but put them in the same size box and then raise the price. Electric utilities loudly proclaim that they're cutting their customer's rates by 10%, then quietly add a 15% surcharge to pay off the utility's past mistakes. Automobile dealers advertise one car, then try to sell you far more expensive models that they actually have on the lot. Tires are advertised for $10 each, but don't fit any car you've ever seen (yours will cost over a hundred each.)

The list is endless, depressing and getting longer everyday. You become less and less important each time corporations take advantage of you and you don't complain loudly and long. The next time you give your money to the same business that treated you badly, you're telling them that you don't care what level of service they provide, you will happily accept what they offer.

Too bad! That only makes it worse for the rest of us.

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copyright 5/28/97