June 09, 2008
Fifteen hours of flying last week and four airports updated me on the state of travel in the US. The last time I climbed on board a flight the kids were pre-school and homeland security was still a tragedy away.
My longest flight prior to this week was going Florida to LAX with my Mom, Pop and sister. It took six hours and we got some hot food on plates with entertaining coverings (read, not stretch wrap). There was no in flight movie no LCD like optical media (Cd's DVDs) were just being invented. There was a definite pampering of the passenger and most of the commercials focused on comfort in flying. You got a headset that was rubber tubing that allowed you to listen to eight channels of rotating music and comedy. My sister and I would listen for the song 'Nothin from nothin" to come back around.
LAX was an interesting but sterile place, United Airlines had moving walkways, TWA, Northwest, Eastern, BOAC, Braniff all had big shiny jets out on the tarmac and you could go to the boarding gate to see your traveling friend depart. You could then head to the observation platform on the roof and watch them taxi and take off. There was that big spider looking restaurant, which served poor food with lousy service for a high price. Likewise all the eateries were run by the airport and run badly.
This time around we took off from Eugene airport EUG. Which had a Pacific Northwest flavor, a fairly nice looking pub and various museum like displays of the local area. You had to put everything into grey bins, including your shoes. Toothpaste had to be on top, readily viewable. No one wants to check luggage, they all have roller bags that are designed to just fit in the overhead storage. There is an imposing set of uniforms glass mazes and queue tape that makes saying goodbye seem a bit final. More like your sending someone off to be 'processed'
The International Airport next was more friendly and plenty of recognizable places to nosh. The little lunch bar I ate breakfast in had a fairly good egg and potato platter for a reasonable price. I am not sure how I feel about Wendy's and Panda Express being in the airport food mall.
On board the plane, in this case a 737, it had tight uncomfortable chairs that leaned back just enough that you thought you hadn't leaned it back. They charged me a buck for a headset uniquely designed for that particular aircraft. There are little LCD screens that came down from the roof every other seat or so and it played clips a TV show and a movie (spiderwick cronicals). The music stations were fairly esoteric and aside from a Peggy Lee tune, not much I could get into. Improvisational piano Jazz for 30min is a bit much when your feeling claustrophobic.
Seeing the movie was novel and fun as I knew you would be doing that. The food was less then special. They give you lots to drink and two tiny bathrooms...
All in all not a 'fun' experience, but an adventure. The flight back was superior. Better seats and they handed you a dictionary sized player that gave you a bunch of selections and let you use standared earplugs. Jumper and the Bucket list with an episode of Raymond.
There was enough good experiences, if you could get them rolled into one, it would have been quite enjoyable. Some of the annoyances, however do seem to stand out.
Then you get to pricing. I overhear eveyone talking about thier tickets and what a deal or ripoff it was. The cost of flying is the price of the fuel, the Jet, the crew and however much airports charge for rent. Jet, crew, and rent can be fixed costs. Fuel depends on the current market prices and the amount consumed by the passenger.
There are other items, like marketing dealing with Government regulations, International regulations etc.
So if your going to set a price to fly someplace you should be able to determine your cost, add to it your profit and boom, good to go. Right?