I used to tell people that I’d never travel anywhere far because you’d never get me on an airplane. I was terrified of the things. I figured you wouldn’t get me past the gate without landing yourself a large pile of vomit to clean up. I held on to that belief until my 28th year. My first ever trip on an airplane brought me out west for work. It wasn’t a choice to step on that plane; it was a financial necessity. Surprisingly I found that airplanes don’t bother me at all, at least not as far as my stomach is concerned. Traveling by plane, however, has brought to my attention a host of other issues that bother me a great deal, and because that’s the way I roll, I’m going to share some of them with you today.
Plane Peeve #1: The lack of space
I know that this is a common complaint amongst all airline customers who can’t afford first class, but until I began traveling via plane myself I never really understood the true insanity that is the lack of space in airplane seats. For those of you who may have never traveled via plane, let me paint you a picture. I am 5’1″ tall and approximately 155 lbs. A lot of my weight is also muscle, so the woman you are now imagining is probably thicker of body than I am in reality. I’m not saying I’m a skinny bitch (not by a long shot), but I am not a large woman. I’m short and small, and in other words I don’t take up much space. But when I’m in an airplane chair I feel like I’m obese. Even if people of similar size sit next to me, and we all try to take up as little room as possible, chances are our arms are going to be touching for most of the flight. And that doesn’t even consider the leg room, which for most people is effectively non-existent. I’ve had flights where I was getting kicked in the spine every ten minutes just because the person behind me was uncomfortable and needed to shift a bit. This kind of thing is annoying at best, but when your flight is several hours long it becomes a very difficult test of your patience.
Plane Peeve #2: The lack of food
Admittedly, this one depends on the airline, so for the sake of this post I’m going to talk about the worst offender: Air Canada. I’ve been on a lot of Air Canada planes over the past four months. And in those four months I’ve gotten exactly two free snacks, both tiny bags of pretzels that my toddler would have wolfed down in 2.4 seconds. And both of those were on flights from Sydney to Halifax, which for anyone who doesn’t know, is only a 45 minute flight. On my longer flights, the ones ranging from 2 hours to 5.5 hours, I received nothing and was expected to purchase food if I was hungry. I know, I know, some of you are probably saying, “Dear lord, you poor thing, having to pay for food” in a terribly sarcastic voice, but consider something for a moment: my flights are costing my company somewhere in the range of $1000 per one-way trip…..at $1000 a pop, you’d think Air Canada could afford a freakin’ candy bar or something.
Plane Peeve #3: Seat-Swappers
Okay, here’s the thing: if you’re booking a flight and you want to choose which seat you’re going to be sitting in, you have to pay a fee. I don’t know what the fee is with other airlines, but with Air Canada it’s something like $30. A silly fee, really, but if you’re already spending several hundred dollars on the plane ticket that extra $30 isn’t going to break the bank. And yet, on almost every plane I’ve been on thus far, there has been at least one parent with a kid who refused to pay the fee in order to ensure that the two of them would be sitting together, and then went around the crowd during boarding to try and convince some sucker to swap seats with them. I hate this. For one thing, if you want to make sure you and your child are sitting together, pay the damn fee like everyone else who wants to choose their seat ahead of time. For another thing, you’re holding up production, trying to convince strangers to do you a favor while a line of people behind you are trying to get to their seats. Oh, and one more thing…these parents always get PO’ed when the stranger says no, without considering the fact that this person probably paid the fee to choose the seat you’re asking them to leave. Just…just smarten up, people.
Plane Peeve #4: Overbooking
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand why or how this happens, but nearly every flight I’ve been on so far has been overbooked. First off, how the hell do you sell seats that don’t exist? There should be some kind of system put in place to stop this exact thing from happening. I know, I know, it’s probably the airline’s way of ensuring that as many seats as possible are filled if someone cancels or doesn’t show up, but it’s a sick and twisted way of going about such a thing, especially considering that most people don’t find out that they don’t actually have a seat until they show up for boarding. Just as bad as overbooking in the first place is how the airline goes about dealing with the issue if the person who doesn’t have a seat absolutely HAS to be on the plane…..that is, they ask for volunteers to give up their seat. The reward for giving up your seat and (maybe) leaving on a later flight? A $200 voucher for a later flight. Call me crazy if you wish, but I really don’t think $200 that you have to spend on the same airline is a fair exchange for giving up a seat that probably cost you three times that much in the first place, especially considering you have no real guarantee of getting on a later flight any time soon.
Plane Peeve #5: They just don’t give a rat’s backside
As I’ve mentioned more than once, I’ve had some pretty rotten luck with some of my flights thus far. I’ve had some pretty ungodly delays, missed connections because of delays in previous legs of a multi-segment flight, and I’ve had flights cancelled all together. And in each of these situations, Air Canada (oh look, them again) has given me the customer service equivalent of a shrug and a grunt. The most frustrating example I can give is when I was heading home on a re-booked flight after the night that my flight home from Alberta was cancelled due to thunderstorms. I had numerous issues with this particular excursion, but the most unbelievable was when my flight from Montreal to Halifax was delayed so long that I missed my connection from Halifax to Sydney. I asked an Air Canada representative what I should do and she told me to try to rebook on a later flight. I then explained that the next closest flight I could find would have me waiting in Halifax for over 24 hours, an amount of time during which I could easily drive the entire length of Nova Scotia three times. Obviously I wasn’t going to hang around in Halifax for over a day when I could rent a car and be home in 3-4 hours. The representative literally, and I mean literally shrugged at me. And that was the end of the conversation. She didn’t give a flying [expletive] whether I got to the end of my route or not, and felt no obligation to reimburse me in any way for the leg of the flight that I clearly wasn’t going to take. This is the exact same attitude I’ve dealt with every time I’ve had an issue (which has been all but one flight). I can’t speak for other airlines, but Air Canada couldn’t give two pinches of [expletive] about their customers, just so long as their seats have been paid for in full.
I’m not an angry person, I’m really not, but I feel that these are issues for which I am justified in feeling some level of rage. Disagree with me? Okay, whatever, I can’t make you see my point. But agree with me? Let me know! Share your horror stories! You know what they say: misery loves company. 😛