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Monday, January 18, 2016

Dreary Air

I would like to publicly express my gratitude to all of the super-budget, “no class” airlines for still offering free bathroom privileges. I’d also like to thank the FAA for mandating gratis oxygen and life vests, in the case of an emergency situation. (Someone I know actually stole a life vest off of a jet, just so he could watch one inflate when you pulled that cord. It was something to see, and unexpectedly loud.)

Honest to God, these airlines really hate us. Except for the free use of their toilets, they have taken away everything that could possibly make flying a pleasant experience. Being the cheapskate I am, I am now a master at making online reservations with these guys. If you actually speak to a reservations representative or even get a passing glimpse at a gate agent, they charge you.

I’ve flown two of these airlines, and they want you to pay a la carte for everything. After clicking NO for booking a hotel, renting a car, buying travel insurance, paying for a carry-on bag smaller than a deck of cards, or forking over money for airport check-in, you are asked if you want to reserve a seat on the plane. I realize that to the inexperienced skinflint traveler this may be a little off-putting, because most people think that by this time they already have made the reservation, but no. Instead, you are presented with a floor plan of a no-class small jet, and are offered the opportunity to BUY a seat for ten to fifty dollars. The first time I thought about flying on Inferi-Air, I shut down the app at that point and decided to drive, because I didn’t want to tack on an additional $40 to $200 for a trip for two. The secret is to realize you can skip the seat reservation  process, which then puts you at the mercy of Air Unfair, which will assign you and your spouse two center seats at opposite ends of the jet so in case you crash, you don’t get to die together. This is why I always bring walkie-talkies on the airplane. No one ever asks you to turn off your walkie-talkies, so they are perfectly legal.

One airline, Spirit, gives you the chance to pay a dollar to use napkins made of recycled paper on the flight. I am dead serious about this. Look, Spirit, you are dealing with the cheapest of the cheap Americans here. If loved ones are willing to die without the ability to hold hands on the spin-out, do you really think their resentment will be curtailed long enough to give you a buck for asswipe napkins? Give it up. How desperate can you get?

One thing you can’t help but notice on Air Despair are the measures they have taken to make you uncomfortable. The $10 seats, which are also the free seats if you fail to reserve them, no longer have creature comforts like padding or springs in the seats. The chairs, which are sixteen inches wide, are made of molded plastic, like the ones in your music room in elementary school. They are covered with Velcro-attached vinyl covers that can be easily removed in case you vomit on them, because Air Contraire does not offer complimentary barf bags.

Once you get off the ground and you radio your loved one to make sure they haven’t thrown up, you can sit and relax. Notice I didn’t say that you can sit BACK and relax, because the music room seats do not recline. Even the $50 seats are static. Now would be a good time to look in the seat pocket in front of you to see how much you have to pay for a cocktail and a nutsack. Sadly, you can’t, because there is no seat pocket. There is only a bungee cord that holds in the FAA-mandated emergency card. Also there is a little brochure obviously put together by a graphic design intern at Nightmare Air, and when you unfold it you discover that two bottom shelf cocktails and half a corn chip will set you back $24.95. Perhaps you’d like to pull down your tray table so you can prop up your iPad and watch a movie. Sorry, gotta keep that on your lap, because your snack “tray” is the size of an emery board and will not support electronics.

I shouldn’t be so hard on these budget carriers. Seriously, a hundred bucks to fly a total of 1200 round trip miles can’t be beat.  If you are okay with not-even-a-chance frills, you’ll be complacent here.

In 1964 I took my first flight on Continental Airlines.  There were sticks of gum and a pack of four Parliament cigarettes placed on every seat before you boarded the plane. There were removable doilies on the headrests to guarantee you had no hair-generated bugs passed from the previous passengers. The stewardess gave me little pin-on wings and let me go up and look inside the cockpit. There was a choice of two hot meals served on china with stainless utensils. The cushy seats reclined way back, and they offered you pillows and blankets so you could actually sleep. You could check three suitcases for free. The well-put-together stewardesses wore crisp uniforms and nifty pillbox hats.  Before the plane took off, they came down the aisle with an assortment of magazines and newspapers for you to read. And this was coach, not first class

On Air Bedsore, there is none of that, and none of the modern nice-to-haves like internet access, TV channels, or headphones for music are offered. The one perk is that the arms of the chairs do fold up so the stranger next to you can release his bulbous spare tire into eight of the sixteen inches you are allotted.

And the flight attendant is either a bitter woman who can’t get hired anywhere else because she is in her late 50’s, or some grimy grunge boy with over-gelled blue-black dyed hair and outstretched piercings. Gay men wouldn’t touch jobs on Aer Dingus with a ten-foot oxygen hose. On my last flight I listened to one of the attendants spew forth to her co-worker the tale of her husband who left their family last year in the middle of a mid-life crisis. Admittedly, this was better than being able to watch a Lifetime movie on the non-existent screen built into the absent headrest in front of me. Her co-worker was too involved in picking at his acne to respond to her plight.

Just when you think you have endured all the abuse and humiliation that a passenger can take, they make an end-of-flight announcement that physically hurts. You are asked to bring your unreclinable seat back to its upright position. Really. They rub it in. And then the punk/goth/unbackground-screened, dirty-t-shirt-wearing flight attendant comes down the aisle begging you to sign up for the Disrep Air Mastercard, which comes with 40,000 free miles, redeemable for two more round-trip flights from hell.

And because you had to ask, yes, I filled out the application. Other Bill and I have another short flight to take in six weeks, and I want Air Beware to pay for it.

Hopefully I’ll remember to buy fresh batteries for the walkie-talkies. No one likes to die alone.