Not Missing the Airlines

Posted on January 11, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

A recent news report acknowledged that more than 100,000 domestic flights had been canceled by U.S airlines this past year. Having been victimized by such cancellations in the past, I rejoiced I was no longer in a lifestyle that subjected me to such abuse. Somewhere along the way air travel had become the bane of my existence. When we first took off on those periodic flights to the orient, flying was an exotic experience for our family. But the glorified uniqueness of air travel rapidly diminished; it now conjures up images of childhood days of riding a crowded uncomfortable school bus or cows being herded on a crowded cattle car at the railway yard.

Traveling around Asia as area director for a number of years accumulated experiences I would just as soon forget. Sitting for hours waiting for a non-existent flight in a Bangladesh transit lounge, tolerating the piles of luggage in the aisle of a Nepalese flight, or suffocating from cigarette smoke on a non-smoking flight in India all went with the territory. I dreaded having to fly on Bouraq, an appropriately named airline in Indonesia (Bouraq was the name of Mohammed’s mule). Everyone knew that PAL (Philippine Airlines) meant “Plane Always Late.” I once read that 80% of the flights on Indian Airlines were delayed, 12% to the extent that they did not leave on the day scheduled.

I can remember the days of waiting last to board in order to find a vacant row of seats and having room to spread out. No more! Airlines have used their electronic wizardry to detect exactly how many passengers to expect and schedule just enough flights to be sure each one is filled to capacity. That means often being relegated to a middle seat and subtly vying for elbow room on the shared armrest or scrunching your knees as the passenger in front of you fully reclines his seatback into your face.

Believe it or not, there was a day in the distant past when passengers were actually provided food and served complimentary meals on longer flights. Now most don’t even provide a tiny bag of peanuts and some charge you for a 2-ounce glass of soda which is mostly ice. The checked-bag fees, change fees and other hidden charges have enhanced the hassle of travel, and did I mentioned security? There was a time when friends and family could casually accompany you to the boarding gate, or you knew exactly how much time was needed to check in and get down the concourse before the plane left. Now there is the TSA obstacle course.

I have had enough experience to master the routine of taking off shoes, emptying pockets, removing computer and toiletries from briefcase and then dreading being randomly selected for electronic screening, wondering who all was witnessing my nude image on the scanner. My adeptness of getting to the gate in a timely, stress-free manner was shattered by encountering long security lines bogged down by inept travelers who didn’t understand the system.

In recent years I did everything possible to avoid the Atlanta connection. As the rumor goes, when one dies he won’t be able to get to heaven or hell without a transit through Atlanta’s Hartsville Airport. Being America’s busiest, it is definitely over-scheduled. If there is the slightest weather delay or mechanical breakdown the whole system backs up; it is notorious for missed connections. I have missed funerals, important speaking engagements, and once it took me longer to get from Atlanta to Jackson, MS than the flight from Tokyo to Atlanta.

I still have to fly occasionally, but I’m grateful for the margin that retirement brings; if an engagement is within a day’s drive I can get in the car and enjoy the journey. One of my aspirations in my annual performance review as president of the IMB was to NOT qualify for platinum status as a frequent flyer. But that goal of diminishing travel was an illusion as the travel demands rolled up flight segments and reached two million miles on Delta Airlines alone. I am now celebrating that my medallion status has been revoked. Let someone else deal with the cancelled flights and missed connections. I am enjoying the leisure drive!

2 Comments on “Not Missing the Airlines”

  1. Stan Stepleton

    I know a little of what you speak. Enjoyed the post Dr. Rankin and if you need to earn some extra income from your frequent flier miles. This is an example posting from Craigslist: “Selling delta airline miles, 200.000 of them. Must be local. THis is good for 2 roundtrip business class tickets. The cost is $4000 for all 200K miles or $2500 for 100000 to 120000 miles frequent flier miles, delta air france skyteam alliance KLM ” We do not plan to fly anymore (unless an emergency) either.

  2. Marge Worten

    It’s been a day of counting blessings. As I read your all-too-graphic accounts of flights I added some more to the count, “No more India Air, no more Air Pakistan, no more. . .” Now I can get to within an couple of hours to my children via Singapore Airline (praise be!). The Garuda or Malaysian connection to them from Singapore rate somewhat above Steph’s last place of service. Thank you, Lord….

    We enjoy The Rankin File.

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