I remember way back when I was a kid there was no passenger rail service to speak of.  There actually was but you had to dig to find it.  Sometime in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s, my brother decided to take the train to visit us; just to experience something different.  It was way more trouble than it was worth.  The train only stopped at DeQueen which was a two hour drive from Camden where we lived.  My Dad and I got there at the appointed time; the train station was a tiny building with nobody around.  We sat there for hours because the train was late.  When my brother finally arrived he told us that they were delayed because of freight trains that got priority.  His meal had been bad and expensive and the people of the railroad had been uniformly surly and unhelpful.

This sounds exactly like most air travel now.  The airlines only fly to certain places and will stop service in certain cities if they deem it to be not profitable enough.  I usually waste hours in non-flying activities.  The airline people are not surly but in general the airline is less than helpful.  Security people however are always surly and unhelpful.  I hate to be assumed to be a criminal until I have been searched for contraband first.  Food is non-existent or expensive so you have to get it and take it with you – but of course you have to buy it at the airport because you aren’t allowed to bring liquids with you through security.

I see many parallels. 

I read somewhere once that the railroads had become overly complex and the maze of agreements between the various lines caused a lot of confusion in the market when it came to buying tickets.  The passenger sitting next to you going to the same destination probably paid a different amount than you did for his ticket.  This too sounds familiar.  In the end, when cars (and super highways) came along, people preferred them.  Even though the journey was slower and probably more rigorous back then, people preferred it simply because they felt in control of the experience.  I’m starting to feel the same way towards the airlines.

Well, passenger rail travel doesn’t exist any more except as a novelty or as a commuter alternative in very specific markets.  I’m wondering if the airlines will become something similar:  something people do to get across the ocean or as the occasional novel experience.  Perhaps they will become a dinosaur like the railroads did simply because the experience for the traveler just became too much of a pain in the ass.  I’m sure the airlines would justify all that they do based on sound financial reasoning and market research but the fact remains that travel on airlines is a huge pain in the ass.  How long before it’s too much trouble and we just give it up?

Hear that American Airlines?  I dread getting on your airplanes!  I enjoy getting to my destinations but the journey is no longer part of the fun.  It costs a fortune and it’s not a pleasant journey.  Only you can change it.

Advertisements