I recently found myself on a United flight sitting next to a chronic complainer. It started when she was politely told that her impossibly oversized suitcase would need to be checked because it obviously wouldn't fit into the overhead compartment. At this point her mouth shifted into high gear.
My Ipad, earbuds and playlist could only help until all electronics needed to be switched off. She was talking loudly to herself and I was the captive audience. She ranted and raved about not enough leg room, the crying child at the back of the plane, the tiny beverage glasses and how much money she paid to experience such intolerable inconveniences.
Oh...did I mention this was a 10 hour nonstop flight with no meal service.
I came prepared with a picnic lunch that I happily shared with her because it successfully kept her mouth shut for all of 5 minutes. As soon as she gobbled down her half of sandwich, she started right up again about "back in the good old days of air travel....when they fed you a hot meal..."
By this time I was zoning out as a survival mechanism but she did get me to thinking....
How "good" were the "good old days" of air travel?
I did a little bit of digging into aviation history. Did you know United airlines is one of the oldest domestic airlines still in operation. It started out as an air mail carrier back in 1926. As technology advanced and planes got larger, it began offering passenger service.
In 1931 their advertising slogan promised customers "Speed...Comfort...Interest...These features one can anticipate when flying with United Air Lines".
Back then "speed" meant it took 30 hours fly time and EIGHT connections to fly the 2,500 miles from New York to Los Angeles. In 1931 a roundtrip ticket from NY to LA cost $430. That is comparable to $6,500 by today's standards. Passengers sat in wicker chairs and there were no bathrooms.
Now trust me when I tell you, I've been on some pretty bad flights over the years. Memories of that 12 hour flight delay when I was flying alone with my three little ones still haunts me to this day! But this particular United flight couldn't possibly be ranked or rated as a "bad flight". We left on time, the service was decent and we arrived 7 minutes ahead of schedule with my luggage there to greet me. My seat companion however certainly turned the experience into a flight from hell.
So perhaps it's all a matter of attitude and point of view?
Sure, I will be the very first to admit the airlines are far from perfect. But let's remember, technically it's there job to get us and our stuff from point A to Point B safely and on time. It's not their job to coddle, entertain, feed and pamper us. If you require more services to keep you happy, first class is available to you and it comes with a higher price.
So in closing, a message to my seat companion, I didn't get your name (and I did that on purpose).... the next time you feel like complaining about the "horrible state of affairs with the airlines these days", think about the passengers to spent 30 hours and eight connections in the company of someone just like you. Now that's what I call a bad flight!