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Doug Clark: No relief for lowly air traveler

Thu., Sept. 6, 2012

Taking tips from CIA interrogation techniques perfected in Iraq, the major airlines are out to make flying even more insufferable for the average ticket-buying suckers like you and me.

I’m paraphrasing a story that appeared in the business section of Wednesday’s newspaper.

Mary Kirby, who was quoted in the story, put a less-cynical spin on what the airlines are up to.

“We’ve seen in the last year or so some tremendous improvements in the passenger experience,” said Kirby, editor-in-chief of Airline Passenger Experience magazine.

When I read this, a thought came to mind.

Airline Passenger Experience?

Do you know anyone who has read or even seen an Airline Passenger Experience magazine?

Granted, I was much more into my brother’s Playboy collection while growing up.

But I’ve stood in a lot of grocery store checkout lines, too. And not one of the racks, to my knowledge, was ever filled with this magazine.

As a compulsive checkout reader I would know.

Take Wednesday morning. I was in line at Fred Meyer and couldn’t take my eyes off this tabloid that claimed to have shocking photos of John Travolta’s gay lover.

Well, let’s all pray that he’s a good Scientologist, like John.

If we’ve learned anything from the Cruises, it’s that one-crazy-cult-member relationships don’t work.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. The airlines.

I have a sinister feeling that this Kirby woman is actually some airline CEO’s aged aunt who hasn’t stepped on a commercial airplane since America’s golden days of flight.

You know, back when stewardesses wore snappy suits and passengers got to use real silverware while they dined on freshly cooked salmon made from genuine fresh fish.

Nowadays, you can’t even get a lousy peanut.

If you’re lucky, the flight attendants (don’t ever say “stewardess” unless you want to get Tased) may bring you a couple of soy nuts or a packet of digestive cookies that taste like cinnamon-enhanced Sheetrock.

Whoever wrote this airline makeover story should have interviewed a real airline customer, namely me.

I would not have talked so glowingly about recent improvements in air travel.

I would have talked about the recent lump that my head incurred while in the claustrophobic confines of the airplane commode.

This happened while flying home from a visit to my daughter and son-in-law in San Francisco.

I have some advice for any guys who need to use an airplane toilet.

Don’t even think about standing up.

That’s how you get your noggin cracked.

I don’t want to go into too much detail. Let’s just say that I was victimized by a sudden burst of turbulence that occurred at a very inopportune moment while I was standing over the bowl and trying to, ahem, focus.


Damn, those ceilings are low.

My point, however, is that modern flight is plenty miserable as it is.

I shiver to envision what these airline ghouls might come up with when they complete their so-called improvement plans.

A tipoff came in the aforementioned story’s last paragraph.

“Upgrades in some cases, however, mean economy class will become more cramped.”

More cramped.

Are you kidding me?

Losing even another millimeter of passenger legroom should violate the Geneva Conventions.

Yet airlines will filch precious real estate from the blokes in steerage and use it to make first-class accommodations even more posh for fliers like Travolta and his man date.

First-class seats will recline into king-sized beds. Overhead luggage bins will be expanded into two-bedroom condos with Jacuzzis …

It’s not fair, of course.

It’s not right.

But as Rob Friedman, American Airlines vice president of marketing, said in the story …

“This really boils down to a desire to win high-value customers.”

Reminds me of a song I once wrote:

Come on and step right up and fly unfriendly skies.

Stuck in the middle seat, between two big fat guys.

On cattle cars that fly.

Cattle cars that fly.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432

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