How the West Is Flown

How the West Is FlownIt’s not very often that I fly these days — at least not nearly as often as I used to — but each time I do, I’m reminded of the declining quality of consumer aviation. Halfway through last week I flew to California to see family, and the service on America West was roundly disappointing: to begin with, my ticket was no bargain, but they charged me US$100 to alter it in order to accommodate some changes in my schedule. It was a cross-country flight, but they served only soft drinks and peanuts — not even a single meal. I’m no fan of airline food, but when one spends an extra hour cooped in a plane cabin, waiting for takeoff, a five-hour trip becomes pretty hunger-inducing at somewhere around five hours and thirty minutes. One might be tempted to turn to the in-flight movie to preoccupy one’s time, but there’s something humiliating about being asked to spend an additional US$5 for the indignity of whiling away the airline’s delays. And when we were delayed in landing, the cabin crew couldn’t even apprise us of gate information for our flight connections. I can hardly think of another consumer product that, dollar for dollar, represents less in the way customer care.