We asked and boy, did you answer!!

George Hobica, June 01, 2008
Fares from Washington DC:

    Last week we asked you the question, “Have you ever nixed your travel plans because the prospect of flying was too much of an annoyance?”  Well, the results are in and it wasn’t even close.  We’ve gotten more email and comments regarding this question than we’ve ever received in the past about any other issue.  You’ve spoken loud and clear.  By a clear majority, about 94% of you have changed, cancelled and avoided air travel, compared to the rest of you who continue to brave the current conditions of our far from friendly skies.  Not only did many of you reply, but you also spent a lot of time, effort and verbiage on your answers.  There’s a lot of pent-up frustration and the tales of woe and trauma poured in.  If we posted all of your comments in their entirety, it would probably be the length of a short novel.  We’ll let you speak for yourselves and apologize for turning you into “sound bites.”

     “I usually fly 4 to 6 times each year for pleasure. I have not flown at all this year and don't plan to do so.”

    “Our airline system is a mess.”

    Let the complaining begin!

    You are made to feel like a cash register and a second class citizen.”

    One of the reasons most often cited for avoiding air travel, was avoiding the terrible customer service by the airlines:

    “Does it REALLY annoy you if I get up out of my seat (so as not to bother you too much) and ask you for a cup of water?”

    “These days they have no problem inconveniencing the customer by canceling flights or connections or missing connections; I’ve been mis-led, mis-informed and just plain lied to…”

    “With no apparent bad weather, our non-stop 1 hr flight was delayed by 7 hours. I could have flown to Paris in that time! They told us there were weather delays in Dallas (the origination of our plane) but I called a friend in Dallas and he said skies were clear and sunny… only offered us crackers & bottled water as compensation for the delay.”

    "The last flight I took, the five hour flight I had scheduled took 25 hours on the way up and the five hour flight coming back took 26 hours."

    “If I am hassled when I try to make reservations, I am, however, likely to forget about it and stay home altogether. Enough is enough…”

    “…every downgrade in service or lack of protection for fliers is another reason for me not to consider going back to flying…”

    “Last spring my husband and I took a trip to San Francisco and we felt like cattle being herded on to a freighter. We even made "moo" sounds as we moved through the lines…”

    “My husband could not, literally, put down his tray table to rest his beverage because the person in front of him had reclined his seat. The steward's response was ‘What do you want me to do about it?’  Of course no pillows, blankets or food. Crumbs on the floor and trash in the seat pockets.”

    “I expect that soon the lavatories will be coin operated.”

    "Airlines treat customers as an inconvenience..."

    The nickel and dime-ing and new luggage charges aren’t helping either:

    “My former husband was a captain for AA and I have been a loyal traveler for over 40 years. No more! I will not pay to check a bag with an airline who values my business so little!”

    “And now they are tacking on fees for little things which should be part and parcel of the air fare paid … It is just another way of raising fares indirectly.”

    “The new rules on luggage allowances had taken place when I flew… The overhead compartments were full long before all passengers were on the plane. This made for very slow boarding.”

    “ I think UPS is going to have a great year.”

    “Hearing that airlines will charge for the first bag and eliminate pretzels makes me just plain angry...and contributes to my general flying indifference.”

    “I would rather drive halfway across the United States in a car...regardless of the cost.”

    It looks like the good old-fashioned automobile trip will be making a comeback.  We were surprised that so many of you were not only planning on short car trips, but long distance drives as well:

    “I totally have changed my flying habits. I now never consider taking a flight if I can drive to the destination in under 6 hrs.”

    “My husband and I will drive from Michigan to Boston to visit friends, bringing golf clubs and bikes, rather than fly for the Independence day weekend.”

    “From S/W Ohio I can easily reach Atlanta, Charleston, S.C., Ontario, and St. Louis. I'm more relaxed when I get there, and I'm starting to regain the feeling that half the fun is getting there. More scenery and less hassle!”

    “I will happily drive to a destination up to 10 hours of driving in lieu of flying any more.”

    “My family and I decided to drive down to Florida in July from CT rather than fly… The 1/2 day of extra travel via auto will save us approx $1500.00 including the price of gas...and my extra luggage is free!”

    “We drove from California to Texas this spring because I just couldn't deal with flying.”

    “Although driving is more expensive now, it is still cheaper than airfare and I am in control of my schedule.”

    “…in April we did go to Boston, but chose to drive rather than fly from St. Louis. Too often we've had difficulties with flight delays, layovers, luggage, etc. Traveling with a three year old, it just seemed the less stressful of the two to drive a couple days with a hotel stop.”

    “It makes me appreciate the regular old road trip, at least you can stretch your legs and listen to the radio. I think our future trips will be smaller and closer to home and we will DRIVE!”

    “With all the airport hassles and delays it seems almost as fast to drive somewhere as to fly. Plus you can take whatever you want along when you drive!”

    “I now drive to all destinations within 500 miles. If we had real passenger rail service in this country I would use that exclusively.”

    “We are planning on starting to travel by train…”

    We noticed a lot of you are investigating other alternatives:

    “…we are only taking cruises that are from the Northeast...no airfare to get there.”

    “I have begun looking into Amtrak as a serious alternate source of travel. The lines are non-existent and the staff is very pleasant and helpful. As a matter of fact I have taken Amtrak over flights between the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento or LA.”

    “Since we're in Oregon, we try for cruises that leave from the west coast and then use one-way car rental to get to the ship. No problems with baggage allowances or airline overbooking that way.  It was cheaper to take the Queen Mary II to Hamburg, Germany than to fly. Plus, you get meals and all around better service. Now, I'm looking for a way to Japan in the spring of 2009 other than airlines.”

    “I am considering chartering a bus
    (from Oregon) and opening seats to selected people for a trip to Florida and returning after 10 or so days. I realize the bus may have to be charted for 20 or even 30 days but then it may be worth it and possibly be a real fun time with the right selected few.”

    “I just made a train reservation at more money to avoid a flight to San Francisco. My entire family decided on a driving trip this summer to avoid flights. We're done with paying for being treated like recalcitrant cattle…”

    “…I am doing almost anything to avoid the hassle of TSA…”

    For many of you, airport security is the undiscovered “tenth circle of Hell” in Dante’s Inferno:

    “He lost his interest in flying when he had to take his shoes off. Something just went click and it was the last straw for him.”

    “…security wouldn't allow a breakfast yogurt into the concourse (who knew that yogurt posed a security threat?)”

    “I have had to explain sanitary products and my medical devices in front of strangers.”

    “And this thing about removing your shoes is ridiculous, none of the foreign airports I've been to do it, and it really slows down the line and doubles the hassle."

    “It is not worth the headache and wasted time, ruined luggage from TSA agents leaving bottle tops unscrewed in your luggage, missing jewelry, souvenirs, etc., as well as their "RUDE" behavior. It is unacceptable!!!

    “Just sick of getting undressed in public…”

    “I need to take two short trips or one longer trip to visit my two kids & their families in separate parts of the country. But I can't get around to planning the trip.”

    Sadly, many of you have noted that it’s actually affecting your family and personal relationships:

    “I am now re-thinking any more visits to Columbus and wait for my son to drive out. I have definitely reconsidered more frequent visits due to the miserable flying experiences I've had so far…”

    “Yes, I have given up one flight this year due to hassle. I wanted to go from CAE to BOI to visit my son in the Air Force.”

    “My grandson (16 years old) visited me (in Springfield MO)… He arrived home (Boston MA) 8 hours later and does not want to fly again. I have to add that he usually visits me twice a year so this will be a problem for both of us.”

    “I would love to go to the east coast and visit family and friends, but I just dread the flights and the airport procedures. It's become so unpleasant that I'd rather not go at all.”

    “I have a death in the family, in Kansas City ,MO. Would like to fly but because of the cost and hassle I have decided to drive (
    from Colorado).”

    “I have chosen to call and send packages, even though I have a grandson I have never seen.”

    “…being jammed onto a plane is not at all comfortable. Not to mention the fact that you're breathing everyone else’s air and will most likely have a cold or flu before all is said and done.”

    “…I have had it with flying- As I flew home from ELP three weeks ago, jammed between my 14 year old son and a 275 lb. man, I swore there had to be a better way!”

    Some of these seats are 16" what human measurement is that from? A 12 year-old? A size 4? Gee, give me a break… I sat sideways because the shoulder of the man next me was in my space and the sides of my seat felt like they would cave in my hip-bones! You tell me how many men are only 16" from shoulder to shoulder?

    “…we both came down with a virus that lasted over 20 days.”

    “I always end up with bronchitis after a long flight…”

    "We have never not flown because of the hassles."

    Those few of you who were as inclined to fly as ever were much more succinct and sometimes even offered tips for dealing with, tuning out, and “checking out while checking in!”

    “So, when you're flying somewhere, just decide it's going to suck. Then, when you get to where you are, it usually isn't as bad as you thought…”

    “Any trip I've taken has been worth all the stress and pressure and hassle at the airport - and, unfortunately, sometimes on board.”

    “…we're still going - getting there is not the vacation, it begins once you have arrived!”

    “You just pack your patience and try to understand that the person who just told you your flight was cancelled is just the messenger.”

    “If the lure of travel to new places wasn't so strong, I would give up on airline travel. I'm still willing to endure the hassle of flying as long as I can get to a new country.”

    “…just bring an extra book!!!!”

    “…we generally attempt to fly NON-US carriers...”

    International carriers seem to be leaving our domestic airlines in the dust! (With the exception of jetBlue and especially Southwest, which were both repeatedly cited as exceptions to the general disdain for American carriers.)

    “…we flew Mexicana Airlines home. Gracious service, clean blankets and pillows and a nice dinner.”

    “…we usually use the national airlines of that particular country instead of US domestic airlines. The service is better, they are usually on time and have never lost our luggage.”

    “I have been flying to Asia because you leave San Francisco airport and you are right out over the Pacific. It’s point to point. No stops, no short-changing people on meals, no weather problems.”

    “Hurrah for Air North, IcelandAir, Qantas, Air Tahiti Nui, Air New Zealand. A raspberry to most others.”

    In closing… well, we’ll just let you speak for yourselves:

    “I am 61 years old, and I remember when flying was a very pleasurable experience. Now flying is something that I dread.”

    “We took a survey … 90 % of us are so sick of the treatment the airlines give us to the extent that we DID NOT actually make one or more trips in the last 9 months!”  (
    This is from a travel based company that books tours.)

    “I have my one million plus miles with UA but I just don't enjoy air travel much anymore.”

    “Frankly, I'm beginning to wonder whether the high prices and good chances of many hassles make it worth my time.”

    “I have decided to put my money into my house until the hassles of flying have decreased.”

    “If I can ever say no to that next trip, I do.”

    “I hope they all go bankrupt!!!!”

    “Flying sucks!”