19 Responses

  1. Joey
    Joey at |

    Very good points, especially the inflight entertainment in economy! I recall travelling transatlantic and transpacific flights in economy back in 90s when the only inflight entertainment available was 2-3 movies from those TVs from the center aisle.
    When international airlines like Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, etc. started inflight entertainment with movie-on-demand back ten years ago, my economy class flight experience changed dramatically! A 10 hour flight would feel like a 3-4 hours instead!

  2. Minos
    Minos at |

    Not taking side but Atlas has a point:
    People laugh and feign outrage when they read/watch stories about the Titanic not understanding that the very same is happening today.

    Instead, during the Titanic days, most of the travel were on own’s own dime. Most of the business seats now are paid by companies with said employees enjoying and earning the perks for future travel through their own employment. i.e. paid by the company though the work of all employees.

    With the new revenue based systems, there will even be a conflict of interest. Will employees still be incentivized to look for the cheapest fare available?

  3. DaveS
    DaveS at |

    Thanks for the welcome corrective and context for all the negativity about air travel today.

  4. Stringer Bell
    Stringer Bell at |

    Glad you addressed the article. Did you submit it to the nyt so the erroroneous claims can be refuted at the source?

  5. Marshall Jackson
    Marshall Jackson at |

    Don’t confuse anyone with facts. 🙂 I have not laid eyes on a bigger piece of bullsh*t than that article in a while…. well, at least a few days.

  6. Sue
    Sue at |

    Yeah! It’s about time someone pointed out the what travel “in the good old days” really meant. It was very expensive and it was exclusive. And thanks for pointing out the fact there are no amenity kits on domestic flights – between New York and Miami nonetheless! Ditto on the china.
    And I am tired also of all the airline bashing that goes on today. I just read an NPR story about the unhappy passengers who were angry about how the airlines dealt with rescheduling/rerouting passengers as a result of the SFO tragedy. It was mind boggling to read how angry people were because the airlines would not pay for their hotel, food or get them where they wanted to go – immediately. There was a complete lack of understanding of the complexities involved with shutting down a major US airport – which happens to be the one I fly in and out of almost every week. Nor was there any empathy for the human tragedy that had occurred.
    Again thanks and I wish your article would get onto the pages of the Times.

  7. boisterousbob
    boisterousbob at |

    I think you are missing the point.

    The article was about society, expressed through air travel.

    You are talking solely about air travel.

    While it is true that the “have-nots” have more than they had yesterday, the contrasts between themselves and the “haves” have got more obvious and in your face to all.

    The fact that the medicine in the emergency room for the uninsured is better than the medicine available to anyone 500 years ago is completely missing the point.

    You couldn’t get on that train 50 years ago. You had no reference point. Today you have a reference point. you have nothing and THEY have everything.

    Pointing out that it must be JetBlue and they don’t have a curtain is just churlish. Allow someone to make a point that is 100 times bigger than the one you are replying to and try considering it in context.

  8. jackline
    jackline at |

    i DEFINITELY don’t miss the so called “gool ole days” air travel

    back then you have 38″ recliner seats passing off as international first, people smoking onboard, and you have to dress your sunday’s best just to head to the airport

    today i get flat bed, 32″ tv, caviar, smoke-free, wifi, showers, and engines so quiet you could barely notice them during cruise

  9. miamiflyer
    miamiflyer at |

    Jackline is spot on. I remember First Class in the old days and it was no great shakes unless you drank a lot. What I do fly FC now, it’s a lot better with better seats (beds too) and even when it’s domestic, being able to watch a movie or really stretch out is great.

    I actually find Economy better these days. I know it’s crowded but planes are safer than they were, there is less turbulence due to navigational improvements, and with a few extra dollars where I don’t have status, I can usually get a reasonably comfortable seat. Also, love it or hate, Zone Boarding is more efficient.

    I think a lot of the critique of mass market flying is rooted in snobbery. Yes, people don’t dress well and some are boorish but it’s not really the horror show that people make it out to be.

    And by the way, hotels are heck of a lot better all over the price spectrum than they used to be.

  10. Trevor
    Trevor at |

    I have a hard time with Boisterousbob’s comment — how can a poorly written and even more poorly researched metaphor be interpreted to be an accurate representation of society. For one – who’s “they”? Dealing with such absolutes (you have nothing, “they” have everything), is seldom, if ever accurate. Its not always black or white.

    Further, to use air travel, what was viewed as a luxury in the “good old days”, and is still a luxury for many.

    Besides, if the author is displeased with the difference of service, he can fly Southwest, where every passenger gets peanuts (unless there is an allergy, then its pretzels) and a beverage. Of course, he would likely disagree with those who boarded in the A-Group because they purchased a “Business Select” fare, or perhaps even those traveling with families, who get to board after the A-group.

  11. LarryInNYC
    LarryInNYC at |

    I don’t have an opinion on the article in question, but I will point out that it is fashionable among many of the people who are complaining about it (notably excepting Seth) to say “Oh, I would never spend more than X hours in economy these days”.

    If economy is so good-as-it-ever-was and first class worse, why has an entire industry of points-and-mile advisers sprung up dedicated, in large part, to getting people into the front of the plane?

  12. Josh
    Josh at |

    Atlas’s other misleading piece of nonsense is the claim that American’s “premier service” is “an elite category for those who can afford to pay approximately $18,000 for a round-trip ticket to London.” No, it’s not. It’s a category for people who fly first class, regardless of how they obtain their ticket. That’s a howler worthy of a NYT correction.

  13. DaveS
    DaveS at |

    @Jackline, thanks for your comments. My dad was a frequent business traveler in the 50s and 60s, and he wrote letters to airline heads to ask them to do something about smoking on planes since it bothered him. I still have copies of the correspondence in which they engage in platitudes about how many of our customers enjoy smoking while aboard the plane, and we will keep your ideas in mind as we review our polices, blah, blah, blah.

    In the early years of my air travel, stewardesses would come down the aisle before takeoff offering cigarettes. I dreaded the possibility of smoke in my face throughout the flight. Even if the person next to me would kindly ask if it bothered me, the person two rows back would not. The good old days? NEVER!

  14. jamie
    jamie at |

    WA-, I appreciate your response to this article. And how you note that in real life, inequality IS getting worse. That’s what annoys me most about this article. It sort of starts with a premise that is true (rising inequality), and tries to support that premise with something basically made up. Even if we grant that he is using a hypothetical flight that is really a conglomeration of several flights (one of them being jet blue nyc-mia, but also including some kind of international flight where there actually is a “curtain”), he still can’t make his point truthfully even within that framework. Air travel seems like such a great metaphor for the separation of different classes in society… except once you get past the very surface, it’s a terrible metaphor for inequality in society.
    It’s disappointing that the new york times published this article. And it takes up almost the entire from of the Sunday Review section. The subtitle is “What’s happening above the clouds mirrors what’s happening on the ground.” Except it doesn’t. But something is happening on the ground. Surely someone could come up with a hook for communicating that to readers without having to distort the reality of air travel??

  15. Sue
    Sue at |

    Just as a follow-up to my previous comments, I am a 1K on United as is my husband. All of my miles are on our dime and many of his are. Almost five years ago my husband was transferred to the SF Bay area. I remain in the midwest for a variety of reason including my business, family and friends. However, every week one of us gets on a United flight (primarily me) and flies in and out of SFO. This year I will log over 130,000 miles on United which includes three overseas trips. My spouse does travel for business although I see nothing fun about SFO to EWR even in economy plus on a regular basis. No his company does not pay for First on domestic routes. And yes he gets miles on his company’s dime but he gives as much as he gets – I know our grandchildren think his job title is “conference call” as in that’s what he does on vacation and early in the morning on those east coast and overseas calls. So those business travelers that subsidize casual travelers do “pay” one way or the other for their “perks.”
    I fly with a number of regular business travelers – and sometimes I get the upgrade and sometimes they do – and sometimes none of us do. I get kidded that 7C (we fly on A319s and 20s) should have my name on it since I have given up a seat in the front to sit there (actually E+ bulkhead on these planes is better IMO than row 2 or 3 in First) Since our flight is the only nonstop between STL and SFO those of us who are regulars are just grateful that United picked this flight up after American ditched it in early 2010. We cheer for an on time departure, good weather and arrivals in the domestic rather than international terminal at SFO. A bonus is having one or more of our favorite flight attendants on board. As to the “curtain” I’ve never seen a UA flight attendant turn anyone away – sometimes they forget to pull it! Once I saw a Global Services flyer berate the FA for allowing someone not in first to use the restroom. (I know he was GS because he was the only one when we boarded) but not the FA.
    Without the democratization of airline travel either my husband or I would have had to give up our career, change jobs or have no job at all. There is no way we could have afforded the dollars it would have taken in the “good old days” to live with our arrangement.
    And for all of those people complaining – here’ my complaint – “stop complaining” and appreciate the fact that you have the means and opportunity to fly today. I am definitely not a pollyanna but there are issues this country faces that are far more troubling than flying,the TSA and whether you get peanuts or popcorn.

  16. boisterousbob
    boisterousbob at |

    I guess my only comment would be that criticising the author is silly because should not expect him to express our inside view and superior knowledge.

    I think the author’s view more accurately represents the common interpretation than we do, and there is no harm in recognising that.

    I think that the travel metaphor for society is apt. People don’t compare 50 years ago, they view inequalities they see today and why should we expect them to behave any differently?

    By many metrics the spread between have and have not is never greater. In air travel this is true whether through purchased or “earned” tickets. Long haul first class has a gigantic spread on coach so much so that many airlines are dispensing with it entirely.

    While I agree the detail everything Seth says, expecting the general public to understand all of this, or an institution like the Times to express it, is just unreasonable.

    I can have no issue with the author’s article any more than I take issue always snagging the best seat or upgrade for pennies on the dollar personally.

    I don’t see why we need to pick on such articles. It is like a pilot complaining that the general public does not understand the difference between ILS and VASI. Satisfying to the in crowd, maybe. But unproductive and irrelevant generally.

  17. Brooks
    Brooks at |

    I saw the article before Seth wrote about it and had the same concerns. It’s fair to have a critique on society, but this is bad journalism because the author fabricated his own “facts” about the business and first class cabins on a domestic flight between NY and Miami.

    If the author wanted to make a general critique of society, there are actual facts he could have used for that purpose, but what he wrote doesn’t qualify.