Posted December 11, 2008 by Nicki Krawczyk
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. While I can’t take credit for that opening line (props to you, Chuckie D!), I felt it was rather appropriate for today’s post. We’ve come to a point in air travel history when there’s never been so much potential for things to work out really, really, well. (I heard that scoff; bear with me for a moment.)Technology, security, weather predictions, pilot and flight attendant safety, and, well, in-flight entertainment options have never been better.
Indeed, things used to be not-so-hot in the air travel sector. Heck, it wasn’t even until the early ‘70s that all passengers were screened for firearms before boarding. Better yet, hijackings of U.S. planes used to be so common that the Cuban Government sold $30 sandwiches to the passengers who had been diverted to Havana airport. (The State Department picked up the tab.) Nowadays, we’ve got a better handle on issues of this ilk. And, as if that weren’t good enough, airlines have also figured out more ways to cater to our needs than just protecting us from sandwich-wielding Cubans. Briefly, I’ll call to your attention the special swankiness of some airlines, new routes being added as needed, seat upgrades, and numerous other things. Hey, air travel isn’t so bad!
Ooo, then there’s the other side of the coin. On which things sometimes look an eensy, weensy, bit lousy. On-time arrivals and departures are at a low, frequent flyer charges are up, airline fees continue to climb, and, depending on who you talk to, it either sucks to deal with flight attendants or to be one. (I’m simplifying a long argument here; I’ve dealt with many fantastic flight attendants. Please don’t remember my name and make me sit in the bulkhead.)
To paraphrase Mr. Dickens, there’s a whole load of good and a whole load of bad. Personally, I sat on a plane on the tarmac at Boston’s Logan Airport on and off (mostly on) for nine hours only to then have my flight canceled. Thumbs down. However, I’ve had Midwest ticketing agents hunt me down and finagle new flights for me without being asked just because they noticed that I’d have trouble making a connecting flight. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up.
So, my question for you is: What have been your best and worst experiences with air travel? Please leave your answer in the comment field below.
Posted November 26, 2008 by Nicki Krawczyk
There’s a sacrosanct level of trust with rating agencies and critics that has to exist in order for them to be useful. We trusted that Siskel & Ebert actually watched the movies before they recommended them. We trust that Consumer Reports actually does crash lots and lots of cars into brick walls at 40 mph and so, we believe the subsequent evaluations. When Wall Street rating agencies give a mortgage-backed security a AAA rating … oh, didn’t see that one coming, did you? Uh-huh, because we trusted them.
Now, before I make my full accusation, here’s the backstory: Zagat, the company most famous for offering ratings and reviews of hotels, restaurants, and other enjoyable pastimes, recently posted the results of an airline survey. You’ll see several old favorites among them: JetBlue got Best Large Domestic Airlines (Economy Seating), Midwest Airlines got Best Midsized Domestic Airlines (Economy Seating), Southwest got best Value for the Money (Domestic) and so on.
Nothing really fishy here, right? No one’s going to question that Virgin Atlantic could have been rated the Best In-Flight Entertainment (International) or that Singapore Airlines is the Best International Airlines (Premium and Economy Seating). The problem, dear readers, arises when we look to their "Outtakes" page, where they’ve compiled some of the best respondents’ quotes. These include snappy zingers like "You get what you pay for—in other words, you don't get it if you don't pay extra for it!" and "Oh, for the good old days when we had food to complain about," not to mention "Like the Flintstones, their planes are a page right out of history, and their service is bedrock."
Wait a minute … I’ve seen Leno. I’ve seen Letterman. But I’ve also talked to the Man on the Street, and he didn't sound this clever at all! These quotes don’t sound like they came from Joe the Plumber, Betsy Smith the Middle Manager, or even Carter Bushnell, Esq. the Oil Conglomerate Executive. No, they sound much more like they came from Henny Youngman, the King of the One-Liners! J’accuse! Zagat, in an effort to boost its readership and entertainment value, has clearly replaced its independent lay-commentators with a carefully-chosen crew of moxie-rich stand-up comedians! Who else would say things like, "The only thing older than the planes are the flight attendants"?
As for Zagat, they have no response to this accusation. Because I haven’t called them. (Why should I have to do all the work?) But I urge you to investigate further for yourself. Comb through their archives. Read their reviews. Does Continental really offer the Best Value for the Money (International) or is it merely some set-up for a cleverly quipped joke? It’s a tough world out there, kids, when you’ve got to take even Zagat with a grain of salt.