Air travel isn’t as much fun as it used to be

In August, I wrote a post about my visit to the Museum of Flight, up in Seattle.  To help set the mood, I included a video of Frank Sinatra singing “Come Fly With Me.”

Aside from being a great song on its own merits, “Come Fly With Me” is also a wonderful tribute to a time when flying was an exciting, sophisticated way to travel.  It was an era when airports weren’t crowded, security was non-existent, and airplane food was free and edible.

How things have changed.

But with change come opportunities for brilliance.  Iowahawk was brilliant, and one of his many fans put together the perfect video to celebrate that creative genius:

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  1. Oldflyer says

    Commercial flying lost its appeal many years ago.  There was a time when I looked forward to a commercial flight.  Not lately.  I remember about 15 years ago taking a Virgin Atlantic flight out of London.  After multiple passport checks, etc.  the final indignity occurred with the boarding announcement.  One that would only play in England;  “UPPER class passengers board through door A, all others through door B”.  As I was inching down the jetway with all of the “others” I was mooing quietly to myself.  The humor seemed lost on my fellow others.
    I used to dress to achieve a balance between appearance and comfort.  Now, I dress for the security screening.  Slip on shoes, or sandals (my wife hates that).  Beltless trousers. Floppy shirt to hide the fact that my pants are sagging.  No watch, no keys, no change in my pockets.  Tighten the  grip on my patience as much as I can manage; and a small, if phony, smile etched on my face (don’t want to annoy a screener).
    I have maintained for some time that unless your time is quite valuable for pleasure travel, unless your time is quite valuable it seems non-productive to fly if you can reach your destination in a day of driving.  If you are traveling for other purposes a quick, but critical cost-benefit analysis is appropriate.  Between the airlines and the government, the age of air travel may be entering the final stage.

  2. Oldflyer says

    Oops, hit enter while trying to edit.
    In the last paragraph I was trying to say; “unless your time is really valuable, when traveling for pleasure, it seems to make sense to drive for trips that can be made in a day”.

  3. Mike Devx says

    Oldflyer says,
    > Tighten the  grip on my patience as much as I can manage; and a small, if phony, smile etched on my face (don’t want to annoy a screener).

    I fly about three times per year.  I haven’t encountered any rude, obnoxious, or unprofessional TSA employees yet.  They’ve all been fine.

    I just don’t think the system is worth the money poured into it.  On the other hand, it raises the risk of detection just enough that perhaps the terrorists have chosen not to challenge it.

    I suppose Janet The Idiot has changed the rules to cause the Grope-A-Dope controversy to rear its ugly head.   The TSA is a bureaucracy and its people function within that very impersonal bureaucracy.  The  physical violation of our personal space would have to be done with great sensitivity and civility, and bureaucracies simply cannot accomplish THAT.  Hence the revolt.

  4. suek says

    1500 miles to our Texas family members.  Think I’ll see if I can use the Google mapping thing and find some place interesting about  the 750 mile point.  Definitely not an ideal solution, but I intend on not flying until things change.
    Hubby says I’m silly – that he was subjected to the same while traveling in the mid-east, and it’s no big deal.  He includes Israel in that.  _Really_ the same?  I don’t know.   Ok…but he was on orders – but I’m not.  Sometimes you do what you have to do – but if you _don’t_ have to, then I intend on _not_ doing.
    The 4th article of the Constitution is a different matter.  I’ve been thinking about whether it pertains.  The action is voluntary – but there are government agents.  So there’s a mix between voluntary and involuntary.  That situation where the young man reached a certain point and wanted out bothered me – they told him “No go”  – literally.  If you reach a certain point, you _will _ be searched or x-rayed, and you may not leave before it’s done.  That’s pretty coercive.
    What a mess.  And is it really necessary?  I mean – how many incidents have occurred with flights originating in the US?  How many were directed cities other than NY and Wash DC?  There was the LA one…but the parameters seem pretty limited.  Seems like you could restrict the inspection flights to those headed to cities over xxxx population or something.
    There _has_ to be a better way.

  5. Mike Devx says

    > What a mess.  And is it really necessary?

    It’s a mess because we refuse to profile and to monitor behavior.  I suspect the entire system is not very effective.   Randomly selecting a three-year-old for a search?  Randomly?  You’ve got to be kidding me.

    The PC nature of the security system is its biggest drawback.   As I said above, I’ve encountered no *problems* with TSA employees… yet I’ve seen many cases of “government bureaucracy indifference” among them as well.  Not all of them, but enough to cause me to compare the TSA to the post office.  They can’t help it – they’re within the massively bureaucratic system, and that’s how such systems work, even to the attitudes of employees.   If it were a private company whose revenues depended upon the good attitude of their employees, things would be very different.

  6. Oldflyer says

    Mike D.  I mentioned on this or another site, that my sister was one of the original TSA employees.  She was fired after missing something on the xray during a “refresher” training session. No recourse despite being chosen to travel to high profile sites, including one Presidential inaugural, but that is neither here nor there.  She married a co-worker who is still with the system.  He seems just a little short tempered but I have never seen him at work.  So, I do have some sympathy for the people who do the work.  It is not a pleasant job, and they are under real pressure.
    Anyway, most of the TSA folks I have encountered were just fine.  But, there have been exceptions.  Flying out of Long Beach, Ca once, my wife and I were randomly selected for enhanced screening.  The guy who checked us in, said “oh, oh” as he looked at his screen.  So, it had nothing to do with our appearance or with our actions.  It was unpleasant for me, and downright traumatic for my wife.  We did not know what was expected, and no one bothered to explain.  Wife made a move that was apparently not acceptable, and the Gestapoette who was handling her, got very aggressive very quickly.  I will say that tempers were already short in that special room because there was  a family with two fussy toddlers also present.
    Now, perhaps there could be  some other system that chose someone more suitable for enhanced screening than a 70 year old retired Naval Officer/airline Captain, and his angelic, grandmotherly wife?   Not to mention that family with the toddlers.  I would think so. But, we apparently filled a quota.
    Another short story.  Another time in the gate area at Long Beach, we noticed a youngish guy acting very strangely.  We observed him for at least 15 minutes, maybe longer, constantly pacing back and forth and talking to  himself in a fairly agitated manner.  Finally, I went to the TSA folks and relayed what we were observing.  They sent me to the duty cop.  He had something else going on, and simply wasn’t interested. No one paid any attention as this man continued his bizarre behavior until boarding.  He got on our flight and we were a bit uncomfortable for the next 4.5 hours.  Clearly, the system is not designed to accommodate civilian input; nor to focus on individual behavior no matter what you are told.
    As a former airline pilot, and airline pilot Instructor, I have fairly extensive international travel experience.  Our system does not impress.  I will say that Mexico was worse, back when I worked there–i.e. no security system except for some hard eyed people with guns loitering about the terminal.

  7. suek says

    I wonder if there isn’t a time factor here.  Originally, NASA was considered the top of the top.  Nowadays, there’s a fair amount of speculation that they’ve fallen to mediocre standards – and maybe even lower.  There’s no doubt as to their standards originally…I wonder if the TSA hasn’t also fallen victim to creeping bureaucracy mentality, and a resulting deficiency of substandard employees.
    Someone on another blog has commented on the high number of blacks, and an impression that many of them are very pleased with being “da man” and the ability to legitimately harass and demean “whitey”.  This person had been in the Altanta airport recently.  Counter-comments were of the “you racist” sort, but his original comment was two-fold – the percentage of blacks in the TSA being inconsistent with the percentage of blacks in the population, and the “back-at-cha” stuff.  I think the first comment is legitimate.  If companies are going to be held accountable for not having enough blacks hired, then government organizations need to be held accountable for not having enough whites hired.  Recognizing, of course, that while the overall percentages might be hunky-dory, specific locations might be very out of balance.  The second comment requires direct experience, so I can’t make any comment on it.  Possible, I suppose, but pretty hard to validate.
    Of course, I’m the person who would require that basketball and football teams be made up of appropriate racial mixes, proportionally speaking.  Certainly would shorten the sports seasons…!!

  8. binadaat says

    I’m an orthodox Jew and can’t do the xray thing for reasons of modesty. I’ve already been patted down in the airport a few times because I cover my hair and wont’ remove the covering in public.
    I don’t know if I’m going to be able to come to the US by plane. I”m checking out going via Canada to California where my family lives.   the problem is getting back. I’d have to take a bus or train to leave the US and it’s a long, long trip to the Canadian border.
    Any news on someone mounting a challenge to this procedure? Is it constitutional-doesn’t it fall under unreasonable searches?

  9. says

    Binadaat, of course it falls into unconstitutional area. But the executive branch can issue any kind of order and enforce it. It takes the Supreme Court plus Congress to do anything more about it, like defunding it or ruling it unconstitutional.
    Until that happens, Obama’s got the power and he’ll use it.

  10. suek says

    >>Is it constitutional-doesn’t it fall under unreasonable searches?>>
    Good question.  Is the search at the behest of the airline, or the government?  If the airline says “you have to be searched to fly on our plane”, and employs the TSA to do the search, then I don’t think there’s a constitutional question.  If the government says “you cannot fly on any airline until we have searched you” then I think it _is_ unconstitutional.
    Frankly, I’m not sure which it is.  I suspect it’s a combination of both – that is, the government telling airlines “you can’t fly your planes unless you have ascertained that nobody can possibly blow them up.” So the government places a condition on the airlines, which the airlines then have to enforce on their passengers, and they use the government agents (TSA) so that they can say – “see…you said they were ok” in case anything happens.

  11. Oldflyer says

    My sister’s husband has recently been elected as their local union rep.  Took me by surprise.  When TSA was formed they were denied civil service status, and I thought prohibited from unionizing.
    Guess that was wrong.  Or else someone changed the rules.

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