Why Airline Travel Just Keeps Getting Worse

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Nobody ever said that flying was a ton of fun, but 2021 seems to be giving the overall negative side of the experience a run for its money.

In-air fights. Drunken attacks on flight attendants. Rudeness from other passengers. The list goes on.

Have we all forgotten how to fly?

In a word: yes.

From the attendants: “Planes are fuller than they’ve ever been before,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents 50,000 members at 20 airlines. “The idea has been to eke out as much revenue from each flight. Any time you get humanity pressed together in a small space, it naturally creates conflict.”

Incidents on the rise: As of June 2021, there is one “unruly passenger” incidents for every 1,053 flights, according to the FAA. That might not sound like a lot, but given that U.S. commercial  carriers conduct about 5,670 passenger flights daily, your chances of being involved in an incident are better than zero, and the rate is expected to rise.

Why? A lot of reasons, from the year we all spent sitting at home, to pent up agression, to disputes over mask wearing in the tight confines of an aircraft. But Congress is also investigating the airlines’ role in all this, from the ongoing price increases, to reduced legroom, to nickel and diming practices and everything that has made flying more of a chore of the last decade-plus.

What’s more…

  • Increasing focus on luxury travelers at the front of the plane has left the majority of passengers feeling like their riding in steerage, fueling resentment.
  • Bag fees have forced more travelers to try to bring their bags onboard with them, reducing the amount of available overhead bin space and sparking arguments.
  • The ongoing obsession with on-time performance (as mandated by the FAA) has forced many airlines to take drastic steps like canceling flights that might otherwise be a few minutes late, infuriating customers.

Takeaway: Air travel has never been a barrel of laughs and this summer is stressing the system like never before. Be patient. Be flexible. Be calm, and we’ll all get to where we’re going with the minimal drama and delay.

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