August 14, 2016

CBS "Travel Detective" says if your plane didn't hit a mountain or, on landing, "cartwheel and explode into flames," you did not have a terrible trip.

"You didn't have a terrible trip, you had the best trip ever, because you're alive. Why do we really go to travel anyway? To go from point A to point B and not die. I mean, I'm always reminded — and I travel over 400,000 miles a year, those are real miles. I'm reminded every time I get in this aluminum cylinder how amazing this experience is."

Key question buried in there: "Why do we really go to travel anyway?" I agree it's amazing that planes consistently get people from point A to point B without killing them, but it's not like I'm going to die if I don't get from point A to point B, so not killing me can't be the standard.

What Peter Greenberg is talking about is how the airlines have succeeded as a business by keeping the prices super low and sacrificing just about everything else but safe transportation. He specializes in helping people understand the airlines schemes so we can take the best advantage of them.

But many people — not just me, look at the comments at the link — conclude that it's best not to fly at all. And, really, what's the problem? The planes are full. The airlines are making record profits. People who choose to fly get low fares (and can pay more and get into the higher class section).

So what if a lot of people, like me, say no to flying whenever we can? That's a good thing, right? We're reducing our carbon footprint. Isn't that still something we're supposed to be trying to do? I don't know, because I haven't heard much about that at all lately. Not during the election season anyway.

53 comments:

rhhardin said...

The planes are full because they don't run extra planes and they overbook.

I haven't flown since the 80s but noticed on many biz trips on monopoly routes that the jets flew nose-up, which means that they're flying slow, which saves fuel but at the cost, your cost, of an extra hour of flight time.

Divide the distance by the flight time and see how close it is to 550 mph. Probably not very close.

That was back before security lines, so maybe you noticed the extra time more.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

...helping people understand the airlines schemes so they can take best advantage of them.

Based on your opinion of air travel, can I assume that the ambiguity of pronouns is intentional?

Wilbur said...

When the airlines reduced their legroom to a point that I can no longer fit into a seat without cramping, they lost me as a customer. If I must fly I go to whatever lengths necessary to secure an exit row or a more expensive, roomier row, If I can't get that, I can't fly. I can't shrink the length of my legs.

The airlines don't care; their planes are stuffed anyway.

Humperdink said...

Love the headline. When I was in training as a pilot, my instructor laughingly used to say: "any landing you can walk away from, is a good landing".

Ann Althouse said...

"Based on your opinion of air travel, can I assume that the ambiguity of pronouns is intentional?"

I don't like the ambiguity. Thanks for pointing it out. I'll change it to "we."

Paul Snively said...

Does the author feel the same about driving? After all, you're more likely to die in a car accident than a flying accident, so every time you don't is more special than the times you do, amirite?

Or can we just say "not killing us" is kind of a, I don't know, minimum requirement for an industry involving other human beings?

God save us from this kind of intellectually lazy writing. Or, to quote Brother William of Baskerville from "The Name of the Rose:" "May the Holy Spirit sharpen your mind, son!"

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I liked the ambiguity.

David Begley said...

He's just pushing leisure travel in the industry he covers. Doctors in America save lives every day. That's the real miracle. No miracle with safe flights.

rhhardin said...

My flight instructor, when a student began soloing, said "Don't bend the airplane" to those going out the door.

Oso Negro said...

Some of us, lacking cushy sinecures at public institutions, must wrest a living from the world. That is why I travel. Millions of miles later, I would never do it for fun. I note in passing that the act of Congress the article noted about seating families together will make life worse for the rest of us. I cannot imagine how many times, someone pops up before take-off trying to wheedle me out of my chosen seat. Government meddling can only make it worse.

tim in vermont said...

http://aviation.globalincidentmap.com

furious_a said...

We're reducing our carbon footprint.

Not really, unless you've opted not to fly in your Learjet -- commercial planes are going to keep their own schedules where you board or not.

tim in vermont said...

Fewer people who fly, fewer planes in the air.

Sebastian said...

@furious: "We're reducing our carbon footprint. -- Not really, unless you've opted not to fly in your Learjet -- commercial planes are going to keep their own schedules where you board or not." Right. Compare the marginal carbon footprint of two extra passengers on a flight between Madison/Chicago and Boulder vs. 2 people driving.

rhhardin said...

I was one of two passengers on an Eastern Airlines L-1011, a jumbo jet, from Newark to Miami in the 70s.

Very roomy.

Everybody got a window seat.

Ann Althouse said...

"I liked the ambiguity"

You had your fun.

Ann Althouse said...

"Some of us, lacking cushy sinecures at public institutions, must wrest a living from the world. That is why I travel. Millions of miles later, I would never do it for fun."

I think business travel could be reduced too. But that should be why most people are on planes. They are on business. Your pay should cover the trouble your job puts you through. Do you have a bad job or a good job? You're saying you "wrest a living from the world," but I don't think you are a miner or a farmer or a fisherman. Those people who really wrest a living tend to stay in place. Presumably, you took account of all the factors when you took your job. Anyway, I understand how having to travel for business would undercut the pleasure of traveling for fun and relaxation. (Did you know that surveys on why people travel for vacation ALWAYS end up with "relaxation" as the main reason?)

Ann Althouse said...

"I note in passing that the act of Congress the article noted about seating families together will make life worse for the rest of us. I cannot imagine how many times, someone pops up before take-off trying to wheedle me out of my chosen seat. Government meddling can only make it worse."

Didn't it just say the airline can't charge them extra for assistance getting seated together?

But why should first-come-first-served be the highest principle of airline seating? You're flying coach, so you're a plebeian. Pay for better treatment or go where you are told.

donald said...

Why should that be the ma N reason? I like going to all kinds of different places. It is now absurdly cheap to do it. It's awesome.

donald said...

Main reason.

coupe said...

The problem with riding an airplane, is you have to go to an airport.

It's not the airplane travel that makes it a "terrible trip" it's the sheer idiocy of the design of the loading and unloading platform.

The design is taken right out of the Soviet Gulag concrete and human pain design manuals.

Then too, why would anyone with half a brain leave their car in an airport parking lot? So you see these airports with acres and acres of parking lots. Hello? Get a fucking cab shit head. Have someone fucking drop you off.

Add to that, the secret police roving through the crowds and putting their fingers up peoples ass in side rooms.

A story last week says the secret police have snitches in reservations where they broadcast passengers who pay with cash and are going one-way. Turns out these people often have more cash on them, so they can confiscate it. None are ever charged with a crime, but a lawyer would cost more than the money lost.

If you vote for me for President, I will dismantle aviation as we know it. Poof! These fucking places will be demolished, and the secret police redirected.

Oso Negro said...

Do you have a bad job or a good job? You're saying you "wrest a living from the world," but I don't think you are a miner or a farmer or a fisherman. Those people who really wrest a living tend to stay in place. Presumably, you took account of all the factors when you took your job.

I have a great job. I am the proprietor of a small international consulting business for refining, petrochemicals, and pharmaceutical operations. The best part of my work is that when I get on that plane (the worst part of my work), I know that the people I meet at the other end will be great. Refining and chemical manufacturing are reality-based enterprises. The people who work in them tend to be reliable and responsible, no matter where on earth I go, which is damn near everywhere that is legal for me (no Iran) and where people will pay the bills (no Venezuela). As a small businessman, I do feel that I am "wresting" my living from the world - certainly the U.S. government isn't doing anything to help me - but I am essentially unmanageable, so it is a good way for me to earn a living with what I know. You should make no presumptions about the amount of thought I put into selecting my career. I already had an English degree from the University of Texas and was working as a musician and carpenter in Austin, when I met my ex-wife. I thought if I was going to be married, I should have a better job. I went to the university placement office and asked what made the most money. It was Chemical Engineering. I signed up. I spent 20 years inside the fence, and have spent the last decade or so as a freebooter. Life is good

Oso Negro said...


But why should first-come-first-served be the highest principle of airline seating? You're flying coach, so you're a plebeian. Pay for better treatment or go where you are told.

I am a preferred customer with some airlines based on the volume of my business. So to some degree, I am indeed paying for better treatment with my loyalty. Sometimes I am put in business class for a treat, and occasionally customers pay for it. But if you look at the cost of flying from Houston to, say, Abu Dhabi, you will find few small businessmen flying business class on their own dime. To avoid thousands of incremental dollars in expense, I am willing to endure incremental suffering for a few hours. Please understand that I am not pretending to any sophistication in air travel, but I do know the rules and my usual carrier cannot force me to take a different seat for the convenience of another traveler, so no, I do not have to go where I am told. As the son of a college professor, I would say it is analogous to how faculty feels about office assignment. How would you feel about having to bid for your office location on an out of pocket basis if you didn't have to? Would you "go where you are told"? I would think less of you if you did.

Johnathan Birks said...

I doubt either Trump nor Clinton could talk about their carbon footprints with a straight face. Nor could the reporters who follow them around. It's a dead issue because only elites seem to have cared about it in the first place, and they're the greatest culprits.

Virgil Hilts said...

Flying is one of those things where I do not see any progress from 25 year ago. Back then, you could be sitting at your desk in Phoenix at 10am, decide there was really nothing important going on, catch a 10 minute ride to the airport, pay southwest $40 for a one-way ticket to L.A. or Vegas, jump on the next flight (left every 30 minutes and almost never full) and by 12:30/1pm you could be on the beach or in a casino. Today, unless its a business trip, people will typically drive from Phoenix to L.A. (6 hour drive) rather than fly.

surfed said...

I LOVE flying. Particularly in gliders. The silence of the solitude, the wind rushing over the flexing wings and the thermal drafts spiralling up thousands of feet. The softness of landing on a grass field. What I hate is flying on fucking airliners and all the attentant travails - from the moment you purchase tickets to the act of looking for your luggage. I wish nothing but a drippy pox upon the bastards of the whole scheming mess.

Virgil Hilts said...

Also, at the same time that airline travel was convenient, the old max. interstate speed limits were in effect. They were not fully phased out until 1995. In the west being able to drive 75 MPH (which is really 80) changes the time calculus for driving versus flying.

320Busdriver said...

Most of the cranky fliers I fly lately are more apt to complain when their inflight wifi either does not work or is too slow. Gasp. Or if the live satellite TV happens to stop working. Or maybe one of the movies they're watching freezes. Or we ran out of meal/snack choices.
Maybe it's because we are primarily transporting left or right coasters to the opposite coast. Not to generalize, but many of them are marching to the beat of a different drum. Their own. Very unlike the mostly pleasant folks I refer to as neighbors in flyover country.
I think we've created a monster(s).

As Louis CK says "Hey, you're sitting in a chair, IN THE SKY!"

320Busdriver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
320Busdriver said...

Virgil said
Today, unless its a business trip, people will typically drive from Phoenix to L.A. (6 hour drive) rather than fly.

For fun I checked and there are no fewer than 35 nonstops today from LAX to Vegas. A 45 minute flight. Now, being its Sunday, you're much more apt to find an open seat going that direction. If you want to leave Vegas today, well, every flight will be full, or very nearly so. The crowds I see on the LAX or SFO to Vegas flights run the gamut, but include a lot of millenials who seem to have no problem affording fares and all the other costs of a fun weekend in 108 degree temperatures.

Lucien said...

Planes fly because of simple physics. That's also the reason your car doesn't go skidding off the road hen the road curves, even though it is only riding on four thin pieces of rubber, yet weighs thousands of pounds. Pretending that Bernoulli's principle is somehow miraculous is a nod to anti-intellectualism.

Commercial aircraft are operated by trained professionals who are not tired, and travel in places where the only other vehicles around are also operated by professionals.

When you drive you are surrounded by drunk, exhausted and distracted amateurs, and you may not be so hot yourself. That's one reason why driving is so much more dangerous than flying.

And no one comes around to offer you peanuts or drinks while you are driving, either. That said, nobody cries when airlines go bankrupt.

Expat(ish) said...

@Lucien - what you said!

-XC

Mountain Maven said...

Funny, you're the only lib who acknowledges that air travel violates the religious doctrine of global warming.

lgv said...

So what if a lot of people, like me, say no to flying whenever we can? That's a good thing, right?

No. if everyone drove rather than flew. The carbon footprints would be bigger in aggregate. That's the fallacy of this carbon footprint crap. Our local train system saves our planet, right? Not when only 12 subsidized customers hop on take a ride.

A fully packed plane or bus or train has a smaller carbon footprint. A private plane with one passenger has the greatest.

mockturtle said...

When I want to get from point A to point B in a hurry, it's for a reason and there's no better way than on a jet. Yes, I would prefer to ride in a private Learjet 70, but in lieu of that, commercial airliners suffice. Overseas flights are 10-12 hours of misery but they beat spending days or weeks on the ocean with thousands of people on a cruise ship.

coupe said...

When our motto was home of the brave, land of the free, we understood that we would suffer a body count.

Now we demand zero body count and gave up bravery and freedom.

Then a woman named Clinton, even though she has Parkinson's disease, is ready to rule our candy asses.

John said...

Oso, sounds like you and me have somewhat in common. I too have a great job traveling around consulting to pharma, chemical and other companies. No refineries, yet. Contact me through Changeover(dot)com if you want to trade stories.

I don't care that much for the airports and the planes but they are a small price to pay for getting to do what I do with the people, plants and technology I do it with. I cannot imagine anything more fun than doing what I do and will keep going until I die or become too physically infirm. I figure I can go to 85 or 90.

I also like the travel. I usually tack an extra day or two on a trip if I am going somewhere interesting. I've been to a number of national parks and other scenic sights on trips. Sometimes I take my wife along if she can get away. I was in Milan and Turin last year and got to do some sightseeing, including a tour of the Maserati plant floor. I had a weekend in Frankfurt. Been to Ecuador, Mexico a number of times and many other interesting places.

I still find it hard to believe that people pay me for what I do. If they didn't, and I had the money, I'd pay them to let me.

I know what you are saying about "wresting" a living and do not disagree in your case or mine. I do have a hard time thinking of it this way, though.

John Henry

John said...

I also like driving. My wife and I spent 12 days in June driving Chicago to Yellowstone and back and it was a great vacation!

My rule of thumb is that if I can get within 4-6 hours of my final destination via direct flight from San Juan, I am happy to drive the rest of the way.

John Henry

tim in vermont said...

You guys are all free to fly wherever you like as often as you like. It's fine, really. This whole "carbon footprint is largely BS. Newton proved that airplanes can't fly with his law of gravity, refined by Einstein! Hey, it makes as much sense as the argument that CO2 absorbs certain specra of infraread = catastrophic global warming.

rhhardin said...

A private plane with one passenger has the greatest.

Depends on the plane. My first one got 20 miles to the gallon, same as driving.

jaydub said...

Those who expect flying to be a pleasant experience are as delusional as those who expect listening to a bloviating law professor to be pleasant. Both are for getting from one place to the next (the airplane ride to another geographic location, the classroom ride to a law degree) where the fun starts. I've flown and lived all over the world - 50 something countries - and I've enjoyed my experiences and the friendships I've made in each and every one, which also made the inconvience of the getting there a very minor irritation. Amazing that educated people need to have that explained to them.

tim in vermont said...

However, I would rather drive to Ottawa or Quebec City than fly to Monaco or Tuscany. I plan on not being drunk when I drive there, nor to let anybody else who is drunk drive, when sleepy, I pull over or change drivers, I drive a very safe car that is well maintained. So when you show me the statistics that prove that per mile flying is so much safer than driving, be sure to include that in your calculations.

Flying is a necessary evil at times. I have flown a lot. I even flew from 17 hours from LA to Sydney in the seat that didn't recline because it was in front of the exit row but where the seat in front of me DID recline. Don't have to anymore so I won't.

RichardJohnson said...

The only times I have found air travel entertaining is when on short hops the plane travels close to the ground so you can see what is below. I do not like the noise and vibrations that come with air travel.

I once had a job where I flew to and from Latin America. Whatever discomfort I had in traveling was ameliorated by conversation and the realization that the alternative would have entailed days- weeks even- instead of hours. Back then, seating was less crowded.

I recently took a flight for the first time in 6 years. Door to door in 9-11 hours was preferable to driving 2000 miles. The best thing about the flight was its finish. The airline personnel were cheerful and professional. While I don't like flying, flying beats the alternative.

mockturtle said...

Ideally, passengers would be anesthetized for the flight.

Big Mike said...

Most of my travel was for business. Back in the early 1990's we tried running a project with critical subcontractors in California and the rest of us in the Washington area using tele-conferencing. Didn't work as advertised so way more travel than I expected. These days Skype would make it trivial. But frequent flier miles are mostly "use or lose" so I was able to take the whole family to exotic places for free.

At my age I'm willing to travel 10 or so hours by car but above that my preference is to fly.

Humperdink said...

Back in 1990 on my honeymoon on Hilton Head Island, I went to the airport to observe incoming planes. I was an airport rat back then. On final approach, I watched a single engine airplane "forget" to put down his landing gear. You cannot believe how quick a plane comes to a (screeching) halt with no landing gear. Especially on asphalt. The first thing that hits the runway are the prop blades (as opposed to the wheels). That's when you find out you made a slight error.

Fortunately no injuries, but tied up the runway for hours. Call the crane!

Freeman Hunt said...

I hate flying unless it's on one of those oneworld planes. Those are great. I have no idea what determines which routes they're on. The rest of the medium size planes are terrible.

Freeman Hunt said...

The last small commuter jet I was on had an air conditioner that wouldn't work while the plane was on the ground. We boarded and sat delayed for nearly an hour. In Dallas. In summer.

Rusty said...

Just admit, Althouse you're afraid to fly.

Will Cate said...

I vastly prefer driving. Certainly if it can driven in a day, even a very long day, I'd rather drive.

Ann Althouse said...

"You should make no presumptions about the amount of thought I put into selecting my career. I already had an English degree from the University of Texas and was working as a musician and carpenter in Austin, when I met my ex-wife. I thought if I was going to be married, I should have a better job. I went to the university placement office and asked what made the most money. It was Chemical Engineering. I signed up. I spent 20 years inside the fence, and have spent the last decade or so as a freebooter. Life is good."

My father was a chemical engineer in petrochemicals.

Ann Althouse said...

"Just admit, Althouse you're afraid to fly."

No. What I hate is the confinement, regimentation, and less of control.

I'm a freedom fan. I don't like being told what to do. I don't like putting my time and my physical being into the hands of someone else.

The the plane won't crash is a safe assumption. That you will submit to control and indignity is also virtually assured. It's not fear. It's rejection of hated conditions.

Ann Althouse said...

"Just admit, Althouse you're afraid to fly."

No. What I hate is the confinement, regimentation, and less of control.

I'm a freedom fan. I don't like being told what to do. I don't like putting my time and my physical being into the hands of someone else.

That the plane won't crash is a safe assumption. That you will submit to control and indignity is also virtually assured. It's not fear. It's rejection of hated conditions.