The Eastern Shuttle

Earlier this week the Washington Post printed an article about unrealistic expectations by airline travelers.

It starts off with a quote by a veteran flight attendant:

I’m weary of those entitled passengers who are continuously whining and complaining. . . I feel like telling them, “Take some responsibility for your choices.”

The columnist Christopher Elliott then goes on to discuss the airlines’ point of view, which in a nutshell is that you get what you pay for, and if you pick the lowest price, then expect very little in comfort and service, and the cost conscious travelers’ point of view, which is that fees are out of control.

The article continues:

“. . a retired civilian Army employee who lives in Troy, Mich., took his first commercial flight in the early 1950s, and recalls paying just $72 to fly from Washington to San Francisco in 1967. He still has the ticket. In economy class, the flight attendants served passengers steak on real plates, he says.

An  eight dollar plus change, one-way student Eastern Newark to Boston Shuttle ticket from 1967 may be in a box of my lifetime treasures stored under a bed in my house, but it is doubtful. Whenever possible I was on a flight to visit my college beau. Tickets could be purchased ahead of time or at the gate. One just had to show a student card. Simple. There was always a seat.

Checking on line to see what Eastern was now charging for a flight from Newark to Boston, I was surprised to read that Eastern no longer exists. Imagine my delight discovering that Trump actually bought the Eastern shuttle in 1988, that he installed marble-finish lavatory fixtures in them, and that On September 20, 1990, he missed a $1.1 million interest payment for the Shuttle operation.

Back in my 20s and 30s I traveled here and there and a telephone call to any airline would give me all the information needed: what flights were available, the price of a ticket, and the representative would book my reservation on any carrier.

Then for a while I didn’t travel much.  In the meantime, the world got internet, gas went up from 50 cents a gallon (I too do remember when it was twenty something cents), obscenely wealthy people, many of whom seem to be the only people who can get away with arrogant strutting displays of “entitlement” became the airlines preferred passengers, and the number of variables involved in making a reservation exploded.

I don’t feel entitled, but I am going to whine and complain. My complaint is that sorting through the many options when buying a plane ticket takes me hours and gives me angst. I don’t necessarily want to buy the cheapest seat available but I want to understand what I am paying for.

Back when life was simple I didn’t have to think about buying direct or through one of multiple third party sites. I didn’t need to study the nuances of budget, basic economy, economy, flexible economy, business class, first class, privileged class tickets on three or four different airlines. I wasn’t constrained by loyalty clubs.  I didn’t have to worry if my luggage would be accepted or not or where it would be stored and what I could put in the bags that would go in the cabin or in the baggage compartment and what would be confiscated and never returned. I knew that drinks and food would be served.   I could cancel or reschedule my flight without a hassle or a fee.

Not now. Now a ticket on United from Newark to Boston and return on the weekend of December eighth as listed on United’s website could cost me anywhere from $150 to $640. That includes taxes and fees but additional baggage charges could apply. That was yesterday’s price. Tomorrow’s most likely will be different. Do I dare check Delta? or American?

For a while my son who used to book travel for his boss would help me with my flight arrangements, but at this point in my life I have other things to pester him with. Now I go by train or drive, or tag along with friends who book my seats along with theirs, or if left to my own resources, become obsessed with the task — for weeks if time allows.  Perhaps if the airline industry acknowledged its “responsibility” to standardize terminology, to eliminate add-ons,  and to guarantee all of its customers a comfortable flight experience, flight attendants would not have so many complaints about “entitled” passengers, and perhaps I would travel more.

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