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One Last Journalist’s Lament about the State of Flying in 2010

I have written several times recently about journalists suggesting that air travel is a miserable chore when, in fact, in many (many) ways it’s as good as it’s ever been.  To cap off 2010, I’d like to thank Scott McCartney, who absolutely knows better, for flinging this column of nonsense at us.  Airplanes are so crowded, he says, that some frequent flyers are now choosing to fly (which is like Yogi Berra’s line about how a restaurant is so popular that nobody goes there anymore).  In short:

– He quotes some guy who says he as canceled all of his flights and has been driving from Atlanta to places as far flung as Reno because he wanted to avoid “a strip search and groping” at the airport.  That is beyond stupid for so many reasons.

– He notes the disruptions caused by the volcano and the blizzard, which pained passengers and airlines even though “The year 2010 was supposed to be a time of recovery for airlines and their passengers.”  It WAS a recovery year for the airlines, with the companies posting profits in ways we haven’t seen in years.  Sure, there were weather-related disruptions, but that didn’t mean airlines didn’t recover.  They most certainly did – as the article notes airlines earned more than $6 billion in the first 9 months of the year.

– “Planes have been running fuller, making travelers feel even more crowded inside airplanes.”  Is there another mode of transportation where we expect seats to be empty?  Why has this shocked people that more people are suddenly on planes?  And why did travelers think it was their right to have empty seats?

– Then comes the complaint about how fares were up 10% in 2010 over the previous year, when fares were approaching record lows.  Fares are still mind-blowingly cheap.  Want a one-way flight to Pittsburgh from New York next week?  $70.  Or you can take the bus for $37 and 9 hours.  Your choice.

– The article mentions that 2010 was a “deadlier year” with more accidents than in the past, suggesting that flying was in any way not safe.  Please.

– “Ongoing disputes between airlines and online travel agencies—an effort to cut out the middleman—could make buying tickets more complicated.”  More complicated than what?  Going to AA.com to buy a ticket, which takes all of 90 seconds?

All isn’t perfect with the airline world, but to look back at the year and suggest anything other than we’re in a golden age of flying is nonsense.

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