Sunday, August 17, 2008

big ol' jet airliner

This piece in the New Republic (which I saw via TPM) dicusses how much longer it will be before airline travel becomes too pricey for most of us. The main problem of course is the cost of oil. In fact, the article contains this startling nugget:
Despite recent fluctuations, a growing number of economists are bracing for oil to hit or surpass $200 per barrel in a few years, and most industry analysts agree with Douglas Runte, of RBS Greenwich Capital, who told The Wall Street Journal in June, "Many airline business models cease to work at $135-a-barrel oil prices."
So what happens then? Does the joke commercial from a year or so back, where we have to pay for overhead storage and the bathroom, come true? We already have to pay to check bags on most airlines. The airlines even charge more for exit row seating now. So what's next?

Beyond the prices it's also the experience that has become dismal. Fewer flights means almost all of them are packed, even the red eyes. Packed flights are also more likely to create tense passengers. And going through secrurity becomes more annoying and demoralizing year after year. Shoes off, no liquids in > 3oz containers. This despite any solid evidence that anyone can bring down a plane with a shoe-bomb or a regular sized container of shampoo.

Now there's word that TSA can seize laptops and other data devices *without probable cause*, download the data and can take their sweet time getting the evice back to the owner. And the standards seem to differ at every ariport. At Lihue Airport in Kauai recently, I was asked to remove my digital camera because it looked too much like a video camera (I'll add that the TSA crew there were totally pleasant about it, so no disrespect to them). This was a surprise because I didn't realize video cameras were a problem in and of themselves. It's not that I don't appreciate security measures - I certainly don't want to be blown up mid-air. But please, can we get some sanity back into the process?

Between high prices, deterioriating services and annoying and just plain incomprehensible (and possibly unconstitutional) security processes, it's like the airlines and the government would rather we don't fly at all.

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