When I told people last month that my sister and I were flying to Texas for a vacation with our brother, the response was swift and predictable: Sure hope you're not flying United, har-har. The airline's public relations nightmare over having a passenger dragged off for not giving up his seat was the kind of thing a lot of people find great humor in. "A lot of people" meaning any who have never flown. The reaction of those of us who have was more along the lines of, "Thank God it wasn't me." Because if anything bad can happen to you, it will most likely happen on or around an airplane trip.
No, I was able to tell people. We're flying Delta, an airline with a good reputation and no recent bad behavior on its record.
And our flights too and from Texas were fine. The crew was pleasant and helpful without exception. Our luggage wet where it was supposed to. There were no delays or bad-weather bumps.
Except for that one thing. We were jammed in so tight in our seats in coach that we had to sit almost still, cramped and uncomfortable, and for two hours on the longest leg of our flight. I hate to fall back on a cliche like "packed in like sardines," but nothing else seems adequate to describe the situation. It was worse for me than my sister. She at least had a window seat. I was stuck in the middle of three seats, a body squeezing in on me from both sides. And there was so little leg room that I was forced to spend the trip with my knees practically in my chest. I had to wobble around like an old man for half an hour before I got the feeling back in my legs. Oh, wait, I forgot. I am an old man. Never mind.
My siblings and I spent some time on vacation speculating on which airline we should choose for our next trip. Surely not United. And certainly we could do better than Delta. Maybe we should try American, my sister said. I have good memories of them. But, I asked, how do we know their seating is any better than Delta's? Well, it certainly couldn't be any worse, she said.
Well, now, about that.
"American Airlines," the headline reads, "will shrink legroom in coach — again."
United States airline passengers have had a lot to complain about in the past three weeks, but they can soon add one more thing to the list: Later this year, American Airlines will give some passengers nearly as little legroom as some of the most aggressive discount airlines.
An American spokesman said Tuesday that the carrier's Boeing 737 Max jets, the first of which should arrive later this year, will have only 30 inches of seat pitch in most coach seats, giving passengers an inch less space than in the airline's older model 737s.
Worse, “up to three rows” will have 29-inch pitch, roughly equivalent to what ultra-low-cost carriers, including Frontier Airlines, give passengers. Except for the discounters — they generally have 28 or 29 inches of pitch — U.S. airlines have been reluctant to shrink standard pitch below 30 inches. (Pitch is the distance from any spot on a seat to the same place on the seat in front of it.)
An airline spokesman said passengers "will hardly notice" having less room. Uh-huh.
Oh, and then,while we were still in Texas waiting to come back to Indiana on our Delta flight, I saw this: Delta says pilot who struck a passenger was trying to break up a fight:
The Delta video, apparently taken using a cellphone, shows three people cursing at each other, then fighting on the Jetway as shocked passengers watch or scramble to get out of the way.
At one point, one of the fighters takes the other woman to the ground, then wraps her legs around her neck and head in an apparently choke hold. That is when the pilot, clad in his white shirt and pilot's cap, walks over and tries to intervene. He grabs the woman's wrist and strikes her, although it's unclear whether he does it with an open or closed fist.
Jeez. I'm old enough to remember when flying was a grand adventure and hanging around the airport a fun way to spend a couple of hours. Now anything associated with either airports or air travel is enough to make going to the dentist seem like an enjoyable afternoon.
It occurs to me that the next time I fly, especially in the short run, I should fly United. They've gotten so much bad publicity that they dare not offer anything but the best customer service on the planet.
Actually, that would be my second-most-preferred way of getting somewhere, right behind crawling across ground glass on my hands and knees.
ELSEWHERE IN THE NEWS
Many on the right are being hyper critical of progressives for equating the dystopian near-future in "The Handmaid's Tale" — freedom of conscience dead, women forced into a life of sex-slavery and forbidden from reading or holding jobs, children married off at age 13, gay men facing public execution, suspect citizens hung in the town square — with current events of the modern era. Actually, I find it encouraging that the left is finally coming to terms with the dangers of radical Islam.
Suppose he wants his own bathroom: I consider myself trans-species, says a fantasy fan who has transformed himself into an ELF with £25,000 of plastic surgery, including full body hair removal, skin bleaching and eye coloring. Actually, he probably wants to use our bathrooms.
This seems like a really risky proposition to me: There are times, says Secretary of State Tillerson, when the U.S. must separate its values from its foreign policies. If you start thinking like that, how do you know where and when to draw the line and when we're in danger of becoming what we fight against?
Smarter than the coastal elites: Voters in Santa Fe reject a tax on sugary drinks. The best part is that Michael Bloomberg spent more than $1 million promoting the tax.
OK, so Barack Obama in his youth had sex and did drugs and was generally vain, ambitious and pretty shallow. A lot of us have been there, done that. This seems like the most damning thing to me:
Now 53, the associate professor and director of the East Asian program at Oberlin College in Ohio, told Garrow that Obama became 'so very ambitious very suddenly.'
'I remember very clearly when this transformation happened, and I remember very specifically that by 1987, about a year into our relationship, he already had his sights on becoming president.'
But Obama believed he needed to 'fully identify as African American' to fulfill his political ambitions - and believed that having a non-black spouse could damage his prospects, according to the book.
It's always seemed silly to me to read that this or that president was completely narcissistic. That comes with the territory — it might as well be part of the job description. You cannot shoot that high without thinking that the world revolves around you, or at least should.
Huma Abedin sent classified emails to the laptop of husband Anthony Weiner, one of the most blackmailable politicians of the modern era. Can someone explain to be why it was decided she shouldn't face criminal charges?
Tell me something I didn't know: We lack the political will to govern, Republicans say. "But veteran House Republicans said in interviews Tuesday that their problems run deeper. They lack the unity, mindset and political will to make the hard choices required to govern. The healthcare breakdown is just another symptom of this broader political virus that seems immune to all antibodies, including President Trump, the Republican who took up residence in the White House in January."
Tell me something I didn't know, Part 2: Iran using US cash to fund unprecedented, massive military buildup. And this, alas: "Leading members of Congress and U.S. officials working on the Iran portfolio suspect that at least a portion of the Obama administration's $1.7 billion cash payment to Iran has been used to fund and support terrorists in the Middle East."