Some years back, the airline industry came to a startling conclusion: They held the traveling public hostage. The service they provided offered the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B and there was no one in second place.
So to improve their economic bottom line, they began to systematically dump basic amenities along with courtesy and comfort. So what if people complained? Are they going to drive from Los Angeles to New York in five hours?
Thus, air travel became the cattle drive that we loathe today.
It’s hard to imagine it could get worse. Then, these developments last week.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days at the airport. On average, airlines across the country see a passenger increase that day of up to 259 percent, according to a new study conducted by the U.S. Travel Association.
But soon, the increased volume of travelers seen around the holidays could become more of an everyday occurrence, the study found. To be exact, within a mere five years, 24 of the top 30 U.S. airports will experience passenger levels that they usually only see on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
“Every projection holds that the demand for travel will continue to dramatically rise,” U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow said in a news release. “But that rising demand will be stifled without a significant effort to modernize infrastructure.”
If that is true, get ready to arrive at the airport five hours before takeoff to avoid nightmarish traffic jams. Be prepared for security lines that make today’s TSA checkpoints look like a supermarket express lane. Overbooked flights will be commonplace. So will lost luggage. And the relative mental health of your fellow travelers will be dark if not downright hostile.
Surely, this is as bad as it gets. But no. Now, the nation’s top telecom regulator will propose allowing passengers to make cell phone calls and use their data plans while on an airplane.
The proposed rule change by the Federal Communications Commission would allow phone use once a plane reaches 10,000 feet, according to a story in the Washington Post. Restrictions would still be in place during takeoffs and landings.
The agency’s commission is set to discuss the proposal in their upcoming December meeting. According to the Post story, the new rule has the backing of Tom Wheeler, the FCC’s new chairman, who was sworn in just weeks ago.
So let me understand this: After clawing your way onto the airplane and getting stuffed into sardine class, you face the daunting prospect of facing hours being bombarded with cell phone conversations bouncing around the cabin like so many ping pong balls. If you’re stuck in a middle seat, you could be listening to a guy arguing with his wife on one side while the passenger on your right discusses his roofing business inventory.
Mix in a few cocktails and you have a mixture more volatile than jet fuel.
This is a bad idea on so many levels.
For example, mounting evidence suggests that the habits encouraged by mobile technology — namely, talking in public to someone who is not there — are tailor made for hijacking the cognitive functions of bystanders.
One reason, said Veronica V. Galván, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of San Diego, is the brain’s desire to fill in the blanks.
“If you only hear one person speaking, you’re constantly trying to place that part of the conversation in context,” Dr. Galván said. “That’s naturally going to draw your attention away from whatever else you’re trying to do.”
It is also a control thing, Dr. Galván and her colleagues said. When people are trapped next to a one-sided conversation — known nowadays as a “halfalogue” — their anger rises in the same way it does in other situations where they are not free to leave. Like trapped on an airplane.
Author Dave Barry has an ever better take: A study by researchers at the University of Utah proves what many people have long suspected. Everyone talking on a cell phone, except you, is a moron.
To underscore the problem, we leave you with the following “halfalogue” recently reported on social media. Your job is to imagine what the other half of the conversation was:
“I woke up this morning on the beach, without my pants.”
“I don’t know.”
“Nah, I’m on my way to work now.”
This conversation could soon be coming to a seat near you. Happy landings.