Northwest Airlines Wants You Dead

I've been in Japan for the last two weeks, to attend to some family business, and after making my ninth trip from Toronto to Nagoya, plus other smaller flights, I've come to this conclusion about airline service: airlines want to kill their customers.

I don't mean in the figurative sense, I mean that airlines actually want you to die. It's a conspiracy between airport authorities, airline employees and immigration officials. If you start to think of the flight experience in that terms, it all starts to make sense. They even take away any weapons (such as eye drops or hair gel) that you could use to defend yourself.

My second theory concerns service. I missed the Golden Age of airline travel (and the Silver, Bronze and Aluminum) and dimly remember when airlines served food, free of charge. I do remember airline food jokes from the '80's which must have passed out the public consciousness by now and fallen in the same greasy barrel as jokes about hippies and not being able to find the remote control for the TV. Nowadays you're lucky if you get a cup of lukewarm water from an airline for free, but they would be happy to sell you some food for a small charge. ($5 for a warmed over turkey sandwich that you used to give away for free. That seems reasonable). My other theory about airline travel is that the airlines are going to purposely degrade it to the point where it's going to be like taking the bus, complete with standing room 'seats' and hand loops hanging from the ceiling, and the offer us the services we used to take for granted for a small charge. (You would like a set of headphones? $5 please. Watch a movie that's been out on DVD for the last six months? $5. A pillow? We have a special today - a blanket and a pillow for $8. A seat belt? An oxygen mask? See our price list. Financing available.)

It's not entirely the airline industry's fault. Unlike other modes of transportation, the price discrepancy in the price of airline seats is baffling. You could have paid say$245 for your ticket but the mouth-breather next to you who has claimed both armrests and taken up all the carry-on space with his packed collection of still in the package My Little Ponies could have booked at the last minute through cheapflights.com and paid $50 for the exact same flight. And yet the airlines are forced to treat every customer (in coach at least) the same, which is with barely veiled murderous contempt.

This pricing model could be used to increase the use of public transportation. Instead of taking your car one morning, run out the bus stop at the last minute and demand to purchase the ticket half-off. Last minute subway specials. Frequent rider discounts.

You scoff, but trust me, we'll see it one day.

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