Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Greed flies high at airlines

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By Ray Hanania

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I happened to be flipping through TV stations when I caught the hosts on ABC’s Good Morning America talking about two people who got into a fight on an airplane.

There have actually been a lot of stories about passengers quarreling and fighting for a lot of reasons, but one of the most frequent involves the adjustment of seats in the economy section.

Normally, I avoid watching Good Morning America because the hosts have been so biased on racial issues, including their defense and support of Jussie Smollett, who orchestrated a hoax in which he falsely claimed he was attacked for being black — by two black men.

The TV hosts were among people who, taking a lead from former First Lady Michelle Obama, tried to defend Smollett against police evidence–which proved it was all an orchestrated hoax to get attention.

But I digress, proudly in this case.

The Good Morning America hosts made the recent airline passenger conflict involving a passenger who reclined his reclining seat during a flight causing the person behind him to become angry and confrontational sound like a joke.

It’s not a joke. It’s part of a bigger problem that continues to worsen and is not being addressed.

You can blame the people who got into the fight for losing their self-control to their tempers. Flying these days is not easy. It’s stressful for everyone. Long and inefficient lines at airports, insensitive airport security personnel who are stressed themselves dealing with thousands of passengers every day, and enormous price hikes have ruined what used to be a great experience, when I was growing up anyway.

RayHanania

Ray Hanania

The blame for the fighting falls on the shoulders of the airline companies who have severely driven up costs while significantly decreasing services — all at that the expense of passengers.

I remember flying Pan Am when I was young, with my parents. It was casual, fun and everyone was treated equally. Yes, it cost money to fly, but we received gourmet meals, genuine smiles and personal service — not bullying and warnings from staff. Traveling was less complicated.

Certainly, heightened concerns about terrorism and violence have imposed tougher restrictions on travelers, requiring detailed security checks. As an Arab American, I used to get pulled over all the time when traveling and given an exhaustive “security check.”

The security, however, I can handle. It’s warranted. But tell me they can’t invest in more screening machines and personnel at airports to avoid lines that have a thousand people shuffling through a hellish maze.

Even the expedited security check categories — TSA PreCheck and CLEAR, which you pay money for to be pre-screened — has made it a little easier. But not that much. The lines are still long and the costs for each are excessive.

TSA PreCheck and CLEAR are expensive for many families who have been skimping and saving the whole year just to go on a vacation or to visit relatives.

Airlines have reduced services, like I said, and increased costs.

They restrict food service, allegedly to provide low-cost ticketing. That’s BS. They eliminated food services to make more money. The price of airline tickets has skyrocketed through the bulkhead.

Now, they hand out tiny bags of graham crackers, or peanuts, and give you a plastic cup of ice with pop and a few other drinks.

While prices have risen faster than it takes to go through airport security, the only people who are not affected by the changes are the wealthy, who continue to enjoy luxuries and great food menus at outrageously high prices in first class.

The worst treatment has been with those who can’t keep up with airline greed.

While first class seating is comfortable and spacious, seating in economy class is outrageous and driven purely by greed, to squeeze more people on a plane.

The seats are narrower. The space between seats is shorter. A 28-inch span between you and the seat in front of you is not enough for the average American who is overweight and have their knees pressed into the chair in front of them. Growing waistlines are tightening the squeeze armrest to armrest.

You pay more for everything. To be among the first on a plane. To get a few inches more between seating. To get WiFi to watch old movies on your cellphone or iPad.

There are a lot of good people working for the airlines or security. But there are far more who are stressed. Their aggravation makes your aggravation worse.

The airline industry needs to change. Just look at the profits. It’s much like the huge profits in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.

It’s all about greed.

Ray Hanania is a former Chicago City Hall reporter and award-winning columnist. Visit hanania.com for more opinion.

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