Lousy Views

And another slam on flying, this time from former Queen guitarist Brian May:

“Travelling on planes has for years been something I have had to do, as part of my job,” explains May. “As I fly today with British Airways, I wonder if I am the only person left in the world who likes to relax in a comfortable seat and dreamily turn my head to the window and get lost in the ever-changing wonders of the planet as they drift by? I wonder this because I’m not aware of anyone except me complaining about the new way the seats are configured in BA First Class.”
May wails about the seating changes: “I hate it. It costs an arm and a leg to travel this way and I feel that we no longer get our money’s worth. In the old days you sat right next to the window and the view was wide and spectacular. Now they sit you about three feet from the window and so low down all you can see from your seat is a small patch of sky. It’s boring — frustrating.”

Believe it or not, he has a point. It does cost an arm and a leg to fly First Class (on any airline), and because a First Class ticket is also the most profitable sale an airline can make, it behooves them to look after their best customers — and clearly they aren’t, in this case anyway. And FFS: he’s Brian May of Queen; nobody ever played like he did, nobody ever sounded as good as he does, and nobody ever will unless it’s to copy him. If anyone has earned the right to complain about shitty service, he has.

Let’s not indulge in the Brit Wealth Envy thing and call him a pampered rich pussy, because the plain fact is that May works unbelievably hard. Because he’s one of the most sought-after lead guitarists in rock music, despite his age, recording sessions, concerts  and appearances take place all over the world for him — London one day, New York the next, Melbourne three days later, back to London after that, then on to Tokyo, ad infinitum — which means that he logs well over two hundred thousand miles a year flying from gig to gig. There is no way he could possibly do this in Economy (a.k.a. steerage), and anyone who’s ever flown just a quarter of what he has will not begrudge him his seat in First Class, because without that, and with his sheer volume of work, his job is frankly not doable.

And let’s be honest about this: he’s sixty-nine years old, and 6’2″ tall. He needs a comfortable seat, because after 10,000 miles in the torture device known as an Economy-class seat, he’d have to be carried off the plane straight into a hospital for traction to straighten out his back. Then, after doing his job, he’d have to do Economy all over again two days later? Please.

Of course the DM journalists have a go at him because they’re a bunch of Bolshie peasants whose total experience in commercial flying is Ryanair to Magaluf once a year at a cost of £45 (compared to May’s ticket price of about £15,000).

The hell with them. I’m on May’s side as much for that as for the fact that I bloody hate the airline companies. All of them. Bastards. [10,000-word rant deleted]

Feel free to add your own airline horror stories in Comments.

 

20 comments

  1. Airline story? OK, here goes….

    Back in the late 1980s (hence before TSA was a thing) my ex girlfriend and I went to a wedding in her family, flying from NYC (Newark Airport) to Green Bay, Wisconsin with a connection in Detroit. On the way home we were informed that the plane was delayed, so we’d miss our connecting flight in Detroit, so they were going to fly us from Green Bay to Milwaukee on a little jet, from Milwaukee to Detroit, and get our connecting flight. So we go out on the tarmac to board the plane, I see a cart with our luggage heading back to the terminal. Consternation. Anyway, the plane seats 11 people and we were numbers 12 and 13, so back to the terminal New plan, fly to Chicago, and then home from there. I ask where our luggage is, they say it went on the little plane. I inform them that it hadn’t, because I saw it, so they take me around the back corridors of the airport in search of our bags (imagine them doing that today?). We finally locate our stuff, then we fly a little twin-engine prop plane (I swear it flew low enough I could read license plates on the cars below) to Chicago, then home.

    I hate flying with a passion.

  2. I have to fly. A lot. I spend a lot of time in various states East of the Mississippi River, and I get there by flying. The worst part about flying isn’t the child-sized seats, or the lack of leg room. It’s not being treated like a cow on the way to slaughter, and then realizing that your fellow passengers have all the mentalities of cows being led to slaughter. It’s not waiting in the aisle as some ghetto-trash queen tries to shove a steamer trunk into the overhead compartment while approximately fifty million people are stuck behind her waiting to take their seats. It’s being seated next to some guy from Jersey who outweighs you by at least 100 pounds, but he wedges himself into the seat next to you, promptly overflows into your seat, and leaves you smashed against the wall of the airframe gasping for breath.

    If my trip is under 400 miles, I drive. I might up that to 500 miles, but at that point the back starts to complain even more than it does in an airline seat.

    1. My motto, which I have not fully tested but I state it just to piss people off who work for US airlines:
      If I can’t drive there, and El-Al doesn’t fly there, I ain’t goin’.

  3. When I have to fly, I almost always go BA– true, it’s nothing like it used to be, but they still at least fake giving a crap about their customers better than anyone else in the business.

    Best flight I ever had was the least comfortable– JFK to LHR in a little over three hours. Yes, Concorde. No, I wasn’t paying. Speed makes up for many crimes. So does half a gallon of champagne.

      1. I’d have loved to fly on a BOA VC-10, even as a “strap-hanger”.
        Instead, my “favorite uncle” flew me half way around the world (twice) without a window to look out of, and in a seat facing backwards. The best part: TSA wasn’t even on the horizon yet.

  4. I hate flying commercial. HATE IT! When I was in the Army I never minded flying anywhere in a military aircraft. Sure, they were noisy but at least you usually had room to stretch out (most of the time.) The C-17 was the best. The seats are along the side of the fuselage with your back to the aircraft hull, so leg room is pretty much unlimited (I’m 6’1″ so modern airline seats are torture racks for me.)

    On military cargo planes, once the plane is in the air and they turn off the “seatbelt” sign, you can get up, throw your woobie (poncho liner) on the floor and go to sleep. Or you can walk around – the inside of a C-17 is like a basketball court, bullshit with the crew (even the pilot), find a comfy place on a pallet to read a book, whatever.

    Funny that this topic is coming up now – just last night I was talking to the wife about our trip to San Diego in August. Even though it will require me to take two extra days off work, we’re going go drive from Denver rather than fly. I just hate flying that much. I thought she’d balk at driving (she doesn’t love road trips as much as I do) but I was surprised that she agreed to drive. I was fully prepared to put her on a plane and then drive myself just to avoid the hassle of flying.

    Give me 16 hours driving in MY OWN car the way I like over the 5 – 10 hours it would take to (a) drive to the airport (b) park (c) wait for the shuttle (d) get in the long TSA line (e) wait for hours at the terminal (for a flight that might well be delayed) and then (f) wait again at the baggage claim, rent a car, drive out of the airport, etc etc etc.

  5. Virtually all of my flying is short-haul, so I fly SWA. That means cattle-car class, but I don’t mind, because it is short-haul and I actually get treated like a customer. I always take the window seat, partially to have a wall to lean on to get away from the creachture that comes to inevitably sit beside me, but primarily because I love the view. I never tire of marveling that I’m in an aluminum tube tens of thousands of feet in the air, flying along at speeds unimaginable to our ancestors. It feels like science fiction to me, even in middle age.

    Long haul flights, especially international? At least business, or I’m not going. Keeping someone in those seats (and the other carriers are almost always worse than SWA on seat pitch and width — look it up) for more than four hours should be a crime. If we were to treat baby rapists in our prisons like that, lawsuits would be filed and won to call it inhumane and fundamentally cruel punishment.

  6. Don’t get me started on the airlines. Those SOBs are using Government guns to enforce some VERY abusive policies.

    Not to mention the whole business of stuffing more and more people into the flying sardine can. Over the years, I’ve flown about a half-million miles, most of coast-to-coast on either American or United. And what was bad in the 1990s got worse in the 2000s…and with the most recent changes, is now unbearable. If you shipped a pet in those conditions, you would face animal cruelty charges. I’m not normally an advocate for Government intervention, but in the case of the airlines…it’s time for the FAA to step in and impose Standards of Service. Minimum seat width, seat pitch, and baggage allowance.

  7. Since I’ve acquired my gimp leg, I hate flying commercial even more than before. Luckily, the only flying I have to do is Memphis-> Oakland CA to visit son and family. I’ve weighed the idea of driving myself and seeing the country, but I’d be spending most of my time worrying whether I’d find my house un-burgled upon my return.

    And like Staff Martin, I’ve enjoyed my military riding around in aircraft more than any commercial flight.

    My condolences to Kim on his upcoming leap across the pond.

  8. I’m with Phelps. Longer than 3 hours and it’s Business Class + or nothing . And there has to be Club access at any stopover. BC is the new coach .

  9. He also wrote many of their songs and is one of Britain’s leading scientists. Yeah, the Journos can sod off on this one.

    As for the airlines. They are evil. All of them.

    1. Yes, a brilliant scientist, indeed. He had a hand in one of our rovers on Mars, if I recall correctly. You don’t find that in many rock guitarists around. And he plays better than nearly everyone else, save for 3 or 4 of them, say Angus Young, Joe Bonnamassa, Roy Clark, in his prime, the list is open to your own prejudice, but he is most definitely on anyone’s short list. And Freddy Mercury belongs at the top of any list of song writers. You can hate his lifestyle if you want, but his music was something to last the ages.

  10. Seems strange to me that automobiles and airplanes have become less comfortable than fifty years ago – – I’d have thought that things would go the other direction. Never underestimate the American public’s desire for a cheap ticket, or an airline or car manufacturer’s willingness to meet that lowest common denominator.

    At any hospital or doctor’s office, though, you’ll find chairs, seats and even wheelchairs that have been manufactured for plus-sized Americans. Strange paradox, there.

    1. Not a paradox at all. Doctor’s offices don’t charge a fee per seat, airlines do. That gives them the incentive to cram as many fare-producing seats into the fuselage of a plane as they can.

      Given that for most casual travelers the single factor that determines which flight they take is the cost of the ticket, you can’t really blame the airlines for cramming seats in and “unbundling” features like meals, baggage check, etc. They’re just responding to what the market wants.

      An airplane these days is just a Greyhound bus with wings.

      As for cars, I’d argue with the assertion that they are less comfortable than they were 50 years ago. In fact, I’d say modern automobiles have improved significantly over the past half century. 50 years ago bench seats with no side support and very little adjustment were standard on all but the most expensive cars. Nowadays even cheap cars have nice bucket seats, air conditioning and decent stereo systems.

  11. In the late 60’s I was stationed at Treasure Island (in SF Bay) and flew from Oakland to Ontario, CA on PSA (Pacific Southwest Airlines). They were trying to run the regional airline like a bus. You could walk on board and buy a ticket while sitting in the seat. It was like $25-$50 bucks one way while “real” airlines were over a hundred bucks. I was also stationed in Hawaii in the early 70’s. I flew back to the states, commercially, a couple of times when they first introduced the 747 and the airlines were not used to all of the extra space. One airline had an actual lounge in the rear of coach with a stand up bar & bartender to fix drinks and seats and benches with nothing in front of you. Good times.

  12. I don’t know if you have to worry about “the rich guy buying first class” thing.

    From my past days of heavy flying, I know that, once you hit a certain number of miles, you’re basically always being upgraded to first class for your economy-seat price. On my last fifty or so flights, I bet I was upgraded to first 90+% of the time.

    (Of course, I’m assuming that frequent flyers do as well now as we used to, and that was ten-fifteen years ago.)

  13. I abhor flying. I swear I still get a card at Saint Valentine’s Day from a TSA agent.

    The last time I flew I think it was East Coast to Midwest on Southwest Airlines. Southwest has been the least of the evils offered by other airlines.

    They’ve definitely become a bus service. I rode a bus from Washington to southwestern Virginia once when I was young. It was “interesting.”

    An old friend who was a fan of trains took the train from Boston to someplace in Florida. Upon arrival in florida he turned in his return trip train ticket because it was so miserable. Train service is Great Britain was fantastic. It was on time, spacious, had a restaurant car and was very enjoyable.

    Driving is the most suitable mode of transportation for me. I like road trips to see this huge country, I can stop when I want, pack my own food or eat out, stop at shops and sites as I wish.

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