Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The days of luxury flying are back - just not in America.

The United States of America is, at least according to most Americans, at the forfront of all that is classy, innovative and popular. We set the trends, we have the most media influence on the world, we are a haven for all things luxurious.

Except on the airplane. Back in the early days of flying, air travel was a sophisticated, comfortable way to get around. You got meals on every flight; clean, fluffy pillows when you wanted them and personal service from the attendants that went beyond the occasionally distribution of peanuts. The seats, while not spacious, were comfortable enough, and your knees were not getting up close and personal with the seat in front of you.

Nowadays, any American-based airline you take offers none of these basic amenities. The flights, even the three-hour ones, contain no food service beside a flight attendent throwing a miniscule bag of pretzels at you, and comfort is not even an option even when reclining. You can get pillows and blankets if you're lucky, but cleanliness appears to be optional. Oh, sure, the international flights are usually bearable, but luxury domestic traveling in economy seats? A thing of the past, I thought.

And then I started using airlines from other countries. Qantas Air out of Australia remains my favorite, with individual, personalized televisions and tons of leg room. And I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Air Lingus, the Irish airline. But now I'm realizing that these airlines that treat their customers as people, not cargo, are the norm, and it's America whose standards are declining.

Royal Jordanian, for example, offers at least a sandwich for passengers on flights just over an hour long. Also, they don't cancel flights just because they don't have enough people on them, so the chances of getting empty seats next to you while flying is pretty darn good. Turkish Air, the airline I used this past weekend, gave me a small meal on every single flight, even the hour-long one from Istanbul to Albania. They walked around with newspapers and drinks anytime, and were always available with individually wrapped blankets and pillows. Now that's what I call service.

It's possible that Americans are just so used to flying that they've forgotten that getting there is supposed to be a pleasant part of the journey as well. In this case, I think we should cater to the beliefs of countries who still believe that flying is a treat and a luxury to be enjoyed, not delt with as fast as possible and forgotten.

Learn, American-based airlines. Learn.

1 comment:

  1. unfortunately is not true for airlines in Europe either... Air France (also called Air Chance by some) has crappy service with stewardess you are always so grumpy that you wonder why they even bother coming to work. BA, who used to be good, is also declining - I think you need a 3 and a half flight before you get a sandwich... I can get on and on... but yes in the middle east and asia pacific somehow they still know what service is!