04 August 2010


AIRLINE FEES. My first flight on a major airline was from Tacoma, WA, to Tucson, AZ, in transit between Army training bases. At age 20 in 1967, it was a major adrenaline rush to feel myself pushed back into the seat as the plane accelerated for takeoff. Cruising at 31,000 feet above sea level was a revelation, a transcendent experience.

In those days, the airlines competed to provide the most congenial and economical service. Alas, how things have changed. Now you can fly the friendly skies only if you are willing to be packed in like a sardine, arrive at the airport two hours early to deal with the long lines at check-in and security, and happen to have a wad of cash on you to pay for services that once were free. The establishment of the hub and spoke system, which may be more logistically efficient for the airlines, but has created an unwieldy and costly experience for passengers, is largely to blame for this state of affairs -- along with corporate mismanagement, which has become a cancer in what passes for capitalism in the US. If you don't happen to live near an airline hub, or near a spoke terminus, you'd better hope your city is served by one of the regional airlines (which either contract with, or are subsidiaries of, the shrinking number of major airlines). The opportunities for anti-trust lawsuits are many and ripe.

An article by Susan Stellin describes this culture shock in detail. Baggage fees, reservation change fees, phone reservation fees, food and drink charges, a fee to use the dedicated headset if you want to hear the inflight movie, a few bucks to use a pillow or blanket, peak travel surcharges (the definition of "peak travel" is expanding continuously), even -- so help me -- standby travel fees. You have to PAY EXTRA to fly standby. What? Soon we'll have coin-operated rest rooms, and a surcharge to breath cabin air, 60% of which is recycled without filtration.

All this, as seating space shrinks, security lines grow, flight delays increase, and the airlines reserve the right to postpone or cancel flights without notice or recompense to passengers. Is there something wrong with this picture?

The airlines are gouging the flying public. They seem to have forgotten that they work for us. And we have meekly allowed this to happen. It is past time for a public protest. Email, phone or write to your elected representatives (they pay most attention to emails), and to the White House. Here is where to contact your US Senators and Representatives, and here is where to contact the White House, on this or any other issue that is important to you.

WEB SLANG. If you're like me, you resort to Wikipedia often, especially when you encounter an acronym or other form of web slang which you don't recognize. Good news -- here, at one handy website, Wiki has set up a dictionary of internet slang. Just browsing it is kinda fun. On the other hand, I enjoy language so much that I more often just spell things out. My way.

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