It’s not news that the government has systematically destroyed the airline industry via its regulation and war on terror. Flying, at least to me, has become the most unpleasant act I can ever undertake while paying for the non-service.
What has become a huge nuisance is the seating arrangements on airlines. So few seats are available when you book a flight because anyone with a sense of a budget is priced out of 1st class and the “better” seats are additional costs above the already overpriced standard seats. And that is in addition to the charges for baggage, additional baggage, and baggage that weighs in above the poundage limit. I am never able to get a bulkhead seat anymore – not in many years – because those are reserved to “people with prosthetic devices,” “handicapped people,” “people in wheelchairs,” or “the elderly,” depending on what airline you call or who answers your questions on a given day. But every time I board a plane and look at the folks in the bulkhead, they fit none of the above categories.
This week I booked a flight to Seattle and was unable to grab two assigned seats for the flight back to Detroit from Seattle. And I know how that situation can end up – one may very well get caught in the middle of (yet another) overbooking, and since I have no seat, I have no guarantee I’ll get on that plane to come home on my prescribed day and time. So my ticket is not a contract – it assigns me of the possibility of a service in return for the cash I paid upfront for that service.
So when I called Alaskan Airlines and told them I needed a seating assignment, the response from the agent hinted to me that the seat map was under airport control and seats could not be booked. Airports may hold back 40% or more of seat assignments to be released on the day of travel thereby stressing out paying customers who have purchased tickets well ahead of time, and dishing out prime seats to those who are in the right place at the right time. I told her I was flying back to Detroit from Seattle the day after a hamstring surgery in Seattle, and I would be on crutches, in pain, and experiencing limitations in bending and movement, and I therefore absolutely needed a handicapped (bulkhead) seat. I was told, after several minutes of trying to understand why a handicapped person could not get a handicapped seat (imagine that), that she would temporarily assign me a bulkhead seat, but on the day of the flight the airport had the right to throw me out of my seat.
I received no straight answer when I asked how that would happen, considering I will be on crutches (visible) and I will have signed medical instructions from the doctor. She said “they” will assign the seats as they see fit, so I may lose my seat. And if I lose my handicapped seat even though I am handicapped, there may potentially be no other (standard) seat available for me. So I said, “Who is they? Who is this mysterious Seat Czar?” She said, “the airport.” I said I understood the game of airport-controlled seating, but if a handicapped person who is one day post-surgery, on crutches, and unable to bend at the waist cannot get a handicapped seat, who will get these seats?” Only the Seat Czar knows.
Time once published 20 reasons to hate the airlines but not one of the 20 mentions was the governmentization of airports, airlines, hubs, routes, rules, and taxes. Even Richard Branson was blocked by the US Department of Transportation from stopping a takeover of his Virgin America. I think the intention of this entire industry and their regulators is to make people miserable, helpless, and begging for any speck of kindness from the Masters in control.