I wrote here the other week about falling standards in passenger appearance at airports. Since then we have seen Alec Baldwin respond to being taken off an American Airlines flight for failing to comply with the directions of the cabin crew.
Mr Baldwin has since issued an apology to his fellow passengers citing falling standards in the elegance of air travel and, in that sentiment, I agree with him. His point supports the thrust of my recent blog, but we come at this from different angles.
I agree with Mr Baldwin that airline standards have fallen as times have got harder for the airlines. I am a fan of American as an airline, and choose to fly with them whenever I am able to make that choice. Certainly they get my vote for any transatlantic flying that I need to do, but they, like all of the airlines that I have flown with over the last couple of years (add United/TED, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic to that list) have sat me on ‘planes that were generally a bit on the scruffy side.
So the airlines have some part in the loss of elegance in air travel, but I would contend that the passengers play the greater part in that loss. and I would cite these reasons for that:
As I have said in my recent blog, dress standards are generally appalling. If people turn up looking like vagrants then they must take the blame for a loss of elegance.
Passenger behaviour is also generally appalling. As with Mr Baldwin, people do not comply with basic instructions. Turn it off means just that, but people don’t. They have some level of ignorance or selfishness that requires then to keep making calls or using the specified devices long after they have been told not to. And US travellers are very bad at this. The ‘plane will barely have slowed on the runway before you hear seatbelts clicking open, phones chirping into life etc.
Next we have carry on baggage. On any visit to a US airport gate there will be people carrying on bags as big as the one I checked into the hold; and they will have more than one. Sure they airlines carry some blame for allowing this, but the passenger is the one pushing the boundaries here.
And this arrogance and selfishness in using devices when you have been told not to, carrying on more baggage than you have been told that you should and dressing like someone who sleeps rough by preference extends to invading the personal space of other passengers and showing a complete lack of respect or courtesy to other passengers.
Yes Alec, I completely agree that air travel has lost its elegance, but the age of elegance was when it was expensive to fly and those that could afford to do so knew how to dress and could behave in a civilised manner towards each other. As whoever it was said, enabling travel for the masses meant that the masses would travel, and as they have done so they have dragged down standards. Catching a ‘plane nowadays has declined to the level of the Greyhound bus as Alec says, but I suggest that it is the passengers who have brought it to that level rather than the airlines (excepting, possibly, Ryanair, but my contention there is that they are just meeting demand rather than leading the industry).
I mourn the loss of style in travel. I’ve also recently blogged on this in relation to travel by train, and there is little chance of getting it back which is a shame, but declining standards in behaviour generally across society I think mean that it will not come back in the years that I have left on the planet.
Still, I do have some good memories for my dotage, or maybe I could just watch some of Mr Baldwin’s excellent work on film to take my mind elsewhere…..