Trying to Survive Five Hours in an Aluminum Tube

Once upon a time, flying was an adventure … was even fun. Not any more. People still fly, but they don’t like it. I was thinking about that on the 5-plus-hour American Airlines flight yesterday from Los Angeles to Maui.
Having to go through security is the first thing people complain about when it comes to flying. But most of the time, it’s an efficient process handled pretty well by people doing a boring, thankless job.
The real problem is that the airlines have shifted their focus. Because of mergers and bankruptcies and just plain lean times, they have cut back on the number of flights and on the number of cities served. Planes are almost always full now, so there is less need to actually bother about pleasing their passengers.  

The focus these days is, quite clearly, on extracting as much money as possible from each of us: food for sale, and fees for checked baggage, for cancelling or changing your flights, even for being able to pick your own seat, or for picking a seat with a few inches of extra leg room. People hate being nickel-and-dimed. And the airlines are nickel-and-diming us right and left.
There are some exceptions, however. American’s first-class service is pretty good. So, thinking if the price was right, I might purchase an up-grade and spend the next five hours in a wide, comfortable seat with plenty of leg room while sipping a fine scotch whiskey and dining on some very good food.
So I went up to the counter about an hour before our scheduled departure and asked the gate agent if there were any empty seats in first class. There was one, she said, but I wasn’t eligible to buy the upgrade for it because I had used Aadvantage miles to pay for my economy class ticket. Huh?
It’s airline policy she said. Evidently, American’s Marketing Department feels the folks paying full freight to fly first class would be upset if they knew they were sitting next to someone who paid for an economy class ticket with miles, then bought an upgrade for a quarter of what they had paid for their seat. But, I said, what if I promise not to leer at the guy next to me and say, “Guess what I paid for MY seat, sucker!”
The lady was not amused. Well, at least she got that right: there’s nothing fun about flying anymore.