American Airlines

ifyoucouldsitThank goodness for a little levity in these stressful times.

The source is the always witty and entertaining American Airlines, which today has a glossy full-page, double-sided insert running in major newspapers. It’s a real hoot, just hilarious, so funny even my cats laughed.

The thrust: If you’re not having a good time flying, don’t blame the airline. Blame yourself. Or those sitting next to you. Or in front of you. Be an adult, please, and take ownership of your misery.

That is meant as a joke, right? A really funny one?

Under a headline “IF YOU COULD SIT BY ANYONE ON A PLANE,” the very strrrrrange ad copy is written as a sort of out-of-body experience, suggesting that the person you’d want to sit by is you.

But only if you were on your best behavior.

Be “kind and considerate” to fellow passengers, the ad urges, and remember: “A smile goes a long way on a short flight.”

Right, rev up that happy face. The comedy writers who created this fantasy should try smiling when they’re squeezed into bone-crunching Coach like caged hens in a poultry farm.

Another of the airline’s soothing politeness guidelines advises passengers to “ask before reclining your seat.” As if the damned seatback wasn’t in your face even when it isn’t reclined.

“We’re all in this together,” says American soothingly, “so let’s all be great up there.”

Where is an airbag when you need one?

This hugely tone-deaf and upchuckable ad arrives the same week as a ConsumerReports issue on the challenges of flying. Yes, passengers do occasionally misbehave. We know because those cases immediately go viral. Yet as University of Hawaii psychologist Leon James tells the magazine: “The airlines are pitting passengers against each other by toughening their environment and creating less friendly and more competitive interactions.”

     ConsumerReports illustrates these shoulder-to-shoulder flying ghettos in a series of revealing drawings. They show how airlines have shaved inches from seat width and distance between rows during the last two decades as a way of packing in more passengers and, of course, building revenue.

The Federal Aviation Administration has been urged by advocates and some legislators to impose minimum size and space standards for seats on U.S. airlines. As in leaving room to allow breathing.

By the way, ConsumerReports readers rank American 10th (of 13 U.S. airlines) in Coach comfort and fifth (of seven U.S. airlines) in First/Business comfort, undermining the “altitude over attitude” philosophy expressed in its latest propaganda. Not that comfort is the entire story.

Consumers Union, the magazine’s legislation-seeking arm, reports that seat-space shrinkage also generates “serious health and safety concerns, including the risk of deep vein thrombosis and the risk that passengers won’t be able to evacuate safely in an emergency.”

Nothing to smile about.

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Published by

Howard Rosenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning former television critic for The Los Angeles.

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