Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Urine-soaked seats: the future of air travel?

All my adult life I've been watching-- or should I say experiencing-- the constant worsening of the conditions of air travel. Discomfort, inconvenience, and airline contempt for passengers have been growing at such a rate since the early 1980s until finally anyone who finds it necessary to fly is left wondering how much worse it could actually get. Over the last couple of years, I've been joking with friends that in the end, since they probably can't squeeze seats any tighter, the airlines will simply pack everyone who can't afford first class in the baggage compartment (for the same prices we have to pay now) and charge a hefty extra fee for oxygen, while in the meantime, on the road to that satirical end, they'll start charging people to use the rest room. Well guess what. In today's Guardian, we read that a European airline has decided to strip their planes of most toilets (leaving only one per plane) and charge passengers 1 pound per rest room visit:

Ryanair boss, Michael O'Leary, insisted today that it will cost passengers a pound to spend a penny as he confirmed plans to charge for toilets on his aeroplanes within two years.

The chief executive of Europe's largest budget carrier said the airline would also generate extra revenues by removing two out of the three toilets on its Boeing 737-800 jets and filling the space with up to six seats.

O'Leary first mooted the toilet charges in February, prompting his press officer to warn that the outspoken executive "makes a lot of this stuff up as he goes along". However, O'Leary confirmed that he will ask Boeing to look at putting credit card readers on toilet locks for new aircraft.

Will this actually happen? Probably. And if it does-- and if Boeing equips toilet locks with credit card readers-- you can bet all the US carriers (which, after all, provide cut-rate service for premium prices) will follow suit. Anyone not flying first class is already charged whopping extra fees for checked luggage, aisle seats, seats closer to the exit, exit row seats; and never satisfied with all the cash they've forced their customers to fork over for degrading, uncomfortable "service," the airlines ceaselessly look for ways to further gouge the consumer. Any day now they'll start charging for water and soft drinks. Will they find a way to justifying charging extra for the awful polluted air that recirculates through the cabin? Under the late capitalist, regime, all and every indignity can be inflicted on the captive consumer with impunity. Stay tuned...

(Link thanks to oursin.)

ETA: Actually, once the rest room charges are in place, the flight attendants will probably spend most of their time going up and down the aisle, hawking adult diapers. Do you s'pose every airline will have develop its own brand of diapers and diaper accessories? Diapers, get your diapers here! Delta's Diapers are whisper soft, magically absorbent, and come in three delightful deodorizing scents! They'd have to make them cheaper than a rest-room visit, otherwise no one would buy them...

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