Re: Have you ridden in economy class lately?
Dear Mr. or Ms. CEO, forgive me for not addressing you by name, but in this open weblog posting I purposely have avoided learning anything about you—such as your sex, age, religion, body type—so that you will be more impressed if the following guesses about some of your personal characteristics turn out to be true.
I am assuming that you do some flying on your own airline. Isn’t this what CEOs are supposed to do these days, get down in the trenches with their customers and employees, and learn about the company from the ground floor? Still, I have to ask the question: have you ridden in United economy class lately? And for a fairly long distance? For example, picking a flight with which my wife and I have had close acquaintance with recently, from Portland to Chicago.
I am picturing you in one of our seats, “enjoying” (note the quotation marks!) the United economy class ambience. I now make my first guess: You are small. Almost certainly under five feet nine inches, and most likely under five feet six. Am I right? Could you be a slender woman, or an ectomorph man? I can’t believe that you are any other body type because if you were, after sitting in this seat for the four and a half hour trip you’d instantly order a few inches added to the distance between rows.
My height is six feet one inch. I weigh 183 pounds. Not exactly a freak of nature. I really “enjoyed” (there’s those quotation marks again) having my knees jammed right up against the pocket of the seat in front of me. And that was before I put my paperback book in the pocket, or the guy in the row ahead leaned his seat back.
Yes, I realize you offer Economy Plus seats with five inches more leg room. We walked past all those seats on the way to our frequent-flyer-mile-purchased accommodations. Which, I guess, didn’t qualify for Economy Plus, even though we’ve obviously flown lots of miles on your airline and charged lots of dollars on your Mileage Plus credit card. On the positive side, we appreciate your airline somehow giving us undeserved Economy Plus seats on our outbound leg. However, this only made the horribly cramped conditions on our return trip seem worse by comparison. You know, “Once they’ve seen Paris…”
My second guess is that you are not a vegetarian. Got that one right, yes? Now that United doesn’t serve free meals in economy class, you offer two (count them, two) choices of $8 fare, neither of which are vegetarian friendly. Also, according to the woman sitting behind us, not carnivore friendly. I enjoyed listening to the entertaining exchange between her and the male flight attendant as I munched on the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I made at home for much less than $8.
She: “My eggs are cold!”
He: “They’re supposed to be cold.”
She: “What???!!! They taste awful.”
He: “Do you want your money back?”
She: “No, I want warm eggs!”
He: “OK, I agree. I wouldn’t eat those eggs myself.”
Well, I have to give this flight attendant high marks for honesty. He ended up taking the eggs into first class, where eventually they were put into an oven, and this wonderfully assertive passenger got her $8 warm eggs after half an hour. I noticed that not many people were buying your meals. Gosh, I wonder why?
Maybe you should take a meeting with the marketing “genius” (I so love quotation marks) who came up with the idea of (1) making United movies free, and (2) charging for meals. I bet you guys thought that everyone has to eat, but only a few demented souls or parents with whining pre-schoolers are going to pay $5 to watch the “Garfield” movie.
But guess what? We didn’t buy your crappy flesh-filled meal and we also tried to avert our eyes from Garfield, who is the cheapest looking artificial movie animal imaginable. I hope United didn’t have to pay anything to show this film on your planes. The movie studio should be grateful for any sort of captive audience, given that it looks like they just went out and bought a Garfield stuffed animal at the mall and got it to move somehow.
Third, and last, guess: you have some sort of medical condition that requires you to always carry around an oxygen tank. Bingo, right? I say this because the warm stuffy air in our economy seats near the back of the plane was barely breathable. I’m sure things were much nicer up there in First Class, where you probably mostly fly (or always fly).
When my wife complained about how hot the air was, the flight attendant told us “Oh, someone up ahead said that she was too cold, so the pilot turned the temperature up.” Where it stayed the entire flight. John Edwards is right. There really are two Americas. First Class and Shafted Class.
On the positive side, we were pleased that your planes took off and landed on time. Now, if you could just do something about everything that happens on the plane in Economy Class between takeoff and landing: seats, food, air quality—that’s a good place to start. We look forward to flying the “friendly” (last quotation marks, I promise) skies of United sometime not very soon, like in our next lives, if our bad karma forces this upon us.