Airlines get rated in various ways, such as ticket costs, extra fees, takeoff times and the number of fatal crashes per decade. I have my own system. It’s not very scientific and is probably of little use to anyone else. But here goes.
CAN I UNDERSTAND WHAT THE AIRLINE PERSONNEL ARE SAYING? This begins when I’m sitting at the takeoff gate, waiting to be loaded. Half an hour or so before departure time, an airline attendant will pick up the microphone at the check-in gate and say something like this: “If you are blarfing wif hawls chirren from haitches tuloo to slate fleas slime up behind moldy blokes in schiel mares.”
This always leaves me asking, “I wonder what he (or she) just said? Does it pertain to me? Has the flight been delayed or canceled? Am I at the right gate? Why didn’t he slow down and enunciate? Why didn’t the airline install a quality public address system instead of one costing $37.50 at an electronics store.
If there is an airline that gives intensive speech training to its workers, I’ve yet to encounter it. Out of any ten announcers, perhaps one will speak slowly and clearly enough to be understood. Or so it seems to me.
It only gets worse after I board the plane, find a seat and struggle to find both ends of the &@!!% seat belt to fasten it in time and not get a dirty look from the flight attendants. A few minutes before takeoff, a microphone clicks on and we are treated to the sound of a man or woman trying to set a speed record for number of words spoken within 90 seconds. “Ladies and gemmuns, serving you up front today will be Lois, in the middle Harry and to the rear is Anna. In case of a loss of cabin pressure, a fuddle stump down and clamp it to the life raft beneath your seat after attaching it to your children’s exit ramp rickety rackety be serving free snacks and expect to be in Chickaltimore with estimated flight time at screw ours and fisteen minutes.”
The reason for this rapid-fire recitation is that the flight attendant giving the spiel knows that very few people are listening, so why should she bother to speak clearly? The five percent of passengers who are paying close attention are usually making their first-ever flight, and are scared witless at the very mention of lost cabin pressure, ocean crashes and evacuations, and which escape hatch to use.
On many flights, the pilots join in the mush-mouth extravaganza. “This is First Officer Hawlsbirth, just letting you know that we’ll arrive in Philaromsking in another themstoot minutes, where the weather is bloofer, temperature about zoloff degrees. We’d like to thank you for snucking Flacker Airlines, and we fluke former to sheeling you up-end.”
Of course, it’s not entirely the pilot’s slapdash enunciation we can blame. He/she has merely forgotten that a pilot’s voice is competing with the roar of jet engines capable of taking the aircraft to Mars and beyond. Most pilots could give the Gettysburg Address over the p.a. system without anyone noticing.
ARE THE PLANE’S REST ROOMS LARGE ENOUGH TO LET PASSENGERS BREATHE? That’s a second criterion I use in rating an airline. It’s no secret that aircraft rest rooms have grown smaller and less numerous with the passing years. Today the main objective of the airlines is to squeeze as many people into a limited space as possible. The goal for 2050 is to force passengers to fly with our knees up around our ears, reducing necessary leg room and thus allowing 40 percent more humans to be jammed on board. When designing modern aircraft rest rooms, the airlines choose – as typical passengers – fashion models who weigh 90 pounds maximum and who have not eaten solid food for eight days. If these young men and women can successfully enter an airplane’s rest room, close and lock the door, use the toilet, wash their hands, and then escape – all of these actions while still breathing normally – then the airline is satisfied that it has perfected the rest room of tomorrow.
Obviously, the airlines’ reason for designing these midget rest rooms is to get rid of overweight and obese (i.e., fat) passengers. If travelers weighing 150 pounds (110 pounds, for females) or more know that they cannot possibly fit into an airline’s rest rooms, they simply won’t fly. They’ll drive, take a bus, or just stay home. This will cost the airlines a great deal of income, at first. But within a few years the only airline passengers will be persons as skinny as Audrey Hepburn.
Bob Driver is a former columnist and editorial page editor for the Clearwater Sun. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.