Monday, November 28, 2005

More Fun With Commuting

Idle thoughts from another day's commute. As a pilot I LOVE O'Hare; as a passenger I despise it. The intricate dance of air traffic control is conducted nowhere with the finesse and graceful economy one finds at ORD. Like with any industry, there are things you'll only really grasp and understand with an immersion in your field. So to avoid another of my infamous bible-length dissertations on Instrument Flight Rules and the Pilot / Controller Glossary, take it from me: the business of traffic control here is brilliant.

But as a passenger, it's another matter. I'm now sitting on a terrazzo floor in a busy main walkway (since there are no power outlets where you can actually use them) for nearly five hours while I wait for my next flight after not making my original connection. This airport runs so near maximum capacity (beyond it, actually) that the tiniest difficulties put the whole system into knots. Like expanding ripples on a pond, the difficulties caused by bad weather--either in Chicago or any other large metro area--move outward away from the affected area with a spring-like effect. The closer you are to Chicago the worse you get hit. Especially when you're sitting on the ground waiting to leave. The plane that's inbound from Singapore has been airborne already for nine hours; you can't tell them to hold up a bit. But when you're sitting on the ground a mere 45 minute flite away, you're guaranteed the shaft. Since it takes so little to set things off, things are ALWAYS set off. So I try to avoid this place as a passenger like the plague.

And then there's the airlines generally. We now have United, US Air, Northwest and Delta currently operating under bankruptcy protection. (I've ranted about this before, but since I'm too lazy and / or stupid to figure out permalinks, enquiring minds will have to search the archives to find the post. OK, it's in here somewhere under a title having something to do with Axe Murderers.) And in spite of every flight in and out of Appleton lately being booked absolutely to the gills and more, the airlines continue to lose money. This morning they were looking for volunteers on the first two flights of the morning, which should be a good thing. But instead of rising employment and improved salaries and benefits for all the people involved in the industry, we find just the opposite: salaries are being cut drastically, jobs farmed out to cheap Asian labor, service is being cut, planes downsized. AND THE INDUSTRY CONTINUES TO HEMORRHAGE. I know so many people who have been ground up and spit out by what seems to be this irresistible force of nature.

But it's a business model, people. How can so much pain be caused to so many thousands of people and have the whole business somehow beyond control? The airplanes sitting on the ramp here in O'Hare are filthy and have their paint peeling, looking like turds scraped out of some huge mechanical creature; budgets for these unimportant ancillary things have been drastically cut. And yet the facility is so busy one fears being trampled.

I need to do some research on worker benefits & pay versus that of management. Because the whole business really makes me angry.


Lizzie said...

I've wondered that too- how can the airlines be going in the tank when they're practically charging me my first born for a teeny tiny seat and a peanut I have to split with the passenger next to me? I suspect Bush has something to do with this. (actually, it does bear suspicious resemblance to his track record as a businessman).

and btw, I like your technical airplane posts of biblical proportions. I was counting on learning how to fly a plane just by reading your blog. save the money on flight school. I may not comment because I don't understand much of it but rest assured I'm taking copious notes for my little cheat sheet when I'm in the cockpit.

Anonymous said...

Lets discuss noise abatement procedures as well. But's something to consider. All those CRJs and EMB that are now the rage. Lower paid pilots...contracted aiircraft (they're regional) and not to mention the clogged airways due to the large number of these aircraft that cannot carry a large number of people. Yet they take just as long to fly the extended final, just as long on the runway, and take up gates. They're cheaper for sure...but we're paying for it in delays!

wunelle said...

I wonder, Queen Lizzie, how much trouble I'd be in if I actually posted about what you have to do to fly the beast! I'm sure with my W-bashing that I'm already on some CIA watch list for balds and fats and undesirables! (But I used to teach and could give you some GOOD DIRT!)

And Anon, I was going to post about exactly the point you make, but it seemed like adding the Book of Mormon onto my already bible-length missive! You're exactly right.

And only when passengers rebel (which they won't do so long as they're kneeling at the altar of the almighty dollar) the trend will continue. And a decade from now we will have "rediscovered" all the shit we unceremoniously ushered out: leg room, service, reliability, etc.

In Houston now, and today's commute was not fun.

Matthew said...

I try to avoid all commercial air flight like the plague. News flash: The airlines are providing the worst service. The government needs to stop bailing them out and let the free market determine which airlines survive, and which transportation forms exist.

Heather B. said...

flying through o'hare is akin to flying through the fifth circle of hell. I hate that place.

Anonymous said...

Lets add the Torah to the book and the bible. Lets talk about RVSM!

That can wait for another day and another post. I would be impressed if any reader who does not thumb through FAR-AIM as part of their jobs even knows what it is.

wunelle said...

Man, if we break out the acronyms we could send 'em ALL scurrying for cover! I think RVSM, if explained in detail, would stop everyone from flying altogether!