Colson: Consider yourself lucky to be flying at all
December 22, 2014
Ah, the headlines.
Oh, wait, newspapers are passé, they say, so perhaps I should sigh wistfully and moan (if that's possible in print), "Ah, the top stories of the radio hour."
Doesn't have the same feel to it, but I digress.
Anyway, there are weeks when I like to just read through a few newspapers to see what's happening in the world, and then comment on it whether it's a topic I've studied or something I've just realized is bugging me thanks to the headline itself (or top radio news piece, depending).
What got my juices flowing this time was a story in a local daily paper, proclaiming that the precipitous decline in oil prices all over the world will not lead to lowered airline ticket prices for those flying around that same world.
And just in case you don't trust newspapers to report the news correctly, a very similar story showed up on National Public Radio, during the Marketplace Morning Report, broadcasting much the same message, to wit: Don't expect to see the cost of an airplane ride drop just because the cost of getting that plane into the air (the cost of the oil used to make jet fuel, that is) has dropped by 40 percent in recent months.
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And that's the case even though fuel costs reportedly make up almost half of the airlines' total costs.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
In case you ever wondered, airlines for some reason have moved into a position approximating that of God as far as flying from here to there is concerned.
Like God, they don't have to worry how we, the people they supposedly serve, feel about being pushed around, robbed, poorly fed and figuratively flogged like lazy cattle, in return for an airplane ride. That's because, like God, they have a virtual monopoly on the fastest way to get around the planet, thanks to favorable legislative treatment in almost every nation on Earth.
They get to abuse us so, according to an Avon-based consultant to the air travel industry, because they, the airlines, have a "right to make a profit."
Come again, please?
Some of us may have missed it, but when America was founded, the guys writing the new rules were essentially plutocrats — that is to say, they were the ruling elite of the emerging nation, most were men of property and had grown used to getting their way.
So, just about the first thing the founders did was to make sure that the "right" to be rich was accepted as a founding principle of the new nation, with all the implications and future ramifications that could possibly be crammed into a single "right."
And, according to recent reports, the right to be rich is working well for the airlines, the profits of which are "soaring" thanks to recent declines in fuel costs, according to the New York Times.
Like it or not, that's the country we have now. But the right to be rich was not the only right included in the new laws of the land, and somewhere on the list is our right to demand decent treatment at the hands of our "betters."
In the case of air travel, admittedly not one of the things the founding fathers were thinking about, what about our "rights" to demand more comfortable seats, actual food while we fly, and, oh, yeah, rational pricing policies that see ticket costs rise and drop along with the costs of fuel?
Well, those "rights" may exist in your mind and mine, but they clearly do not have much weight in the calculations of airline executives, or the governmental types who are supposed to rein in the excesses of the private markets in favor of decent treatment of the people whose money actually drives those markets.
You see, that's what the movers and shakers of private wealth keep forgetting — it's our money, the wages and savings held by the population at large, that is responsible for the fact that airline execs can get rich in the first place.
But privateers get so caught up in the detailed machinations of making money that they forget everything else.
So, in the case of air travel, the monied elite have roomy seats in "first class" and "business class" for themselves, the exorbitant cost of which they write off their taxes, meaning the rest of us indirectly pay for their luxurious airplane rides.
Meanwhile, air travel executives seem not to give much thought to the crowded, hungry and stressed-out "economy" travelers, who nearly always find ourselves at the back of the plane in every sense of the phrase.
I guess they figure we should count ourselves lucky to be able to fly at all, instead of being herded onto buses and trains that hug the contours of the Earth while our "betters" soar over our heads.