What Happened to the Friendly Skies?

Ten years ago, “MADtv” featured a parody about a no-frills airline that charged multiple fees. Want a seat belt, it asked ­– that will cost you $5. The mechanism that releases the seatbelt – another $7. Oxygen masks are free, but to start the flow of air you’d better have $75.63.

What seemed like a silly comedy skit then doesn’t seem silly anymore. Surcharges for buying a ticket on the phone, priority-boarding fees, checked-baggage fees are a reality. Food, blankets and entertainment will also cost you. The friendly skies are not friendly anymore.

Airlines have made their seats smaller and have crammed as many as they possibly can in the economy section of the airplane, even on long-haul flights, making the entire experience of flying an intolerable one. This has resulted in passengers who are uncomfortable and tense who in many cases act out at the slightest provocation.

Add to the uneasiness videos like the one of David Dao, a doctor who was dragged off an overbooked United Airlines flight that was a top-trending topic on Twitter or the story about two teenage girls dressed in leggings who were denied boarding from a United flight.

Chaos broke out at a Florida airport this week after multiple Spirit Airlines flights were canceled, leading to long lines, upset customers, and altercations. Deputies were called to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, FL to control the mayhem.

In another incident, an Australian man is suing American Airlines, alleging that he suffered serious injuries after being seated next to two passengers he claims were “grossly obese.” As airlines continue their obsession with filling planes to the maximum capacity to make money, stress among passengers will continue.

The “Hands Off Passengers Act” is a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio that prohibits airlines from bumping ticketed passengers to make room for a member of the airline’s flight crew. Another bill, dubbed the Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act, forces airlines to manufacture seats with a minimum size and create a minimum set distance between them to allow for sufficient legroom.

There are some travel tips to keep in mind the next time you fly that may result in you enjoying your next flight a little bit more.

  1. Have common courtesy. Look behind you and recline your seat as slowly as possible to give the person seated behind you time to react.
  2. Book the right seat. If you have long legs and plan to be up and down a lot, reserve an aisle seat. If you plan to sleep during the flight, a window seat may be for you.
  3. Be respectful of flight attendants. Don’t use the call button unless it is absolutely necessary.
  4. Reserve towards the back of the plane. Your chances of having an empty seat next to you will increase.

A key to in-flight etiquette is to remember you are not alone. Basic consideration goes a long way.

If you, or someone you care about, has been involved in an incident involving an airline, contact Rosenberg & Gluck, personal injury attorneys, for a free, confidential legal consultation to learn more about your options.