Pains, Trains, and Automobiles
It continues to amaze me how unpleasant it has become to fly in this country. And I was surprised at how much nicer it was to take the train. Time wise, it wasn't even that much different.
I used to like to travel. Going different places, navigating airports, seeing different cities, exploring. But over the years, especially after 9/11, it has gotten more difficult and uncomfortable to fly.
I don't fly enough to earn upgrades, nor to get bumped in the more legroom section (nor do I want to travel that much). And now I have to pay extra money just to avoid having my knees smashed by the seat in front of me. That's right, $40 one way and $44 the other (not sure why the difference) just to avoid injury. Yes, I have longer than overage legs, but I shouldn't have to plead with the person in the seat in front of me not to lean their seat back. I swear, the amount of legroom seems to get less each year.
I understand and agree that there needs to be security. However, some of what they do in the name of security is ridiculous. For example, making you take your shoes off. The least they could do it put an area where you could sit down and put your shoes back on after getting through security.
Every doctor, hospital, pharmacist, insurance company, and employer is required to take extraordinary steps to protect the medical privacy of people in this country. But once you get to the airport you have to put all of your most personal items (toiletry liquids, prescription drugs) into a clear plastic bags for the TSA employees and all of your fellow passengers to see.
Unless you are a baby or a diabetic, you can't bring your own liquids onto the plane. Now you can at least buy something after you get through security, if you have time to wait in line and they happen to sell what you need. But, even with water, on most flights the flight attendants are reluctant to give you any significant quantity. If you want to stay fully hydrated on a flight (which you should for health reasons), you need to bring an empty water bottle and electrolyte drink mix, and fill and mix it up after security before getting on the plane.
Contrast that to the train. I went to the station, I bought a ticket (much cheaper, by the way), I waited on the platform, I got on board. No security check. I found a seat, threw my bag in the overhead, and sat and watched the countryside go by. On the train, time goes by much quicker, you are more comfortable, the scenery is nicer, and you can move around. You see all sides of America, from the beautiful back country to the squalid inner city slums.
My suggestion to the airline industry, the TSA, and the U.S. government? Be careful, the airline business is in bad shape already. By making it harder and more unpleasant to fly you are going to continue to drive away customers. Business travelers will find ways to do business without flying. And everyone else won't be able to afford to pay what you are going to have to charge to make up for the difference.
Have a nice trip!