The Trouble with Gerrold: The Software User Bill of Rights
September 1, 2012 —
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I took my first ride on a jet plane in 1966. It was a 707 flight from Los Angeles to Miami. From there, we went to New York, and then finally back to Los Angeles.
I flew economy. The seats were comfortable, the flight attendants were friendly. They served steak dinner, gave us free drinks, free cigarettes, almonds, and various other amenities like hot towels. That was in economy class. Everybody was having a great time.
In 1973, I was regularly flying back and forth between Los Angeles and New York. Most of those journeys were in first class. Again, great food, free drinks, hot towels, the best imaginable. One early 747 flight had a piano bar. On another, I spent half the flight in the upstairs lounge chatting with Mario Puzo, author of “The Godfather.” Generally, the flights were only half full, so if you wanted to stretch out across three seats for a nap, you could. Everybody was enjoying themselves.
A couple of months ago, I had to fly cross-country again. Economy class. I was jammed into a seat way too small for me to have any real legroom. There was no food served, unless I brought it myself. Drinks were expensive and the only amenity was a bottle of water and some peanuts. Staff was rude. The passengers were grumbling like a mob of villagers who’d just found one of their children drowned in the pond beneath the mad scientist’s castle.
For many years, various consumer groups and legislators have worked to pass an “Air Passenger Bill of Rights.” In 2011, Congress finally responded with the “Enhancing Airline Passenger Protections” rule. While it was a step in the right direction, it remains insufficient. Anyone who has flown on a domestic airline in the last decade knows this from personal experience. The indignities start at the check-in counter and don’t stop until they’ve lost your baggage at your destination. Cattle being trucked to a feedlot get more consideration than the average airline passenger—possibly because a steer has more market value.