Airline Travel – Open Letter to Bill Gates (Yes, Really.)

There was an interesting article in the New York Times about the apparent decline in services, amenities and even common courtesy in the cheap seats on airplanes. OK, well, the article’s alright but they received over 400 comments on it, and the comments are where all the action is. The comments range from “I’ll never fly again” to “Get over yourselves, you get what you pay for.”

As you’ve probably guessed, Miss Expatria has her own opinions about airline travel. So fasten your seat belts and make sure your trays are in the upright and locked position, because we’re taking to the skies.

Many of the complaints had to do with the lack of or quality of the food received. OK, people. Seriously? If you’re complaining about this – especially on domestic flights! – it’s because you’re a whiner. Yes, the people in first class get real plates and real food. But they also paid $4,000 for it. Would you pay $4,000 for a better meal on a plane? No? Then pack a sandwich and pipe down. And why are you so ravenously hungry on a plane? You can’t wait a few hours and get a real meal o the ground?

I make sure I eat before hand – even on transatlantic flights – or I pick up something to bring on the plane with me. (Orly airport in Paris has the most delightful brie and walnut sandwiches, if you’re interested.)

And a side note about water. Yes, the TSA doesn’t allow you to bring liquids. Bring an EMPTY bottle and fill it up at a water fountain once you’re inside the perimeter. Or, spend the extra buck or two and buy one at the snack stands near the gates.

Another popular complaint was about missing pillows and blankets. Again, get over it. Men, layer up and buy compact travel slippers. Ladies, it’s called Pashmina – bring a wrap and settle in.

The most valid complaint, however, was about the tight quarters. This one I can relate to. There simply is no room. I’m not asking for my own cabin; but I’m 5’1″ and my knees shouldn’t be brushing up against ANYTHING. I really hate the lack of space.

The saddest thing about the comments, however, was the wistful desire of those who had traveled internationally for a halfway decent, cost-friendly alternative to plane travel within the United States. AmTrak could be making a killing off all of this – but instead they are turning into Dagney Taggart’s worst nightmare.

In light of this is my open letter to Bill Gates. I was inspired to write this after seeing one of the final episodes of West Wing (best show ever, by the way), in which CJ Cregg, the Chief of Staff, is approached by a Gates-type character and given $10 billion to save the world. She chooses to build roads in Africa, so that all the medical supplies we’re giving them can reach the people who need them. I’m hitting a little closer to home.

Dear Bill,

I know your foundation is doing wonderful things all around the world. But, I have a suggestion for the good ol’ U.S. of A.:

Build us some trains. Fast, efficient, on-time trains. Build a national network of trains that can get people from one place to another without all of this ridiculous hassle, fear and discomfort. Build it, and they will come.


Miss Expatria (even though I am a Mac user)


One thought on “Airline Travel – Open Letter to Bill Gates (Yes, Really.)

  1. I so agree. I love the trains. One huge problem is that when you reach your destination you still have to get a car to get you home. I find I get to where I am going (kind of) and then my final destination is anywhere from 25-50 miles from the train station. Connector trains anyone?? One other observation. On my last 2 trips from NJ (train station 25 miles from my home, can’t walk there) to Tampa, Fl, (at least 30 miles from my final destination..can’t walk that one either), I found that several of the travelers were a tad sketchy. I am wondering if they would not pass inspection through an airport. Who are these people? One train ride, I was in the smoking car (when they stil had smoking cars) and the topic of conversation was geared all about everyone’s time spent in jail. Hello??? What??? This included men and women. I decided to get a private compartment on my next trip, which I did. But I love the trains, the food is wonderful, and you can always find a friendly member of the staff who, will tell you when the next stop is so you can get off the train for a quick cig. (I suspect the extra $10 doesn’t hurt.)
    The one thing that bothered me was that no one, and I mean no one check anyone boarding. There we were with ID in hand with our tickets, a whole line of us, and no one asked us anything. They were only concerned about getting us on the righty train. That was it. A little disconcerting to say the least. But yes, trains from city to city, state to state. What do you say, Bill?

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