Monday, August 3, 2009

Future Air Travel on Nickles and Dimes

You arrive in your airport and immediately hear, “The time is 9 AM on June 5, 2011. Your friendly Homeland Security Staff welcomes you to our secure airport. Please remember that you can not carry any bags on an airplane. Report immediately anyone trying to buy a government ID card or leaving a bag unsecured. You will be required to be scanned using a full body scanner. We want you to know that those security people that have posted some of these scans on the Internet have been severely disciplined by suspension for a week with pay. You should have packed your shoes in your baggage already. Comfey booties can be purchased from your friendly airline. For your information the display TVs will post daily those airlines going into or coming out of bankruptcy with government bailout funds..”

You approach your airline's baggage drop. There is no airline representative to be found. A small sign points you to a phone where the charge will be $50 to speak to a live person (in a foreign country of course). In front of the printer kiosk you see the sign posted for fees. Your airline will be happy to ship your bags for you for the small fee of $30 for a pocket book, $45 for a laptop bag, $65 for the first suitcase and $150 for each additional suitcase. In order to get a boarding pass you had to book your own flight through the Internet using your RFID (Radio Frequency ID chip) tag number assigned by the government. The government health care database maintains your vital statistics including finger prints and iris eye scan. A quick scan of your government provided ID with an eye scan allows you to print your own baggage claim and identification tags. You affix the tags to your baggage. You then place your bags on a cart for which you rent for $5.00. You then wheel your bags to security. Your baggage with its RFID tags has been matched with your RFID tagged drivers license and a scan of your eyes confirms you are you. Of course you would not have been allowed to purchase a ticket unless you had clearance to travel to the destination you were ticketed.

Because of government regulations for over weight people, you now pay by the pound for your ticket. You then step on scales and your weight determines the final ticket price. If your body fat index exceeds federal limits, you are then charged a surcharge for being overweight.

You then proceed without shoes, but with your bags to security where your RFID tag is scanned, your eyes are checked again and then you pay a fee of $25 to pass through the full body scanner. Should you decline, you will be taken to a room where a full strip search will be performed. The fee is $75 for this special service. You note there is a lot of giggling coming from the group of Homeland Security people clustered around the scanning monitors. Your bags proceed through another separate scanner using radioactive isotopes. A posted notice says your bags will glow in the dark for a few days, but that will go away in time.

Once passed security, you collect your baggage cart and stop for a cup of coffee. Your cell phone provides payment by charging the coffee directly to your cell phone bill. After the coffee, you feel the need to stop at the restroom. You pay for a sanitary kit from a machine depending on what you need to do, The kits have feminine products, or standard toilet paper, paper hand towel, and soap, or just soap with a hand towel. In addition, you will be charged a small occupancy fee per minute for use of the facilities. Again, all billed to your cell phone. Paper and coin money were outlawed last year. Because of massive defaults on credit cards the government has stepped in and uses their database to check to see if you ave enough debit units, formerly called dollars, to cover your purchases.

As you approach the gate, you push your baggage cart over to a slide that takes your bags down to be placed in the belly of the plane. With all the baggage handling, you are somewhat tired and desire to sit down. You understand you will be charged a small seat usage fee. You can get a seat close to the gate for just a few more cents per minute than those further away so you sit close to the gate. You can hear the announcements coming from the headsets you plug into the chair. If you did not bring your own headset (and, you couldn't because of security) you can purchase a set for $6 from your airline.

Those that do not pay for a headset will not know what is going on other than the Homeland Security and government announcements blaring constantly over the airport PA system. From a tablet affixed to the arm of your chair, you can select the food, drinks – including water – you would like on your flight, each with its fee and the tips that are included. You are advised that a restroom break in flight will cost about double what you paid for at the airport, so it is suggested you go now if necessary.

Suddenly, you hear that some seats in first class have opened up. Those first class passengers now have the same room as coach, but receive a discount and are first in line for the newest service in air travel. “Flyby airlines is pleased to have on board today Butch and Suzie, former GM employees, who will provide our special relaxing therapies on this flight. Butch was recently given the JD Flowers award for providing the best male or female relaxation services on any airline for the past six months. The fee for 20 minutes of special relaxation from Butch will be $200 and for Suzie only $150. First class passengers will have first choice of times.” There is a rush to get to the desk for first class seats. After first is filled, your tablet allows you to select other therapy times that are available. You realize how rapidly the time slots are filled for this popular service.

Boarding is much simplified as there is no wheel chairs, walkers, or babies in strollers allowed. On boarding are handed a paper bag with your prepaid meal and beverage request. As there are no bags to be placed overhead, the plane is loaded within 15 minutes after landing. You notice that seats no longer exist, and are replaced with very small vertical cubicles with a padded rail to rest your post-derrière. The airlines figured a long time back that without overhead storage, people could fly standing up. This increases the plane capacity by 50%. Capacity could be more except the therapy rooms take up some space, but are very popular and most profitable. So you strap yourself to your cubicle and get as comfortable as possible. As soon as takeoff, you hear a lot of giggling and moaning as Butch and Suzie start their therapy sessions.

The pilot comes on and identifies himself as the newest X-407 control module and wishes all a restful flight. There are no flight attendants as this has been deemed unnecessary. If the plane crashed, the more that died would reduce future medical expenses for the government. Consequently, safety is no longer a major issue. Because the airlines, like banks and hospitals, are now an arm of the government, they can not be sued anyway no matter how an injury is caused.

After the computer pilot's message, a light mist emits from the overhead air nozzles. Inhaling, you start entering your very own happy place.

Within what seems like a few minutes, you are jolted awake as the wheels hit the tarmac and feel the temperature rapidly rising in the cabin along with a noxious odor. Now, you want only to get off the plane as quickly as possible. When the door is opened, there is a raft of like minded souls pushing and shoving to exit the plane. Within a few minutes, the plane is clear of passengers and ready to reload. You get your bags at the gate you landed at and then haul them to your ground transportation or your next flight.

On the plane, Butch and Susie wipe the sweat from their bodies, count their piece work tickets, place a clean sheets on their therapy tables, and check their latex and special oil products. Almost immediately the next herd of passengers rush on to enjoy the flying experience brought to you by our ever watchful federal government and our wonderful corporate airline executives who finally came up with a new version of a very old profession called “Customer Service”.