Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.


I am writing this from a prostrate position.

A certain swoon of molten shock has invaded me, and I will not be able to rise for days.

I have, you see, just read the latest J.D. Power Airline Satisfaction Ratings.

In my head, U.S. airlines and satisfaction go together like arsenic and gumbo.

Yet here my eyes and ears are being assaulted by sentences such as this: “Overall passenger satisfaction with major North American airlines increases to 717 (out of 1,000), up from 712 in 2014. The most notable drivers of the overall increase are satisfaction with flight crew (9 points), in-flight services (6), and costs and fees (4).”

This is surely the incarcerated praising the prison warders in the hope of early parole.

I’m not an angry person, so I say this in the softest of whispers: The notion that Americans are 71.7 percent happy with their airlines fills my lungs with a peculiar green liquid that prevents me from breathing.

Here, therefore, are five reasons why Americans should be 71.7 percent dissatisfied with airlines.

1. Planes are getting more cramped--and Americans are getting bigger. 

Can you imagine that airlines want to put one more row of seats in coach? Can you imagine how much your limbs and your psyche will dislike this? Do you have any recollection of how cramped, uncomfortable, and desperate flying already feels right now? Or are you always so relieved to get off a plane that you wipe your memory disk? Oh, you always fly in business, do you? Oh, you’re one of those who gives airlines a 717 satisfaction rating, are you?

2. Isn't it fun to push past everyone to get to one of the two little toilets at the back?

We fly cross-country in planes as wide as toboggans because that is what is supposedly cost-efficient for the airlines. We bang and bump our way up the single aisle, just to experience a desperate pee. We stagger back, preparing our apologies to our seatmates, who really wish we’d never come back, as they were managing to suck in a little additional oxygen while we were gone. We sit in these tiny tubes as children, and sometimes adults kick us from behind. In fact, we get so frustrated that we invest in gadgets that prevent the seat in front from sliding back. And we’re 71.7 percent satisfied? Gosh, we are a peculiar people.

3. The nickeling, the diming, and the two-timing

Perhaps the most insanely terrifying part of this survey is that Americans are now happier with costs and fees. This is akin to being happier with a rabid rodent that, having eaten our right arm away has become too tired and full to nibble at the left. How many times have you stood behind someone checking in who is forced to empty 3 kilograms of underwear from his or her suitcase, so as not to be levied an extra charge on top of the baggage charge? We’re now charged for picking certain seats. How long will it be before we’re charged for picking our noses or, say, taking more than the allotted number of breaths during a flight? (Denver to Chicago: a 3,320-breaths allowance, measured by the helpful fitness strap that also serves as your seatbelt! Anything more and it’s $1 a breath.)

4. The change fees 

You call a restaurant--or go online--and explain that you’d like to change your reservation. “Absolutely, madam. When would you like to join us instead?” the host will say politely. You call an airline and explain that you’d like to change your reservation. “Absolutely, madam. When would you like to join us instead?” the airline rep will say, before politely adding: “That’ll be $200.” Honestly, how many other services have the barefaced gall to charge you not for a no-show, but for simply wanting to come on a different day? Of course, when the airline itself doesn’t show up, is it going to give you $200? Does it even ask you if you’re 71.7 percent dissatisfied with its (lack of) compensation?

5. The food

Do I need to add to these two words? Aren’t they edifying enough? Should I be forced to speculate whether the food at Denny’s is 71.7 percent better than the food on planes? Or are you finally nodding your head? Are you slowly wondering who could possibly have replied to this J.D. Power survey and insisted that airlines are getting better? Or are you simply accepting that airline travel is pretty terrible for the reason that we all now expect it to be pretty terrible? Many people thought this way about cabs until Uber came along.