21 March 2012

Plane Language

Air travel is now unpleasant in so many ways that you can hardly list them. In economy class, the romance has been drained out of the experience by a couple of decades of cost-cutting. The horror has a precise starting date, according to The New York Times, and it’s earlier than you might think:
“Industry experts trace the problem back to 1987, when American Airlines removed a single olive from its salads to save a little money.”
I take the comedian Louis C.K.’s point that we complain too much about air travel, which is really a marvel if you think about it (“you’re sitting in a chair in the sky”). The one indignity that I’m becoming less and less tolerant of is the language of the airport and the skies. Lots of communication happens—from the fine print telling us whether our tickets are refundable to the flight attendant’s cheery “would you like a beverage, sir?”—but very little at a human level. The language used by airlines and the Transportation Security Administration is often distorted, plastic, unidiomatic, excessive and generally frustrating.