South By Southwest.

When it comes to domestic air travel, my expectations are abysmally low. Abuse and inhumanity are bundled in with the exorbitant ticket price. There are some injustices that will never be reconciled this side of heaven. I’m used to it.

I’ve thought semi-seriously about moving to Germany just for the opportunity to fly Lufthansa on a regular basis, and because I’ve noticed that they have really beautiful yogurt—Germany, not Lufthansa (what is it with me and the yogurt? Click here). The comfort, the TLC, the basic humanity of this airline makes sky travel not only simple but even enjoyable…delightful. I imagine that this is how it used to be back in the good old days, like the sixties, maybe. And why, for heaven’s sake, can U.S. airlines not get the concept of the warm, lemon-scented towel distribution pre-landing?

On a recent trip to Texas my host took the liberty of booking my flight on Southwest as it is his favorite airline. Southwest doesn’t usually have flights to most of the places I find myself traveling so I’ve never experienced this airline that someone would actually go so far as to recommend.

As an East Coaster, I’ve learned to be a touch suspect of overly nice people. I was trying to figure out if all these cheery, humorous Southwest employees really were as nice as they seemed to be, or if it was just a show. First, I think they actually are a decent group and secondly, I don’t care. These are airline workers, not friends and family. I’ll take a flight attendant’s fake nice over genuine rude any day. I’m sorry if non-Southwest flight attendants and ticket agents hate their job and company. As a human to a human, I don’t like to see anyone suffer. But should the sins of the airline honchos really be visited upon the passengers?

The fact that Southwest Airlines allows one to change a flight (as many times as you need to) with no charge suggests to me that they may be among the more decent in this biz. And experience has shown me that decent, humane leadership usually produces contented employees who then spill the decency over to their captive customers. Southwest attendants even ask you if you would like a refill on your beverage (but strike for no can), and have a very well-done in-flight magazine.

There’s still no warm, lemon-scented towel, but I’d say that Southwest, with their retro heart-inside-flight-wings logo and their “cattle-call” boarding scheme, is the best the U.S. has to offer.


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