There's no question about it: airlines want you to suffer. From waiting in long security lines that move at a snail's pace to the struggle to find a cab at your destination, every moment of air travel is an exercise in hellish inefficiency. That's not to mention all the terrible people on planes. Flying really is a nightmare.
It would be one thing if air travel had to be the worst for some reason. But in reality, the ways airlines make you miserable are not only calculated, but they are a part of the business model. There are endless ways airlines make flying horrible, and they do it to make more money. These are just some of the dirty facts about flying that make it clear airlines care more about the bottom line than they do about the comfort of their customers.
The airline industry makes money off something called "calculated misery." The majority of their money comes from charging extra fees for perks like more legroom, extra luggage, and faster boarding time. That means the baseline service needs to be intolerable, so people are willing to pay more for a modicum of comfort.
This cruel model makes money for airlines, so there's no incentive for them to stop.
The water in airplanes is absolutely disgusting. It's so disgusting, in fact, that flight attendants usually even refuse to drink the coffee or tea. Bacteria levels in a plane's spigot water can be well over the allowed US limit. And while airlines will often claim to comply with EPA standards, that usually only happens after they are forced by the EPA to retest their water after it fails to meet regulations.
Failure happens shockingly often; one in every eight planes fall short of the EPA's standards on a regular basis. And, the longer your flight is, the dirtier the water.
Airlines overbook flights on a regular basis. Why? Because they know not everyone will show up. They use algorithms to determine when they will overbook, how much to overbook, and the likelihood of needing to de-plane a few passengers. And while airlines ask for volunteers before involuntarily kicking anyone off a flight, every airline is legally allowed to choose the people they remove.
Unfortunately, there's no federal law dictating why airlines boot passengers, meaning the selection process can be all up to the crew of that particular aircraft.
Does it seem like airplane cabins are getting more cramped? You're not imagining things. Since the 1970's, plane seats have shrunk from an average width of 18 inches to 16.5 inches, and spacing between rows has gone from 35 inches to 31 inches. Why? Money, of course.
Smaller seats and narrower rows mean more paying customers can be squeezed onto each flight.