Two weeks ago we were living with this monstrosity known as the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic explosion; I don’t even know anyone who can pronounce that. People were stranded all over Europe because almost all flights had to be canceled; it was a major mess.

The airlines estimated that they lost nearly $2 billion dollars in those days. When the news was announced, it was met with a whimper. There was no sympathy for the airlines at all; as a matter of fact, it seemed like a lot of people enjoyed hearing that they had lost all that money.

At what point did we all start hating the airline industry so much? We used to love airplanes; heck, I still love looking up at planes as they fly over. I think that’s because I was a military kid, and sometimes the planes seemed like they were flying low enough to hit with a rock; I actually hit one once, then rode my bike home really fast because I thought I was going to get in trouble for it.

The airlines haven’t helped us like them much lately. Raising prices for flights, charging for baggage and raising the price based on weight. One of them decided they were going to start charging for carry-on baggage, which we started going to because we not only didn’t want to pay to have our bags checked, but we worried our bags would go missing; that’s happened to me a few embarrassing times.

Not only that, but we don’t even get that lousy free bag of snacks anymore with our drinks; at least we still get something to drink. You can’t even get a free pillow anymore.

So there’s enough to dislike. But we also have to be somewhat fair. One, airlines are stressed these days. The price of gasoline has gone up extremely high for us; imagine what their costs are. Many flights are flying at half capacity because the economy has been bad enough for companies to cut back on sending some of their employees all over the country, including lots of conferences. Pilots still want to get paid high, maintenance is high, regulations are cumbersome and then there’s always the weather, which can be unreliable at a moment’s notice.

I hate to think where we’d be if all the airlines go away, or if there are only a couple left after a few more years. We keep hearing about more and more mergers, which means that the lack of competition will drive prices higher. Yet, flying is still the fastest way to go; would most of us give up trips across the country or to other countries if the price of flying was suddenly overwhelming, or if we had to drive to these places?

We need a strong airline industry, and we need to find it within ourselves to cut them a little bit of slack and hope for the best long term. I hear those horse and buggy rides across the country aren’t much fun.

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