MURPHY: Airline industry nosedives

Remember the days when getting on an airplane was an adventure? In-flight meals tasted great and you were provided with all the food, pillows, blankets and cokes you wanted.

Flying was an excuse to play Game Boy and color. Don’t forget how the charming stewardesses would give little kids the coveted, golden wing pin.

Much has changed since our youthful days, when flying coach was an enjoyable experience.

In the last 10 years, the state of the airline industry has declined faster than Tiger Woods’ approval ratings.

Flight fees are higher. Those unable to afford first class now must pay upwards of $10 for sandwiches that make Marquette’s cafeteria look like Glorioso’s. The leg room is so sparse that even Lieutenant Dan would complain.

Stewardesses are no longer always jovial. I learned this on my last flight when stewardess Elaine scoffed at me when I asked for a blanket.

“We only have 15 blankets,” Elaine said snidely. “And those were handed out already.”

A simple “no” would have sufficed, Elaine. Did I mention I hate you? I should have said that, but I’m a coward when it comes to confrontation a couple miles above the ground.

On the other hand, maybe I should give her a break. After all, I was flying American Airlines, so she might still be seething after her union negotiations for higher wages with American broke off on March 3.

This isn’t to say every airline employee is like this, but the airport is starting to give off that Department of Motor Vehicles, I-hate-my-job-and-hate-you-even-more vibe. This is especially the case when you are trying to get on your flight.

Everyone has to wait in those hour-long check-in lines, but I still let out the occasional “I’m annoyed” sigh as I wait in line behind Mr. and Mrs. Havercamp, who always seem to let the line get 20 feet in front of them before they react and move.

When you actually reach the check-in desk, you’ll be lucky to get an employee that actually looks up at you.

Charm seems to be lost on these people and the adage “No question is a bad question” goes more like “every question is a bad question.”

The beauty of check-in used to be that you simply picked up a ticket and headed straight to security with no additional charges.

Now, for most airlines you need to hang back an extra couple minutes and pay for your checked baggage. Say what?

You might think those Southwest Airlines “bags fly free” commercials are dumb now, but tell me how you feel about that concept after you drop an additional Benjamin on checked baggage (American and United both charge $25 for the first piece and $35 for the second).

Baggage fees may not be the only additional swipe of your credit card. Are you over 5’7” and cramp up when seated in constricted areas?

Continental Airlines now makes customers pay extra for an exit row seat.

But just remember, all airlines require that you be willing to assist in an evacuation if the situation comes to pass.

So you aren’t just purchasing legroom, but added responsibility as well.

It’s sad it has come to this. We live in a time when we’re witnessing airlines across the country squeeze every possible nickel and dime out of customers’ pockets.

What’s frightening is to think what they’ll charge us for next. Moving walkway fees? A quarter for a urinal and a dollar for a stall? Twenty dollar fines for people-watching?

I’m going to stop now. I don’t want to give an airline executive any ideas.