Travelers, Beware: The Summer of the Middle Seat

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Press reports predict a rough summer for air travelers, with higher fares, crowded planes and overworked airline employees. Taking that warning one step further, Brian Unger predicts that this season will go down in history as "The Summer of the Middle Seat."


Some 207 million passengers are expected to fly this summer. That's according to the Air Transport Association. That would be an increase of about two million from last year, at a time when airlines are cutting routes, employees and aircraft. In today's Unger Report, humorist Brian Unger has this grim airline travel forecast.

BRIAN UNGER, reporting:

Stand by for crowded planes over summer, says the Washington Post. Rough summer is on the way for air travel, says the New York Times. And USA Today declares, Summer baggage meltdown predicted. The Unger Report says, get ready for the summer of the middle seat.

(Soundbite of Gershwin music)

UNGER: You'll fly in complete discomfort, the seat in front of you crushing your kneecaps. A doughy passenger's clammy arm will stick to yours in hour upon hour of awkward intimacy. The inability to lean forward, stretch your legs, move side to side will paralyze you like a venomous spider's bite as you discover your own seat doesn't recline. The opening and closing of the bathroom door was scent the air with a spicy toilet bowl cleaner, and then, just as you force yourself into a temporary hibernation, the real fun of summer air travel begins. Strong headwinds will slow your flight, pilots will slow their speed to save jet fuel, and a 90 minute trip from Cincinnati to Atlanta becomes four hours of lying down in a coffin, struggling to eat a fiesta wrap. This isn't flying, this is Gitmo.

Say goodbye to frills and hello to your underpaid, overstressed flight attendants. They're exhausted after their 93rd labor dispute, their tenth union smackdown with bosses this year. But most of all, they're tired of you asking for water. They're going to roll that beverage cart right up your whazoo or smother you with a pillow if you don't shut up.

(Soundbite of people talking and laughing)

UNGER: You'll hear the laughs from the business class cabin as oil executives and Tony Danza coo and moan over chocolate chip cookies and free booze.

Unidentified Woman: Would you care for an aperitif?

UNGER: Next time you board an airplane on the way to your coach class seat, look closely at the business class. Pity them, for they paid $9,000 for that cookie and an edited version of Meet the Fockers.

When you land at your destination, you'll wait in suffocating heat on an active taxiway, as another plane is still parked as your arrival gate. Then you'll nearly faint in the aisle as the jetway creeps toward the door, almost there, and the eagle has landed, the door opens, freedom.

(Soundbite of Gershwin music)

UNGER: Once you cross the threshold into the terminal, you'll go from baggage carousel to carousel, where you'll find only yourself standing in Memphis, and your bags sitting in Denver. That makes you a member of an exclusive airport club, the owner of one of the more than three million bags that will be mishandled this year. Fewer flights, more passengers, smaller planes, bigger fares, and no clean underwear. This summer, a middle seat has your name on it. Flying. It beats walking. And it's a lot safer than the backseat of Brittany Spears' car.

And that is today's Unger Report. I'm Brian Unger.

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