JetBlue Nation

(Today is Valentine’s Day. This is an editorial that I wrote about an incident that happened on Valentine’s Day 2007 aboard a JetBlue flight. It is still timely today.)

It was wickedly cold again this year, right on schedule, one of the worst winters ever: Ice storms in the Southeast, frozen orchards in California, ten feet of snow in Upstate New York, record low temps in Chicago. Despite the misdirections of ‘global warming’ propagandists, Old Man Winter just keeps on coming.

On Valentine’s Day, a massive storm buried the Eastern Seaboard, closing businesses and schools, snarling traffic and delaying flights. And in one of those infamous mini-stories that comes out of every big blow, passengers on one airline, JetBlue, were forced to sit on one airplane for 9 hours, waiting to take off.

The story became a national scandal. Enraged ‘hostages’ captured desperate cell-phone photos of inconvenienced and thirsty passengers, obviously damning evidence to be presented at the tribunal of JetBlue. One flier publicly decried the delayed start for his vacation in Aruba. After all, what’s an Act-of-God snowstorm when you could be romping on the beach? See you in court!

So the question is: What has happened to the rough-and-ready nation that fought for freedom in the American Revolution?

Answer: We have become JetBlue Nation.

Never in the entire history of mankind have we had it as good as we have it today, in myriad ways. A Connecticut family of four can fly to California and back for the weekend, consuming 600 gallons of fuel for their little jaunt (the plane’s fuel load, both ways, divided by the average number of passengers, times four). In contrast, the average automobile owner in the United States uses about 600 gallons of gasoline per year. So the deregulation of airlines in 1978 opened up air travel to the masses, and they are flying in droves. More than two million people in America board planes every single day. And it all takes fuel. Lots and lots of fuel.

Energy buys speed, and our energy-rich world has provided us with the fuel to go where we want when we want, at high velocity. But since ecologists seem awfully concerned about our increasing reliance on fossil fuels, doesn’t it seem logical that the ‘global warming’ environmentalists in our midst would cut out all but critical airline travel in order to decrease our demand for petroleum? After all, if half of America supports Al Gore environmentalism, then that half can show its eco-credentials by staying home and watching Public TV.

But no, the flying goes on. And on. And rather than give credit to the airlines for making speedy travel possible for us all without a penny of government subsidy, the American media and our growing Crybaby Culture select out anecdotes like the JetBlue fiasco (which admittedly was a fiasco, with some very poor judgments made) in order to portray the entire airline industry as a group of money-hungry devils out to cause existential dread in every traveler.

Today JetBlue, tomorrow Delta etc.

Actually the airlines are doing an amazingly good job. Sure they can be occasionally mismanaged, and airports are crowded, but the fact is that flying is basically an imperfect science that clashes with the pedestrian nuisances of everyday life like bad weather, mechanical woes, fluctuating passenger loads, pilot work-hour regulations and, worst of all, an endless torrent of 750 million increasingly demanding passengers annually. Storms in one hub like Denver can wreak havoc with the entire system, as they did around Christmas-time, tying up planes needed at their destinations, which never arrive.

Rather than exhibiting patience and giving thanks for the overall wonder of air travel, however, and rather than treating their JetBlue interlude as an unfortunate misstep, indignant passengers and the media instantly made JetBlue the new whipping boy of American commerce, giving temporary respite to Wal-Mart. JetBlue must come clean! JetBlue imprisoned us! JetBlue hasn’t apologized to me!

Now just imagine if JetBlue had returned to the gate, deplaned all the passengers, and then the skies had cleared and the flight required extra hours for re-boarding and takeoff. Then it would have been: JetBlue delayed my trip! JetBlue wasn’t paying attention!  I want a voucher!

In other words, in the Crybaby Culture of JetBlue Nation, you’re damned if you do and damned if you do. The perpetually indignant among us always are seeking some target, any target, for their ire.

Poor JetBlue even issued a panicked Passenger Bill of Rights which has led to the perennial demand that even the United States Congress do the same federally, to somehow codify into national law any and all conduct that might ameliorate JetBlue Nation’s rage and anguish. Hey, let’s outlaw snow!

Through our media, we get a picture of only a small and peevish part of our culture. Instead of focusing on the amazing system built by the private airline industry, the media have launched a relentless campaign against our Flying Fathers. Why? Because the airlines are free-market companies that have been let out from under the thumb of government. Therefore they must be punished in every way. Yet when government-run Amtrak’s thoroughly abysmal performance statistics are revealed, the media ignore them because Amtrak is our lame attempt to emulate Europe.

The JetBlue story is actually two stories. It is about spoiled Americans being enraged at anything that interferes with their perceived “right” to pursue happiness in whatever way, shape or form they may momentarily be pursuing it. The other side is that the real “rights” that offer us a shot at happiness are much less sexy than a flight to Aruba, but infinitely more profound. The important thing is never to confuse the two, which increasing numbers of Americans do every day.

Our real “rights” mean free speech, freedom to practice your religion unhindered, freedom to assemble, the right to a speedy trial and others. To some, free speech means the weighty and God-given right to speak out on subjects of common interest. To others, however it amounts to their unalienable right to take public any and all grievances and to have a few minutes of fame like the livid passenger who launched a JetBlue-Made-Me-Mad website which soon will become yet another shovelful of recycled electrons on the ash heap of the World Wide Web.

And when the Crybaby Culture and its friends in the media latch onto you, or onto JetBlue, like a dog on a bone, prepare to kneel on broken glass. When you wake a cranky baby you have to pay the price. But after the media frenzy blows over, just go back to doing your best, as JetBlue will. Because in just one ordinary hour you’ll accomplish infinitely more for the common good than the whiners of JetBlue Nation will do in their very finest thousand hours ever.

Please visit my blog at www.nikitas3.com for more conservative insights. Enjoy the lively new  Arts section.