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Flying is a truly remarkable thing. I don’t think anyone 100 years ago could have foreseen the heights to which commercial aviation has reached. Having flown a little north of 100,000 air miles (a paltry sum, I know), I am still amazed by takeoff. Every. Time.

Technology has also improved our flying experience by leaps and bounds. Recent research into the thoughts and patterns of travelers revealed that 42% of those studied use airline apps. Of these, 95% assure us that the app improves their flying experience. I can certainly concur. It is quite nice to walk into the terminal and head through security and board my plane with only my wallet and phone in hand.

What wasn’t foreseen by the study is that “29 percent of airline loyalty members say they prefer apps because it’s easier to make a complaint through them than attempt to talk to a human being.” Wow. Good heavens. Who have we become?

Preferring an app over a human

The same study concluded that 17% of frequent fliers simply preferred the app because they don’t have to interact with a human. Either airline experiences are terrible for the most part, or a good percentage of frequent fliers happen to not be “people people” (actually, I have an easy time believing 17% of the general populace feels this way).

It’s also staggering that 19% of those surveyed considered their app to be “smarter than airline employees”. Have we really sunk so low to believing this?!? Sure, I have had my share of unhelpful phone agents and surly flight attendants. But I have also had experiences where an airline employee went above-and-beyond, including when a United agent forced us onto an Air Canada nonstop from SFO to Montreal (without award space, I might add). And also my first flight in international first, made wonderful by the service of a fantastic flight attendant (SEE: United Polaris First SFO to ICN).

I guess it might detract from my point that I complained to United after the SFO-Montreal incident since our flight had been canceled and we drove 270 miles through the night to SFO…

Be a nice person

What I want to say is, in the middle of frenzied travel, when your bag is lost and your connecting flight is delayed by 2 hours, remember that the people at the counter and on the phone are…people. Dealing with you is their job. They more than likely have a family, and they want to finish their day’s work and get home, just like you. Stop and remember this once in a while.

If we continue to run down this road, we will see less and less human interaction as part of flying, and more and more automation. Maybe we’ll have a robotic cart serving us drinks down the aisle. Who knows! This *might* seem like a good thing, but at the end of the day, I hope it never happens. Technology needs to augment human interaction. Not replace it.

So I hope I can always smile and say “thank you” to the pilot and flight attendants at the end of every flight.

H/T: Inc.com, survey conducted by Helpshift

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