The Corner

Economy & Business

A Clockwork Passenger

(Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Memo to: Doug Parker, CEO, American Airlines

From: Kevin D. Williamson, captive in 1D

Re: Bound and gagged, corporate hostility, invasive marketing shenanigans, general indecency,A Clockwork Orange, air rage, etc.

Dear Doug:

Hey, checking in again here with a few unsolicited thoughts. I get the feeling my emails to you aren’t going through.

A thought about that relatively new safety video you guys have got going. I like it pretty well, and  Tara Martin, the flight attendant who stars in it, seems charming. But I am not entirely sure that Jeff Tremaine was the right choice for director, much as I love his “Mayhem” commercial for Allstate.

You know who I’d have gone with? Stanley Kubrick. Aside from the fact that he died 20 years ago, he’s the perfect choice.

I’m thinking particularly of his work in A Clockwork Orange. If you’ve never seen that, well, it would be a real eye-opener for you. In the film, based on Anthony Burgess’s great novel, a violent criminal named Alex is subjected to a kind of invasive reprogramming regimen to cure him of his felonious ways. In the film, he is — see if this sounds familiar, Doug! — strapped into a chair with a video screen in front of his eyes and speakers above his head, and forced to endure an endless stream of propaganda — basically corporate marketing videos for servility — from which there is no escaping. He comes out of it reformed, but reduced.

As I write this, I am strapped into a chair with a video screen in front of my eyes and speakers a few inches away from my ears, broadcasting into my skull content that cannot be turned off. I get the safety videos, but the increasingly lengthy and invasive marketing videos—and the constant credit-card hawking — are not about safety. No, those are about you corporate monkeys exploiting a literally captive audience, one whose members would, if they reacted the way they really should to this kind of nonsense, would be tased by air marshals or dragged off in chains upon landing.

Knock it off, Doug.

Of course, we passengers can eventually turn off the video. Until you turn it back on. I’m less than an hour into my flight here, and I’ve been obliged to turn the damned thing off six different times. That is some shameful stuff, Doug.

Your minions are always going on about how they know that we have a choice when we fly and they they are grateful for our choosing American. The fact is, we do not have a lot of choices when we fly. On some routes, we don’t really have any choice at all. And once we are in the airplane, we sure as hell don’t have any choice about enduring your insipid corporate effluvium.

I’m up in business class today, which is nice. I’m paying the extra couple of hundred bucks for business because — see if you can follow along, now, Doug — I’m on business. Which means that I intend to work during this flight, which is a lot harder to do back in last class. You know what makes it harder to work, Doug? Being screamed at by idiots trying to sell me a credit card.

Your bread-and-butter passengers are, I expect, not the folks who get on an airplane once a year to visit grandma. There are a lot of us who fly every week, or two or three times a week. (Some people fly a lot more than that.) We frequent flyers already know about your special “limited time” offer on that credit card, Doug, and, since this has been going on for more than a year, some of us are starting to suspect that you maybe aren’t being entirely honest about this “limited time” thing.

A Clockwork Orange is a dystopian fantasy, Doug, not a marketing plan. How about you quit being such an ass and show a little good taste and restraint?

Your favorite correspondent, etc., . . .

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