Adam Ruins Everything (2015) s02e26 Episode Script

Adam Ruins Flying

1 So, do you guys brew your own beer here? This is an airport bar.
I love beer, so I always ask.
I actually brew myself at a place in downtown Akron.
We're blowing up.
This says "assistant brewer" at a place called Little Guys Brewery.
Yeah, well, you know, I'm looking to get out of there.
Got a lot of interviews lined up in some pretty big cities.
Wish I had a direct flight, though.
You can barely fly anywhere from Akron without a layover.
Speaking of which, I should close out.
Trying to rack up those miles.
I have this flying thing down to a science.
Actually, Tevin, Frequent Flyer miles are a total scam.
In fact, everything you think you know about flying is wrong.
- Cool blazer, dude.
Very classy.
- Thank you.
So, who are you and what are you talking about? Hi, I'm Adam Conover, frequent middle seat flyer, and this is "Adam Ruins Everything.
" (THEME MUSIC) Wow, big tipper.
Yeah, my girl hooked me up so I hook her up.
Oh, cool, 16%.
Yeah, not a problem.
With my Definitely Not A Virgin Airlines card, I earn miles when I spend or when I fly.
That's how Tevin gets paid.
Actually, Frequent Flyer Miles are a big old rip-off.
What? Look, I'm 100 miles away from a free flight.
That's free money.
More like funny money, because the airlines control how and when you can use them.
Exchange your miles for a free trip to your dream destination, just not on any of these blackout dates.
Not only that, they can rewrite their rules to change the value of your miles at any time.
In 2017, United Airlines devalued all of its customers' miles with just a few months' notice.
Oh, sorry, we just updated our Rewards chart, and it looks like your miles are worth half as much.
Have a great trip.
What? No.
How can you just change how much they're worth? I thought I earned a mile for every mile I travel.
Not anymore.
Airlines used to give you one Rewards mile for every mile flown, but over the past few years, they've quietly started basing miles on ticket price, so now if you really want to rack 'em up, you gotta buy the most expensive seats, like in first and business class.
It's wonderful for those of us who can expense the flight to our corporate account or Mommy and Daddy.
And get this if you don't fly often enough, you might not get to use your miles at all.
Airlines will revoke them if you don't maintain "qualifying activity" or if you do anything else to violate their specific sneaky terms.
Aw, you should have read that giant pamphlet we mailed you that everyone just throws away.
(GROANS) I'm so confused.
How does anybody understand how this works? Most people don't.
Surveys show that 59% of Americans have no idea how Frequent Flyer Miles work, and 73% of people enrolled in these programs don't even know how many miles they have.
Now boarding anyone who can understand our cockamamie system.
(LAUGHS) As a result, planeloads of people's miles expire before they even get a chance to use them.
There are currently 20 trillion unredeemed miles in circulation.
That's enough to go back and forth to Pluto over 2,000 times.
So why don't the airlines make it easier to understand? Because all this confusion creates a crapload of cash.
The major airlines generate an estimated $10 billion in revenue per year just from their Frequent Flyer programs.
But if the miles are free, then how are they making money? By selling them to credit card companies who use them as bait to get you to sign up.
I earn hella rewards with every dollar I spend.
Yeah, but are you paying off your balance every month? Close to half of credit card holders carry debt, and the massive interest they charge you on that completely wipes out any points or miles you've "earned.
" But, no, okay? The Rewards Dude blog clearly states that this card is the best one to game the system.
Yeah, the paid referral link system.
Credit card reviewers actually make money every time someone signs up for a credit card from their site.
I always fly for free using my Vibranium Member Rewards, the same rewards that I make seven figures a year promoting.
Money money What? You know what? Screw it.
From now on, Tevin is cash only.
Well, this part is really gonna piss you off.
Even if you pay cash, you're still paying - for everyone else's credit card rewards.
- Huh? Credit card companies typically charge sellers over 2% in fees every time they run a credit transaction.
It's essentially a tax on every sale they make, so to make up the difference, many sellers raise prices, whether you're paying cash or card.
Whatever, bro.
Ah, perfect.
I have exactly $1.
Oh, sorry, I forgot to pass the credit card surcharge fee onto you.
Come on! Visa and MasterCard can make as much as $45 billion a year off of these surcharges.
Your points and miles aren't free.
We're all paying for 'em.
(GROANS) So I've been staying loyal to this expensive airline, earning miles that I'm probably never gonna use, while charging a credit card that's basically making me pay for my own rewards? Yep.
If you really want to game the system, forget the points and miles and just buy a ticket on whatever airline's the cheapest, and don't fall for the credit card marketing.
How much did you put on credit cards, by the way? (GROANS) I don't want to think about it.
I'm gonna watch "Bad Ben" 'til we board.
It's a show about a 1960s radio jingle executive.
Bad Ben's life is so cool, he flies all the time, and back then, flying was glamorous.
Actually, the idea that flying was better in the old days is a total myth.
(LAUGHS) Oh, it's not a comeday.
Excuse me, doll, I could use another martini.
Right away, sir.
And please let me know if there's anything else I can do to make your flight a little more comfortable.
Flying used to be so much better.
(WOLF WHISTLES) Fresh! Adam, get out of my show! Sorry, no can do.
Everyone thinks that flying was so classy and glamorous in the "good old days," but the truth is, - it was a terrible, dangerous, sexist ordeal.
- Aah! Uhh! Whoa.
I look so cool right now.
Well, everyone's gonna lose their cool in a sec, because here's what flying was actually like during the so-called "golden age of air travel.
" (SNAPS FINGERS) (RUMBLING) Planes used to fly less than a mile off the ground, way lower than modern cruising altitudes, which meant way more turbulence.
And please keep your seat belts fastened.
Our plane interiors are total deathtraps.
Seatbelts would malfunction, so turbulence would throw passengers straight out of their seats.
Aah! (GROANS) Because the planes flew so low, there was a lot more fog.
Sometimes they'd crash land or even crash into each other in the air.
Occasionally, plane engines would detach and the planes would just drop out of the sky.
(ALL SCREAMING) We're all gonna die! Yep.
Passengers were nearly four times more likely to die in a plane crash.
(PILOT) Sorry about that, folks.
Also, a quick reminder, smoking is permitted on this flight.
Oh, yeah, because of the combination of thick cigarette smoke, the stench of jet fuel, and all of that turbulence, people were constantly getting sick.
It's why we still have barf bags on planes today.
Hey, doll, could I get another (GAGGING) (VOMITS) Here's a fun fact.
The low altitudes and non-pressurized cabins meant you could open the plane doors in midair, so the flight attendants would just toss the barf bags right out.
Get off my plane! What is happening? This isn't classy at all, okay? Where are the free drinks and people hooking up in the bathrooms and stuff? Oh, men expecting service like that was the worst part of our jobs.
Flying was not a good time for the flight attendants of this era.
Tevin, flight attendants then and now aren't there just to wait on you.
They play an important safety role on the flight crew.
But despite that, for decades, they had to endure profoundly sexist and disrespectful treatment.
Like what you see, gentlemen? All our flybirds are high school graduates, 20 years old, no bigger than 5'9" tall, 135 pounds, and none of them wear glasses.
And did I mention she's contractually required to stay single.
She could be your next wife.
All of these were real job requirements.
Back then, roughly 80% of the airline's passengers were men, and they marketed their flights like skeevy singles mixers.
The airlines basically gave their passengers a free pass to physically and verbally harass their employees and, worse, the flight attendants were required to smile their way through it.
The smile rule actually inspired the term "emotional labor.
" It's when a job requires you to take care of others' emotional needs at the expense of your own.
The technical definition applies to service industry work like flight attendants But it's also a role women play in our personal lives every damn day.
- Excuse me, hi, uh - (CLEARS THROAT) we're flying in a metal machine thousands of miles through the air.
Is it anyone's job to make me feel better about that, even though they're freaking out too? Peanuts? Wow.
You know, I bet I'd feel even better with that sweet caboose on my crotch, if you catch my drift.
Oh, yuch! This isn't classy at all.
Why would anybody take this job? Well, there aren't a lot of jobs available to women during these days.
It's either get harassed as a teacher, as a secretary, or as a flight attendant.
At least with this job, I get to see the world.
You shouldn't have to take any of this at any job.
Oh, but they did.
If flight attendants didn't play ball, they'd be fired.
You look different.
Did you gain one pound? Is that a freckle? (GASPS) Gasp! Did you get married?! None of these men are gonna want you now.
You're fired! Luckily, the flight attendants fought back.
Flight attendants were the first women to file charges of sex discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and over the next decade, they took to Congress and the courts, arguing for better workplace conditions and protections.
This is discrimination.
Hey! I'm just pinching hips and slapping butts.
Normal stuff.
You've both made good points, but I rule that marriage and age restrictions are unconstitutional.
Yeah, we won that battle, but we couldn't get rid of the weight requirements for another two decades.
Tevin, this is Patt Gibbs, former union president of the Association of Professional Flight attendants.
She was part of this fight.
Love what you've done with "Bad Ben," Adam.
When it was formed, the Association of Professional Flight attendants was one of the only unions run by women.
We won major concessions, including better pay, benefits, and maternity leave, all of which were very revolutionary at the time.
You guys are heroes.
Sorry, you girls are heroines.
No, you women are "sheroes.
" - Please stop.
- Okay.
No, the fight isn't over, Tevin.
Flight attendants at some of the major airlines are still struggling to unionize, and just recently, Air Canada flight attendants had to file a major discrimination and sexual harassment complaint.
We've come a long way, but employers still need to do more to create a positive and respectful work environment for flight attendants, and so do we as passengers.
Thanks, Patt.
(SIGHS) Oh, crap, my connection got moved to a new gate.
Now it's at a new airport.
Never mind, it's here, but it boards in five minutes.
Oh, I cannot miss this job interview.
(BELL DINGS) Oh, come on! Flying sucks! Yeah, it sure does, and I can tell you why.
Are you ready to join the Mile High Club? Sorry.
What do you think that means? It's for people who learn new things on planes, right? No, it's for (WHISPERING) No! (GROANS) Man, the friggin' connections, am I right? They had me run through, like, three terminals just to get here.
I mean, how could they treat us like that? Good call.
I'll take a nap too.
Excuse me! Sorry, this is my seat.
I'm Oh, 23C and a half.
You cannot be serious! Yeah, flying today sure does suck.
They keep squeezing you into tinier and tinier seats, they charge you fees for everything, and if your flight's overbooked, they don't apologize.
They toss you off the dang plane.
(PILOT) Attention, Definitely Not A Virgin Airlines flyers, due to a preventable mistake that was entirely our fault, we'll need the passenger in Seat 23C to deplane immediately.
Pfft! (PILOT) Now.
But I paid for this ticket! Unbelievable! They can't do this to people.
Actually, they can, and I'll show you why.
Hey! Adam, what are we doing? We can't be in here.
The reason we are trapped in this travel torture chamber is that nearly all domestic flights in the U.
are controlled by just four major airlines.
It's an oligopoly.
An "ogle-what-a-lee"? No, do not touch that button! (ADAM) An oligopoly is when control of the market is limited to just a few companies, and since American, Delta, United, and Southwest own at least 80% of the industry, they don't have to offer you better services or prices to compete with one another.
Aside from a couple of regional airlines like JetBlue, in 93 of the top 100 airports, a majority of all seats go to just one or two of the big guys.
When I fly, I choose American 'cause that's the only airline that serves my airport, so I'm trapped in a corporate stranglehold dictating my choice as a consumer.
And since they know you don't have much choice, they can take advantage of you by charging fees on tons of services they used to offer for free.
Oh, yeah.
I never used to have to pay more to check a bag or get a window seat.
What's up with that? Well, up until the 1970s, airlines were regulated by the Civil Aeronautics Board.
The CAB was founded by FDR, and it was supposed to make traveling by plane more accessible to the average American.
Here, travel is a public right.
All Americans should have access to the skies.
Tell 'em, eagle.
(SCREECHES) (ADAM) The CAB set ticket prices, travel routes, and approved any new airlines.
It was way more fair but a bit less efficient.
Pilots, lower prices and added routes are a go for passengers as soon as I get through all this paperwork to approve them.
In the late 1970s, liberal consumer advocates believed that without regulation, there would be more airline competition and thus even lower prices, so they launched a campaign against the CAB with the help of Ralph Nader.
Flying is too expensive.
All Americans should be able to afford airplane tickets.
I can foresee that working for sure.
Unfortunately, and not for the last time in his life, Ralph Nader was wrong.
According to a report by a former FAA official, while ticket prices did temporarily drop, prices are now, in fact, higher than they would have been if regulation had continued.
Wait, what? Why? Because, instead of competing against each other, airlines started merging with each other.
Air Traffic Control, this is a major airline looking for permission to land a merger deal with another major airline.
Major airline, you don't need my permission.
There's no government regulation here to do anything about it.
(ADAM) In 1979, there were ten major airlines, but today, we just have the big four, and they've become an unstoppable juggernaut.
(WHIRRING AND CLANGING) Dear God! Adam, it's the Google Lollipops Man.
No, it's the Oligopoly Man! And not only does the big four's unprecedented power mean they can bilk you with more fees, they've also cut a ton of routes.
Ugh! Why would they do Akron dirty like that? Just one reason: money.
The CAB used to guarantee that smaller cities were served with direct flights, but since those routes are less profitable, airlines cut them, replacing them with layovers in hub airports, and the loss of those flights has hurt smaller cities across America.
That's right, Adam.
Oh, hey, it's Phillip Longman, a researcher who coauthored one of the definitive studies on the effects of airline deregulation.
Which is why I don't really like to fly anymore.
You guys should try the train sometime.
It's great.
In 2012, after Cincinnati's regional airport lost a number of international flights, Chiquita Brands relocated their headquarters to Charlotte, North Carolina.
This saved Chiquita roughly $4 million in operating costs, but it was a huge blow to Cincinnati's economy.
(TEVIN) Wait.
Is this why Akron's economy has gotten so bad? Well, there's never one single reason, but the lack of frequent and affordable flights makes it tough to attract new investment.
In the past few decades, hundreds of communities have seen their airports straight up shut down, so if you think you're struggling and struggling to find a direct flight, imagine what it's like for them.
Now, if you'll excuse me, Adam, I'm gonna go see what's for dinner in the dining car.
Choo-choo! (TEVIN) So Akron is such a nowheresville because the airlines screwed us? Well, then, I have to crush that job interview or I'm gonna be stuck there forever.
Aah! Uhh! Adam, you gotta get me another seat on this flight.
(GRUNTS) Forget it! You two are never flying again! I just gotta get to my interview, man.
Don't worry, Tevin.
What if I told you there's an even better way to fly? What if I told you that I take back every nice thing I said about your blazer? Aah! (TEVIN) Stop threatening me! You're ruining my interview blazer! I can't believe this video went viral already.
Thanks a lot, Adam.
Now I'm gonna miss my interview.
I guess I'm gonna be the little guy at Little Guy Brewery in Akron forever.
I know it was your dream to work for a big brewery but, hey, maybe if you stayed, you could help make Little Guys one of the big guys.
How is anything in Akron supposed to succeed when the airlines have destroyed it with their colonoscopy? You're upset, so I'll let that one go.
Look, people need to fly.
It's a necessity.
So, yeah, the government needs to get off its butt and make the airlines compete so that we can have fair service at fair prices.
But, at the end of the day, some things about plane travel are always gonna suck, so here's a wild idea.
We could bring back blimps! (TRIUMPHANT MUSIC) You can't be serious.
Oh, but he is.
Tevin, what if I told you that blimps are wonderful things? The only reason we stopped using them is because of the Hindenburg crash.
Oh, the humanity! The crash looked so gnarly that everyone was scared off of airship travel, but in reality, most of the passengers survived, and this could never happen with today's blimps.
Oh, I know it sounds ridiculous, but someday, blimps could be an excellent flying option, especially if your city doesn't have an airport.
They're much more fuel efficient than planes, and where blimps are going, we don't need runways.
And you might like to know, the most famous name in blimps for over a century has a factory right in your hometown of Akron, the Goodyear Blimp.
So you're saying Akron is the blimp capital of the world.
Uh, no, not exactly.
You know, there are some cool things about Akron.
Maybe I've been too hard on it.
You know what? The airlines might have given up on Akron, but I'm not ready to yet.
Let's get on that blimp, head back to the brewery, and put Akron back on the map.
- Huzzah! - Huzzah! Think we'll be there by the time it closes? Oh, definitely not.
- These are extremely slow.
- Hmm.
I'll just sit here while they get a little bit of quiet audio.
- Are we rolling or? - Yeah.
- Okay, cool.
You became a flight attendant in the 1960s.
- Correct.
What made you want to become a flight attendant? - I really wanted to be a pilot and I couldn't.
- Wow.
And so I thought, well, next best thing would be - that I could be a stewardess at the time.
- Yeah.
We weren't called flight attendants then.
That was one of the battles that we fought.
Do you have a pilot's license? - Did you ever get one? - Yes, I did.
Yeah? I got all of my pilot ratings, my commercial, - instrument, multi-engine.
- Wow! And taught flying.
I had a aerobatic plane for a while.
When you were working as a flight attendant, you sent a document that said you couldn't fly past the age of 32? Right, and I couldn't fly if I got married or pregnant.
Of course, you can't get pregnant if you're not married.
As flight attendants or stewardesses at the time, did you talk to each other and go, like, "Hey, these restrictions are bullshit.
Like, we gotta do something about this.
" I got elected as a union officer very early on.
That made me become much more interested in trying to get the women that were stewardesses to band together to fight to change basic human rights, is what it was.
And you had a lot of success.
I mean, you were part of some landmark Civil Rights cases on this issue, right? The Civil Rights Act - protected a lot of people, but not women.
- Hmm.
And certainly not older women.
We started realizing that it wasn't gonna change until we changed who we were, what our union was, which didn't come until 1976.
- That long? - Yeah.
I didn't consider myself a feminist initially.
It was really about the work issues, - the human rights issues.
- Yeah.
Because of the way we were treated.
Where do you see, when you look at the history of this, how important unions were for creating these protections and how important are they to us going forward? If unions aren't there fighting the human rights battles on things, - then it's not gonna change for anybody - Right.
to fight for you.
Where do you go? There was nobody else fighting for you in the '60s.
There was nobody saying, hey, wait, we're gonna look out for the flight attendants.
- You had to do that yourself.
- Exactly.
That's what a union is, is the folks in the job getting together and saying, hey, we just have to get together and fight for what we need.
Bottom line is, you get tired - of being picked off one by one.
- Yeah.
Through unity, you can make big achievements.
You think of yourself as a feminist but also as a member of the LGBT community.
Yes, and it was in the late '60s when I went, hey, you know, I've got to come out, - because if I don't, nobody else will.
- Yeah.
So the change really came about with the LGBT community when those of us that were leaders in the union started recognizing it and started fighting to be treated equally.
When you're flying, do you feel pride when you see those flight attendants, you know, working and saying, like, hey, I was part of making their lives a little better? Sure, because what I see, I see women, - I see women of all colors - Yeah.
which wasn't in place then.
I see males.
I see men that can wear beards.
They'd make me shave this if I was a flight attendant? Yeah, yeah.
They'd make you cut your hair and put a crewcut, probably.
- Oh, no, not my hair! - So, yeah.
Thank you so much for being here today.
It's been really wonderful having you.
- Nice meeting you too, Adam.
- Yeah.