Bill Burr on Frequent Flying
Despite being known for combining a clear-eyed worldview with obscene descriptions, comedian Bill Burr – who will play Manhattan's Beacon Theater on November 8 as part of the New York Comedy Festival – values civility. That's a hard thing for a man who spends a lot of time on the road, because the road isn't always such a civilized place. His hilarious bit about watching a fat man scratch his back on a column in the airport hinges on the genuine nature of his horror. Burr doesn't want to see that sort of thing. Fortunately, he's come up with some coping mechanisms for dealing with the disappointing and dehumanizing elements of air travel. He declines to let airlines dictate the terms of his travel and he moves through airports as fast as physically possible.
"I have zero patience for going through the website or navigating my way through the robot on the other side of the phone," he says. "I'd rather call a travel agent."
And, no, he's not going to worry whether or not the agent is minding his miles.
"I had United Airlines send me something one time saying that if I don't use my miles by this time they're going to expire, so right there you know they're not my miles," says Burr. "I had it out with them about that. I just called them up and told them to stop threatening me. I was like, 'Keep your miles. I don't need your fucking miles. . . . Keep them and fuck your airline."
The point is well taken. Miles programs seem intentionally arcane and customer service ceases to be customer service when the customer is always wrong. And don't think Burr is just a grouch. He isn't. He says that he likes to drive instead of fly when he's got a bit of time because he wants to see new places and people. He loves the Southwest almost as much as he hates getting stuck in a security line.
"If you just have clothes and a book and some toiletries it becomes way easier," says Burr of the screening process. He generally eschews carrying anything electronic because he doesn't care to prolong inspections (new FAA regulations on electronic devices aren't going to stop them from setting off the metal detector). "I actually read now when I'm on the plane, and I find it way more enjoyable. It makes the flight go way quicker than an iPad."
Aside from packing light, he plans ahead. He doesn't want to have to hang out in an airport for longer than he must – something he's doing more than he'd like to anyway. "I've been to LAX literally thousands of times," he says. "I literally get excited when a new airport restaurant opens up." So he calls a car service in his destination city before boarding a plane.
"I'll splurge and have somebody pick me up at the airport just so I can walk off the plane and walk right out there," Burr says. "When you travel, those are the little things that get you excited. . . . I remember back in the day, before 9/11, when the car was right at the curb. You just walked out and it was awesome."
Nowadays, Burr is happy enough to just find an exit. An airport is no place for a civilized man.