In the Throes of Airline Woes
Last week, I noted that airlines are continually finding ways to scrunch customers on their planes. We need to do better.
My blog today is a follow up to my thoughts on the unfortunate “adventure” that air travel often becomes. Let’s begin with some real adventure!
Landing at Midway Airport in Chicago has always been exciting. Five relatively short runways, the longest of which is 6,522 feet in length. The adventure of flying into Midway is always to see how close you are to those to someone’s rooftop. A simple Google search of “plane skids off runway at Midway” yields stories of several incidents. It’s a little awkward when you slide into Midway and the Captain comes on and says, “Safe!”
Nonetheless, it’s my preferred airport in Chicago. Generally easy access. Rarely do you wait for other airplanes to take off. Tasty eats. All good. Except for one thing. Well, maybe two. Baggage claim and security screening.
Recent visitors we picked up at Midway arrived on a Saturday evening. It took almost a full hour from the time they exited the plane to when their luggage arrived. Sure there had been a snowstorm. Sure there were lots of people at the airport. Both of these factors were known in advance!
Simple solution: get more people! I have had the benefit of having a friend who managed an airport at one of America’s larger cities. I toured the airport on a couple of occasions with him and was amazed at the sophistication of the baggage claim process. I’m not so amazed in Chicago.
My son travels a lot on business. He purchased the privilege of TSA PreCheck that allows you to avoid the normally long lines of security checks. This works well except when it doesn’t work at all! My son noted that on a few more recent occasions, the airport decided not to open those lanes.
Another travel adventure.
His second airline adventure came when flying a “no frills airline.” He needed more space so he arranged for a second seat. He’s a big man and wanted room to work comfortably. A gate attendant knew of his second seat and embarrassed him into yielding it (with no refund) to a passenger on their overbooked airline. Smiling cooly she asked, “Do you really need that seat?” I don’t know, do you really need to overbook your airline?
And here’s one for you. Why in the world of amazing Bose speakers do we have airline on-board instructions that can’t be heard or understood? It happened to us on recent flights to Israel. The safety instructions could not be heard because the system kept breaking up! During the flight, the captain came on the overhead speakers and was indiscernible.
Am I the only one thinking we need some air travel “miracle makeovers”? I don’t think so. Wired magazine recently popped out a story titled, “Here’s What Makes Flying Suck and How Designers Would Fix It.” That gets to the point!
Some of them were borderline humorous. One designer would like moon roofs built in to have a cabin flooded with daylight or to watch the evening constellations. Another offered he would trade watching movies to have a “quiet place” in the airplane for like, well, meditation.
More to my preferences was a designer from Ustwo (a digital product studio), Avalon Hu. He observed that tray tables rarely get adequately cleaned between stopovers. He suggests detachable tray tables that can be interchanged quickly. You could then dispose of the dirty ones or send them to be cleaned. (Or how about a warm disinfectant towel before we depart?)
Others would design an armrest that offered a pop up vertical divider for more privacy… and to keep the sleeping passenger next to you from putting their head on your shoulder. Another suggests personalizing when flyers can eat or sleep on longer flights.
But Jeff Salazar’s overall observation rang truest with me. Jeff is the VP of design at Lunar, now a part of McKinsey. He writes,
“Iconic companies like Disney and Apple have dedicated their organizations to expertly crafting and weaving together the many micro-experiences of the physicality of space into truly magical moments. They anticipate our needs, from the trivial to the nuanced and complex. These brands simultaneously streamline and enhance our relationship to space and experience. It’s the most mundane of experiences that deserve the delight of design.”
You got it, Jeff.
To the passenger side, Jesus of Nazareth was not a burdened down traveler. We often are. Maybe we should heed the advice He gave in sending out His disciples. To them,
“He said, ‘Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment. And no luxury inns—get a modest place and be content there until you leave. If you’re not welcomed, leave town. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and move on.’”
– (Luke 9:2-5, MSG)
Travel light. Show hospitality. Be a witness.
Even passengers could use a miracle makeover.
Originally posted on The Way We Work.