Friday, December 5, 2008

Ideas for the Airline Industry

I’ve done a lot of flying in the past few months which has got me thinking about ways that the airlines could improve. Some of the things that I’ve come up with might not be immediately implementable, but they could be incorporated into the appropriate plans.

The one thing that many passengers would enjoy the most is a major decrease in all the waiting around time. On a recent trip, a colleague of mine drove (from a different city) and I flew, but the total travel time was about the same, once you factor in all the “waiting time”. I remember reading that for a lot of shorter point to point travel that business travelers were starting to use other forms of travel for this very reason. The airlines might not have a whole lot of control over speeding up the security checkpoints but there are factors that they could work on.

More room! Even before the Southwest/Ryan Air business models were put into place, seats have been crammed into planes to fit the maximum number of people on flights. There is not elbow room, and two people can’t stand side by side in the aisles, and forget about trying to walk by the food cart if you’re going to and from the bathroom. It would be nice to have enough room to be able to look at a real newspaper without thinking that you’re bothering the passenger next to you. I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve been kicked in the back of my seat because the person behind me shifted their legs. More room would make us feel less like cattle.

Get ride of the food cart and set up a few bar locations instead. The aisle ways wouldn’t be as blocked and people could get a drink or something to eat more when the wanted it. It doesn’t seem that as many warm meals are being served, most of the time they weren’t really that great anyways. Cold items could be kept at these bars, maybe even some nice healthy snacks.

Make sure that the flight crews and airline personnel realize where there paychecks are coming from. It doesn’t really seem to matter which airline you fly with, but so many people that you run into seem to think that passenger is a nuisance or a headache, sometimes they are, but without passengers, the airlines would be out of business. CEOs and other airline management need to fly economy or coach from time to time and try to experience flights from their customers’ point of view.

Develop and use alternative fuels with planes. If the planes could get away from the jet fuel that they use now and make use of more environmentally friendly alternative fuel sources, they could make a huge impact on the environment. Also maybe they could work out longer term contracts for the price that they pay for their alternative fuel so that they would see so many spikes in their fuel charges.

There isn’t enough room for carry-on luggage. On my last flight, even though I was at the airport way before scheduled departure, when I did finally board the plane, I found that all the space in the bin over my seat was full and I had to store my carryon and coat several seats behind me. This idea relates to the more room item listed above, because how many times have you wanted to get to your seat and had to wait from someone doing something with their luggage or you want put your luggage away and people keep coming by.

Make use of more entrances and exits. When the plane lands, there is a bottleneck of people wanting to get out. If you’re sitting in the middle or window seats, you’re not able to get to your luggage till some of the crowd leaves and the people in the aisles are stuck waiting for people to move. Using more exits on the plane could help with this congestion. Of course making the aisle wider would help a lot!

Be innovative. Why do airplane seats have to be in rows all facing the same direction? I was on a Southwest flight years ago and there were rows but they faced each other, which encouraged communication between passengers (at least I thought so). Why not create areas on the plane where there could be lounges and you could sit and talk with colleagues, friends, family, or other passengers that you wanted to talk to. Maybe, carryons could be stored like we did our books in our high school lockers, lets face it, one of the main reasons that people have carryons is because what they’ve brought onboard is fragile and likely to get broken with the rest of the luggage, they plan to use during the flight, or they’re afraid that it might get lost and they might be without it for a while (maybe forever) if it gets lost. Several years ago I few off to a wedding that I was taking part in and my main suitcase was “misplaced”, I did manage to get it back in time but I was worried about having to buy some of the essentials during all the hustle and bustle of the pre-wedding activities. Every airline carries loads and loads of passengers for at least 30 minutes (often longer durations), given all the social media that we have today, it would seem that there many potential relationships there that could be built and of course there might be a dollar or two in there somewhere.

You might have heard about the Boeing Dreamliner or the Airbus A380. Both of these aircraft are a departure from previous generations of airplanes. I’ve seen that both companies have played around with seating arrangements, better fuel economy, and a variety of goodies.

Here is a video that I found on YouTube that shows the interior of an Airbus A380 used by Singapore Airlines.

Here are some other interesting links about the two aircraft…

How Airbus A380 works

A nice history of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Wikipedia

A running history of the Dreamliner

A Boeing page about the Dreamliner variants and some specs

Both Boeing and Airbus have run into a lot of problems developing both planes, the latest being our current economic climate (and you can read about some of these "challenges" in the links above). I do hope that the airline industry, as well as all the manufacturers will see the bigger picture and invest in the future and a better tomorrow. These are just some of my ideas for the airlines. I’d love to hear yours. Feel free to comment and please pass long this article.

Photo credits: The first picture is "CB009686: passenger jet landing" courtesy of flysky. The second picture is "On a plane" courtesy of juanpi_2

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