Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Thoughts on airlines and the flying experience

Yesterday I came back from a trip to the west coast, flying two segments each way. I accumulated some observations and thoughts.

Passengers

  1. When the seatbelt indicator turns off, half the people on the plane immediately unbuckle theirs even though they can't get up for a while longer -- as if the seatbelt is so unbearable that they can't stand it even for a second longer than necessary.
  2. When the cabin door opens, most everyone with an aisle seat immediately stands (nay, jumps!) up, like they have someplace to be five minutes ago. Those with luggage quickly begin collecting it. Those without luggage simply stand with a purpose, intensely staring ahead. Then it takes another five minutes before the crew actually allows people to start walking out.
  3. While waiting for bags, people want to stand as close to the baggage carousel as possible, even when there is simply not enough space for everyone to fit -- and when it's just as well to stand at a distance, give everyone room, and walk up just to collect your bag.
Don't smoke. But if do, here's an ashtray.

Annoyances about Airlines

  1.  Airlines want to charge for checked baggage. But they also realize that people will start carrying more and more stuff onboard and there simply isn't enough room. So they allow you to check baggage at the gate, just before stepping onto the plane. It's free. And when you disembark, you just pick it up rather than walk to the baggage carousel. So why would anyone check baggage?
  2. Airlines say they are all about safety, but they couldn't care less who sits in the exit rows. Flight attendants speak their schpiel about "if you cannot or are unwilling to perform exit row duties, please let us know," but don't actually care who's in the exit row. A few years ago my mom and dad happened to be in the exit row. The flight attendant leaned over to my mom and asked her if she's willing to assist if needed. My mom did not understand the question, gave the flight attendant a dirty look ("I don't know you, lady, so go away"), and turned away. The flight attendant seemed to be satisfied with that.
  3. Some planes offer a "soothing sounds" music channel, inviting you to relax, close your eyes, and fall asleep to chirping birds and ocean waves. Great. Except that every music channel is interrupted when the flight crew decides to say something important like "The captain has turned off the seatbelt indicator." Good luck sleeping through an annoying announcement every five minutes.

 Suggestions for Airlines

  1. Create an airport employee whose job it is to board the aircraft and stash passengers' baggage into overhead bins, Tetris-style. Once stashed, the employee leaves for another plane. That'll speed up boarding, reduce stress, and allow more baggage in the overhead bins.
  2. Restrict exit rows to people truly able and willing to be useful in an emergency. Have an brief online training class, which registers you with the airline as "having passed exit row preparedness training."
  3. Keep announcements brief and relevant. I don't care about the visibility and wind speed is at my destination city, the names of pilots, that the captain has turned off the seatbelt sign, that flight attendants should prepare for cross-check or takeoff (surely they have enough situational awareness to know this!), and especially that you wish to extend a special thanks to the United Premier Rewards members who are earning valuable points on this and other flights.
  4. The "no smoking" indicator needs to be replaced by "no electronics" indicator. Smoking on aircraft hasn't been allowed for the last hundred years. But flight crew always bother to tell us when electronics are and aren't allowed. Just turn on the light. Better yet, allow electronics.