Monday, February 28, 2005

How to Improve Air Travel #1

If you haven't heard the earlier audio post you don't know about my day yesterday. It was awful.

I spent 14 hours trying to get from Greensboro, North Carolina back to New Hampshire. Continental cancelled my first flight. They finally re-routed me onto an US Airways flight seven hours later. When I arrived in Philadelphia to change planes, I found my second flight was delayed causing me to have another five hour wait. My total flight time was one hour and forty minutes.

The experience provided me time to consider how the aviation industry could improve its service. Here are the first couple:

1)Guarantee flight times.

I'm not sure how this can be done because I don't know enough about how airports work. Nevertheless, I am certain the culture that figured out how to get a ten ton machine in the air in the first place can, if it puts its mind to it, figure out how to get them on and off the ground at specified times.

There will be times when, because of weather or mechanical failure, timing will be off. People will have to wait. When these inevitable circumstances arise, airlines would do well to treat offer their customers more than an insincere apology and a coupon for $5 off the inflated meal prices all the airport vendors charge.

2)Make airports smaller.

Or at least make them seem so. Along with creating smooth schedules airlines should bring all their flights in at one place. No more 2 mile sprints to the crowded, damp bus that chugs along and dumps you at the appropriate terminal.

Airports composed of several smaller buildings, rather than one huge one, would take a lot of the disorientation out of the customer's experience.

In the Philly airport, electric carts whizzed in the halls. Their drivers held little bells they rang to let people traveling to their gates on foot know to move it. Any airport where pedestrians barely avoid being run-down by motorized vehicles carrying those who can not or will not walk is just too big.

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