Tuesday, March 01, 2005

More Thoughts on Better Air Travel

Continuing with yesterday's theme of improving the flight experience, here are a couple more changes I'd like to see:

1) Put Fewer People on the Plane.

I've been on flights where so many people have squeezed on board I expected the crew to spray us all down with WD-40 so we could get off again. The tiny space provided to the economy class passenger suggests the airline believes only people under 5 feet tall should fly.

One reason people who are disgruntled with airline travel hate it so much is the sheer discomfort of being unable to move throughout the flight. The bile rises at paying so much for such a cramped space. Open up some room and the airlines would see more and happier customers.

2) Stop Allowing Vendors to Gouge Customers the Airlines Have left Stranded.

While stuck in the Greensboro airport this week, I paid $8 for a McDonald's quality chicken sandwich and fries. A 20 ounce Coke set me back two bucks. Other prices I noticed were also outrageous, 99 cents for a bag of M&M's, or a packet of Pop-Tarts.

I thought I could avoid getting fleeced by finding a McDonald's at the Philadelphia airport and ordering from their famous dollar menu. I found the McD's. Guess what? No dollar menu.

Airports love filling their food courts with extortionate, fake restaurants. In Greensboro there was something called "Burger Depot," that evidently took its name from the fact its burgers cost as much as a train ticket across Europe. Instead of filling the food courts in airports with sham restaurants run by an invisible corporation, bring in familiar establishments to compete with each other. The reason McD's doesn't have a dollar menu at the airport is because there's no Wendy's, no Burger King right next door.

I don't know what it would take to create a more competive arrangement, but I do know lower concession prices would go a long way toward reducing the rage of consumers locked into a several hour wait by airline incompetence.

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