Friday, November 26, 2010

My Airline Christmas List

There has been much ado about the full-body scanners found at many major airports and the invasion of our personal body space for the sake of safety and security. I can see the hoopla that this can create, but a little x-ray peep of my hidings and/or a pat down is tolerable for me when there are so many other things airport related I'd like to see changed. I'm not a road warrior, but I travel frequently, and just returned from a business trip to Orlando last week and made some observations. None of which were me peeping into another person's body scan. For the record, none of the airports I traveled through had these contraptions installed. If I could have five wishes from the Airport Santa, here is what I'd love to see...

1. No charge for checked bags on any airline - Southwest is the only airline that still allows for free checked bags. Other airlines allow preferred club members to let their bags fly free, but for the common traveler, checking a bag is an additional cost. What doesn't make sense is this just forces some people to haul their larger than life luggage on the plane to stuff into the overhead compartment. After they push and tug and realize it won't fit, the nice flight attendant has to tag it anyway and a poor, overworked airline employee has to stow it with the elite bags that paid to ride in cargo. A lot of hassle that could be saved by letting the first bag fly free.

2. Security line for families - When you enter the TSA security lines, you have choices..."Expert Traveler"..."Casual Traveler"..."Wheelchair Assistance." There should be a line for "Traveling Families." I feel so bad for families with small children who have to lug car seats, strollers and other toddler paraphernalia through security. On top of that, the older little ones have to take off their shoes, put their backpacks on the conveyor belt for scanning...all quite daunting for a little one. This special line could provide assistance to families helping the process roll smoother. Especially if a Mom or Dad is traveling solo. I've seen parents traveling with two or three children by themselves and think "Man, how'd you get through security and get to the gate in one piece?" When I was that small, I could stroll all the way to the gate to see my Dad off on a business trip with no security to hinder me. Times have changed, but we can make it easier for families.

3. Load planes in zones that relate to what type of seat you have, not by your row - All airlines with assigned seating load by zones. Typically the farther back in the plane you are, the quicker you get to load the plane (unless you are first class, of course). This seems to make sense, but practically, it falls a bit short. When loading by zones, the first zone should be all window seats, then zone two all middle seats and the final zone all aisle seats. I always request a window seat, and I inevitably have to make someone get up and move so I can be seated. This could be avoided with my suggestion on zone seating. Plus make loading a plane much quicker. You'd think the whiz bang folks that direct air traffic could pass that logistical tidbit along.

4. A nice little cheat sheet when my boarding pass is scanned - When I board the plane and scan my boarding pass, I'd love for a little paper to pop out that will tell me what gate this plane will de-board at the arriving airport and, if I have a connecting flight, the departing gate for that flight. When you have a tight connection, it would be great to know if I've got 3 concourses to race through when we land or whether my gate is two gates down. I realize those things change from time to time, but with the technology we have in place, it should be really simple to connect all my information from that boarding pass and airports I'm traveling through. I do one search on Google for a product and Google Ads pop up for that product everywhere I go online thereafter. Maybe Google can help airports work out that tracking ability.

5. A mini bottle of water for everybody - I realize in first class, you can get a bottle of water before the plane is even loaded. But, in the interest of good health and keeping your flight participants hydrated, giving everyone a small bottle of water as they enter the plane would be fabulous. Of course, the normal beverage service would still apply (we travelers are thirsty!) and I'd still want my three gulps of diet coke and my six peanuts.

Happy traveling during the holidays! And be sure to tell the Airport Santa what you want for Christmas this year.

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