Everyone has been on some flight — be it with American Airlines, United, Southwest, or any other airline — in which they curse the day they ever resort to flying said airline again. As the number of frustrations grows, you may begin to count the dozens of ways the airline could be run more efficiently. It should be simple, addressing a few key concerns in order to provide a more pleasant traveling experience. Unfortunately, most airlines turn a deaf ear on such grievances.
Boarding is frustrating no matter how you spin it. Regardless of how airlines call out passengers for boarding, everyone crowds around the counter the minute the boarding process has been announced. Loading from the front of the airplane to the back is incredibly inefficient, yet most airlines continue to function this way. It might make sense from an elite status standpoint — if you paid to sit in First Class, I suppose you should be able to board and deplane before the “lesser” — but when it comes to the main cabin, there’s no reason to board this way. By the time those sitting in the back are able to board, it takes far longer to reach the back of the cabin considering all of the elbows they have to bump into along the way.
Airlines would cut down on a lot of friction between passengers if they had a flight attendant monitoring the way that overhead bins are selfishly sequestered by passengers sitting in the nether parts of planes. Often, in the disorganized process of loading, passengers will store their belongings in whatever overhead bin they see first in the front or middle of the coach section. This is no problem for them, as they can merely remove it on their way out. However, if they sit farther back in the plane, they’re robbing the overhead bin from its rightful passengers who sit closer to the front. Once the overhead bins toward the front of the cabin have been taken, passengers sitting in that area without room for their bags are forced to store them in the back. When the plane reaches its destination, these passengers will have to wait for the entire plane to unload so they can access their bags that were unfairly distributed to the opposite end of the plane.
While nothing is worse than a crowded, hot plane, most airlines keep their cabins at what must be a steady 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The plane is cold enough to preserve its passengers in the case of an untimely plane crash, reaching levels optimum for cryogenic freezing. Unless you dress for a wintery climate, this produces an unpleasant traveling experience that simply can’t be remedied by the feeble, threadbare blankets they distribute on airplanes. What’s worse, ever since airline prices were raised, blankets became both scarce and expensive. They might keep five on hand for the entire plane and charge a pretty penny to the highest bidder, who will likely be sitting in First Class. Coach members can suffer in the frigid back of the plane where they belong.
Many of you have probably done the unthinkable — keeping your iPod on secretly during takeoff and landing — with no negative consequences. Strictly speaking, there is no real proof that electronic devices interfere with the plane’s workings. There have been incidents that pilots believe may have been linked to electronic devices, but this is pure guesswork, and people continue to feign shutting off their iPads, Blackberries, and Androids all the time prior to the flight. It is time that airlines put forth a serious effort to debunk this study and start facing the truth that people will (and have been) using their electronics throughout their flights the whole time.
Airplane food is notoriously bad. Even in first class, you’ll likely wind up with a bland, microwaved chicken cutlet in a mysterious sauce and a sparse side of rubbery green beans. Nowadays, airlines charge astronomical fees for the food, even though it’s some of the worst fare imaginable. Airlines could do right by their loyal flyers by improving the quality of the food. It’s not as if we need gourmet charcuterie trays and grass-fed beef, but it would be nice to eat something that doesn’t have the distinct consistency and flavor of a car tire.
Very few airlines remain in the lexicon of those that do not charge for luggage. Gone are the days of checking multiple bags for free; in fact, there’s almost always a price for checking even a single bag on your trip, which simply contributes to the problem of monopolizing the overhead bins with hefty carry-ons. Some airlines charge as many as $50 for a single bag. And you better not pack overzealously, as overweight bags will also accrue additional fees. While it may be practical for some to travel with a mere carry-on, most of the civilized world requires a certain amount of liquids while they travel, on which the TSA has also placed strict regulations.
Traveling is stressful enough even when everything runs smoothly, but delays can turn an otherwise simply annoying situation into a bit of a nightmare. A delay can mean missing your layover and having to shack up at a nearby hotel for the night. It can also mean cutting your vacation down by an entire day. If your flight is seriously delayed after you arrive at the airport, you may have to spend several hours sitting in the uncomfortable airport seating, waiting for your plane to arrive. It’s frustrating and can make it difficult for those meeting you at your destination as well. You may have to divert from the path by landing somewhere and waiting out bad weather, which can make you feel helpless and idle. Likewise, some airlines do a poor job of keeping their clients informed of delays, and when it comes to travel plans, the element of surprise is not particularly welcomed.
Occasionally, you’ll wind up on a flight dominated by bossy, power-hungry flight attendants who seem to have nothing more on their agenda than to make your travel experience miserable. Such flight attendants will gate check your carry-ons, demanding that they are too large for the overhead bin when they clearly fit and bark at you to sit down in your seat when you get up to go to the bathroom mid-flight. Dave Koss wrote an article for the Consumerist about one American Airlines stewardess who gave a passenger a written warning from the pilot when he requested a cup of orange juice. After 9/11, the traveling experience inarguably worsened, and it seems that airline personnel were instructed to behave like petty tyrants to reflect the dire situation.