Tips & Advice / Travel

What Airlines Really Need to Change

Somewhere over the south.

Somewhere over the south.

Flying should be a luxurious part of anyone’s travel.

I didn’t always think this. The first time I realized it was when I flew from NYC to Las Vegas for a birthdaycation. If I’d traveled with my usual mindset at the time, I would’ve said to myself, “Okay, T, just get through this flight and then commence vacation!” But as I sat down on the plane, something clicked, and I decided to view my 4ish hour flight as part of the vacation itself. I spent some money on drinks, got a cheese plate (not joking), and felt like a queen.

Years ago, I read an article written by a flight attendant that stuck with me, for whatever reason. Unfortunately I can’t locate it online anywhere, but the gist of it was: people need to stop complaining about airlines if they’re only ever looking for the cheapest seats available. I understand where that’s coming from. When booking a flight, it’s safe to say the majority of folks hop on Travelocity or Expedia and book whatever is least expensive. Then those same people complain about the lack of legroom or the snacks available on board. If it’s so important and valuable to you, pay a little more for those things. Right?

What the article failed to take into account is that $300 is a lot of money no matter what, and unfortunately that is sometimes the most economic option to get from point A to point B. Everyone should have equal opportunity to travel, but money is a huge hurdle! We’re not a bunch of cheapskates just trying to save a buck when we fly–chances are, we spent half of our week’s pay (or more) on a flight and we wasted way too much brain space on how to get all our liquids down to 3-ounce bottles. So when airlines seem to be cutting out the things that make flying just a little nicer (like being able to check a bag for free, yo) and fares remain the same, or even spike, it can be frustrating.

Now, I love traveling. I love flying on planes. I’ll continue to do so for the rest of my life, and no, I don’t think it’s that awful sometimes. But sometimes it is.

So, with what I’m about to write, I’m not at all discounting or insulting the jobs of those who work in airports and airlines. To all the pilots and flight attendants that have worked the flights I’ve flown, (most of) you were amazing and I’m sure your job is even harder than I’m imagining. I have no doubt that there are logical reasons behind what I’m complaining about. And I’m sure some of my suggestions aren’t going to fly (heh heh) with the FAA, but whatever. The truth is, though, that sometimes flying can suck.

What Airlines Really Need to Change:

* Show me a breakdown of what my money goes toward.

There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to flying. There’s the overall maintenance to keep the plane in good condition, there’s the food and drink needed on board, there’s (obviously) paying the pilots, flight attendants, and other employees. There’s the goddamn fuel! But I’ve sat down with people before and been like, where does my money go?

I’m not saying that prices are unreasonable (although they kind of are sometimes, see below), but all I know is I’m paying for a flight. What percentage goes to putting gas in the plane, or doing a mandatory check, or the pay for employees? I just want to know. It’s a lot of money, so I’d like to be an educated consumer. The same way that people want to know what’s in their food, and so the nutrition facts table was born. If they don’t like what they see, then they don’t buy. I’d like a little more knowledge about this investment in my travel experience.

I did find this, but I’m skeptical. I would like to know which of these pieces of pie got renamed from “For the CEO.”

* Don’t sell more seats than are available.

Like, just don’t. Delta, I’m talking to you.

Okay, I don’t want to be negative, but this is gonna get ugly. Seriously, I think every time I’ve booked a Delta flight, I get to the gate and they’re on the intercom asking someone to relinquish their seat. No one can board until someone volunteers and is rewarded with a $100 flight voucher or something.

This infuriates me. I didn’t buy a certain product that is back-ordered and you can send to me once it’s ready. I purchased a ticket for a flight at a particular time, likely because the time was convenient. If you don’t get me on the flight for that time, then you haven’t given me in exchange for what I gave you a shitload of money. That’s bad business.

If you’re going to hold us all hostage at the gate until someone “volunteers,” then that person should not only have your undying devotion, and not only be refunded for the flight that he/she didn’t receive, but also get to the final destination free of charge. If it weren’t for that one soul giving up a seat, you would have had to give everyone a refund. Hear that? NO ONE WOULD HAVE FLOWN ANYWHERE AND EVERYONE WOULD HAVE HATED YOU.

Note: If this sounds unreasonable, then my simple solution is don’t oversell the flight. Solved.

* Just assign me a seat.

Now, I do love flying Southwest, and it’s actually one of my most frequented airlines. But I really dislike this whole choose-your-own-seat deal. I feel like a new kid in high school walking into the cafeteria for the first time. It’s even worse when you think you’re walking up to an open window seat and instead there’s a short young person (i.e., a child) sitting there. I also can’t see how this is time-effective, at all. You’ve got a bunch of people bumbling around in a metal tube deciding on which seat they want to park it. Giving people choices is great, but choosing between a couple hundred seats would be overwhelming to anyone.

In the same vein, I want none of this checking in early bullshit to get a better seat. None of this paying to check in even earlier bullshit to be in the front of the line to choose my own seat. Again, this feels like the airline is tricking me into thinking I have options.

Look, I’m fine choosing my own seat when I book the flight because 24 hours prior to a trip I’m thinking about other things than checking in for my flight. I’m thinking about packing, about eating, about how I’m getting to the airport, about who’s picking me up, about who’s watching my cat, about the weather, about laundry, about goodbyes, about hellos, etc etc etc. So, please, just let there be a seat that is mine and mine alone.

* Check at least one bag–just one!–without charging me.

There’s limited space and people are tubby so we have to watch weight. Cool, I get it. Sure, the cost of checking a bag has definitely encouraged me to pack lighter so that I can manage only with carry-ons. It’s possible to travel for lengths at a time and have no need to check a bag. Still, it’s one of those luxuries that makes you feel like a total baller. Sometimes it’s just nice to give the check-in agent your bag and prance off to the security gate without a care in the world! Sometimes, I love not spending my first few minutes on the plane looking for overhead space, trying to cram a small suitcase up there, sweating like crazy, and then having the flight attendant grab my bag to check it anyway (with quite a bit of attitude, might I add). Yes, that’s happened. If it hasn’t happened to you, you’ve definitely seen it happen.

Also, can we just acknowledge that I’m already regulated on the size and amount of liquids I’m allowed on board. What am I supposed to do when I receive a lovely bottle of tequila from my brother for Christmas? What if my dad wants me to share some of his home-brewed cider with my friends in San Francisco? I’m forced to check a bag in these cases. Don’t also force me to pay for it.

* Airports should sell food at reasonable prices.

Meaning, don’t charge me $12 for a panini. I don’t think I’d pay that much for a panini ever. If I did, it’d have to be a panini that comes with a side of a religious experience.

People continue to buy food at airports because they literally don’t have a choice. It’s either eat or DIE. Okay, that’s dramatic, but I do get a pretty gnarly headache if I fail to eat. All I’m really asking here is don’t gouge prices. I’m one of those people that packs food with me because it just pisses me off so much to buy a shitty Caprese sandwich at a questionable airport deli.

(Also, please put an In-N-Out in every airport ever. I’ll love you forever, k thnx.)

* Board from the rear of the plane to front.

I just don’t understand why this doesn’t happen. As people who’ve boarded are getting situated in the back of the plane, more people can board and get situated in the middle part of the plane, and then the front. Simple.

But it feels like I board a plane and then bam, I stop at every other row for someone to set some stuff down, load their carry-on in the overhead bin, and ask for the aisle seat person to stand up so they can scoot in. This is why the boarding process takes so ding dang long, people.

This drives me crazy because I just want to sit down with the airlines and be like, “Hey, y’know we should try this mebbe?” I feel like it’s literally never crossed their minds. Has it crossed your mind? It crosses mine all the time, please just tell me I’m not alone!!!!

* Seat babies together.

Babies cry, they poop, they puke, etc etc etc. I’m not into it. No one is. Not even their parents, really. And sure, babies are gonna cry on flights, ain’t nothing you can do about it. But it makes me really uncomfortable to have an infant stare at me for an ENTIRE FLIGHT and I’m expected to coo and talk to it.

However, if people insist on traveling with their little chitlins, then let’s make a conscious effort somehow to get them seated together.  Babies like other babies. It’d be like a fun little baby party in that part of the plane. They could all stare at each other and stuff and do baby things together.

Okay, I do not have a baby and don’t 100% understand the logistics. In all seriousness, though, why aren’t more babies seated together?  Nothing would occupy a tiny human more than another similar but different tiny human. It would be cute, the parents would be able to bond, and then other folks who would prefer to not be by baby city could have a seat away from there. Win-win-win.

* Have those little headrests that poke out on the sides so you won’t accidentally sleep on someone.

You know what I’m talking about? The ones that you can bend the edges forward and then have like this little headrest box for your noggin.

I’ve only ever seen this on flights to Europe, but I love them. If I haven’t stayed up the entire night before a trip packing, then constant movement and a soft hum of sound put me to sleep like nobody’s business. I have accidentally slept on so many strangers’ shoulders, and probably had some drool action going on, too. Also, let’s just talk about the poor soul sitting in the middle seat. 😦 So sad. They have nothing to lean on mid-snooze. Let’s do it for them.

* Offer less expensive or (gasp!) free internet.

If even 4 people buy internet on a Virgin America flight, that’s far more money than my roommates and I pay for interwebz for the month in our pad. If you still feel the need to charge, then make it a small, nominal fee of a few bucks for the day. It’s being offered no matter what, so it’s there. It’d be nice not to pay an Andrew Jackson to use it.

Of course, if it’s cheaper, more people will take advantage of the internet. I’m not techie person, but I think this means it will be slower. I’m willing to make that sacrifice. Anything’s better than dial-up, and I had that for years living in the boondocks of South Carolina. I’ll deal. Of course, I mentioned I’m not a techie person so the internet may not care how many people use it and will still go just as fast if only one person used it. In which case, this needs to happen.

* Rethink last-minute flight prices.

If I’m taking a seat that would otherwise be empty, you’re making a profit no matter what. So instead of increasing fares for flights as the departure approaches, why don’t prices go down? Even if it’s just 2.5-3 hours before take-off, flights will get filled as opposed to, well, not. The plane’s going anyway, might as well squeeze in as many people as possible!

I can see benefits in at least three ways: 1) Last-minute trips can be affordable. Buy the flight, pack, and get to the airport in 2 hours or less! 2) Bereavement fares will be reasonable. Enough said. 3) Low-traffic destinations will get more visitors. There are lots of places I might just not ever visit because they’re too ding dang pricy and am planning on saving funds for other trips.

No joke, I once flew from New York to Charlotte on a huge plane (like 3 seats each side) with maybe 6 other people. It was a weekday at an off-peak time, I suppose. Airline, just suck up your pride and sell those tickets for crazy cheap! Let people bid on them and pay what they think the seats are worth. Whatever it is, it’s better than a near-empty plane.

* Reward me for frequent flying without requiring me to sign up for some insider’s club.

If every airline had a program like Southwest, I guarantee we’d all be happier.

With them, I don’t have a frequent flyer card, I just have an account online. Simply because I’ve done a fair share of flying on Southwest I’ve earned enough points to take care of a flight to LA. Eventually I’d love to have a credit card with a particular airline that rewards me with points and free flights and such, but for now, this is the next best thing.

It’s no waste and easy enough to keep track of (it’s electronic, y’all), and it’s incentive to fly with the same airline. I’m literally such a happy gal when I see the frequent flyer points number increase.

Ah, It’s the little things. 🙂

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