Gini Dietrich

What Not to Do: Eight Lessons from Airports

By: Gini Dietrich | January 31, 2013 | 

As many of you know, I spent a good deal of time on the road last year. Sixty-three trips, to be exact, but who’s counting?

During that time, I had the grand opportunity to get to know the way our government runs airports intimately well.

How should I say this? It, well, sucks.

From people standing around at security while hordes of people wait in line to not being able to read your tablet in airplane mode during takeoff and landing, it’s a huge mess.

Of course, the more you travel, the easier it is to spot the loopholes and soon you’ve weaseled your way through the airport without so much as a second glance.

I always joke that if a terrorist really wanted to take down another plane, all he’d have to do is achieve status with an airline, buy Global Entry, and spend time in airports to find the loopholes. It’d be expensive and take some significant time, but it’d work.

It’s for this very reason, Seth Godin’sEleven Things Organizations Can Learn from Airports” spoke to me.

From his headline, I thought he knew something I didn’t. I read it and realized we completely and wholeheartedly agree. It’s a blog post about the things organizations should not do.

Following is my take on his list:

  1. No one is in charge. I mentioned earlier this week I’m writing the “Sex Sells” chapter of Spin Sucks right now. In it, I show lots of good (and bad) case studies of really good storytelling. One of the things that each good story has is a protagonist…a hero…someone you want to believe in. As it turns out, airports do not have a protagonist. There is no one there you want to believe in. If anything, they’re full of antagonists.
  2. Defend the turf. Have you ever asked an airport employee to help you with something? I have and I’ve never gotten an answer from that person. Instead they blame one another or send you to another department or person. No one wants to help. No one wants to embrace the problem. They just point fingers and duck.
  3. The food sucks. I’m a vegetarian, I’m very active (exercise-wise), and I don’t eat junk food. Eating in an airport is a horrid experience….unless you want a beer, soggy fries, and a burger that’s three days old. O’Hare, of late, has tried to heighten the food experience by adding a Rick Bayless restaurant. Every time I walk past it, I think, “Boy I’d love to try that.” But the food is such you can’t eat and walk or eat while standing up and they have only six chairs at a bar so I always pass on it.
  4. Lack of customer experience. The airlines assume we all want to save money and are willing to sacrifice on convenience, anxiety, and time. WRONG! If I didn’t have status, I’d be willing to pay for it so I could get through the fast security lines and get on and off the plane first. But they never ask. They just assume.
  5. Ruled by superstition. See my joke above about terrorists. If they come through an airport, they’re not going to have bomb-making materials in their shoes or in their full-sized shampoo bottle. Perhaps the theater of removing all of our clothes and taking apart our luggage is for our benefit, not theirs.
  6. No going the extra mile. Last week I was in the Ft. Lauderdale airport. I hate the Ft. Lauderdale airport. There is no Starbucks. There is only one restaurant. And, if you’re lucky, you can find an outlet behind the counter. But guess what? If there is a flight going out from that gate, they won’t let you use that outlet. Nor will they let you use an extension cord so you’re not actually behind the counter. That whole, “Helping the customer” thing doesn’t even occur to them.
  7. Surprise! I hate surprises of all kinds. I don’t even like good surprises. It’s probably because I like to be in control. But airports don’t have good surprises. They have only bad ones: Canceled flights, strip searches, changed gates, seat changes…it’s all bad. Very, very bad.
  8. No fun. Lots of people complain about LAX, but I don’t mind it. I fly American and they have their own little security entrance that no one else can use. For about two years, every time I went through LAX, I was met with a young man who was excited and delighted to be at work. He would look at your ID and greet you by name. He’d talk to you if you were waiting for people to get through the line. He was fun to have around. After a few trips, he began to recognize me and we’d chat like old friends. Two trips ago, he wasn’t there. I inquired about him. He’d been fired. Why? He “delayed passengers,” which I took as, “He was having too much fun with passengers.” Now that security line is as boring as the rest.

I shortened Seth’s list a bit, but the point is there is a lot you can learn from airports – and not just in the U.S.; this is a global problem – about what not to do in business.

What would you add to this list?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • belllindsay

    Bang. ON! As you know I abhor travelling (which is why I rarely do it!), and it’s mainly for many of the reason’s you have listed above. I’m a control freak also. I also don’t like to be made to feel like I’m guilty until proven innocent, which is how airports operate in the post 9/11 world. Would it kill a customs officer to actually smile?
    Speaking of outlets and wifi and such – when I was at Chicago’s Midland airport in December waiting to fly back to Toronto, I was early and wanted to use my computer. Oh dear. The only internet they have is password protected. Omigod. Really???
    I asked I don’t know how many people in that airport for details on how to get the password. I was able to find out that I had to BUY the password (which by this point I was prepared to do) but not one single person could tell me where to go to actually make that purchase! They all told me to go here and go there, and not one of the places was correct. I finally gave up, and was left with a very bad taste in my mouth. 
    You want to experience superb service? Toronto’s own Porter Airlines is outta this world. Top to bottom customer service and every perk known to man, including free wifi and outlets under almost every chair! In fact I’m flying with them today. See you later, Gini!

    • @belllindsay The first time I flew through Toronto and hung out in the AIr Canada lounge, I couldn’t believe it. Not only free WiFi and outlets, but cookies and sodas and coffees and teas and other snacks. I wanted to stay there all day. But NOTHING compares to British Airways. When I arrived in their lounge at Heathrow after an overnight flight from Chicago in November, there was so much food out, I felt like I HAD to eat. But those are airline experiences, not airport experiences. And, if I didn’t have status, I’d never get to experience the British AIrways lounge. Which is why I’d be willing to pay for status if I didn’t have it.

      • JodiEchakowitz

        @ginidietrich @belllindsay One of my clients provides technology for the airline industry, and changes are afoot in terms of being able to provide services to customers like those you mention, including paying for faster boarding or access to the airport lounge even if you don’t have status. The airlines do want to personalize their offers for travelers, but te current systems being used don’t allow it. You’d be surprised to know that there are lawsuits related to this so that the industry can move to a model that is more Amazon-like and based on travelers needs and wants. Right now the airline has no idea who you are when you book a ticket so cannot make those offers to you. Blame GDS companies like Sabre, Travelpory and Amadeus for that… Anyway, just thought I would share so that you know what direction things are moving in.

        • @JodiEchakowitz   @belllindsay For me, it’s not so much the airlines because I have status and I love being treated “special.” It’s more about the airports and the government regulations. I mean, really? They say you can’t use your iPad in airplane mode because it might affect the systems? Really? Do you know how often I keep all of my electronics on during takeoff and landing? Every flight.
          Or a flight attendant will tell it’s because they don’t want it flying out of your hands, but that’s a bunch of bull because it weighs less than the Wally Lamb book I just finished reading. What if that had come flying out of my hands? I would have done some damage.
          And the inconsistencies about what you have to take out of your bags when you go through security. Some airports require your bag of toiletries come out while others do not.
          That’s the stuff that drives me insane. Not that, you know, I spend any time thinking about it.

        • belllindsay

          @ginidietrich  @JodiEchakowitz Good point re: the airlines versus airports. Though, when Porter launched, they built their own airport – though I suppose they have to follow the same rulebook. But how hard is it to have free wifi for someone???

        • JodiEchakowitz

          @ginidietrich  @belllindsay I agree! Their rules are stupid – and even more so when they aren’t applied consistently across every airport.
          North American airports could learn a thing or two (in terms of security) from Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. You (unknowingly) go through several layers of security and that’s before you even get inside the terminal.

      • belllindsay

        @ginidietrich I’m not talking lounges. I’m talking just general, every man perks. No matter where you are flying, or how much you paid for a ticket, you get the same perks. How hard is that??

        • @belllindsay Apparently it’s very hard.

        • belllindsay

          @ginidietrich Apparently. *eyeroll*

      • @ginidietrich  @belllindsay My best airport experience was actually in Beijing at the Air China terminal a few years back. We were delayed due to weather and they brought out these giant meals for everyone. I was stunned. Actually all of my best airport/airline services has been when I have traveled abroad. Flying here in the States is awful.

        • @ginidietrich  @belllindsay And actually the BEST is when I’ve been traveling with my kids and they feel the need to do a chemical test on the milk. Really? As if I would fly with small children in order to smuggle some dastardly chemical. Do they have kids?!?!

        • belllindsay

          @katskrieger  @ginidietrich Oh my god. My head would blow off.

  • LauriRottmayer

    LOL! This is so TRUE! The last time I flew in October, I actually saw a gate attendant who was amazing. I wrote to the airlines about her because I had never seen such a thing. Going to make sure David sees this. He flies more than I do and I’m sure he’ll agree!

    • @LauriRottmayer I’m sure he’ll agree, too. It’s really, really, really bad. I sometimes make it a goal to get a TSA agent to laugh. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

      • LauriRottmayer

        @ginidietrich I haven’t even tried for the laugh, just the smile. Yes, it’s a game that helps to get me to the gate. 🙂

  • Gini, I would add: lack of openness and honesty. How many times have you been at the gate waiting for your flight to board and there’s no plane? Everyone knows that your flight can’t possibly be on time, and passengers just want some honesty so they can deal with the travel issues that will inevitably arise. But the airline staff treats the anxious, waiting passengers like children. We’re all big boys and girls. We can deal with bad news. What wecan’t abide is no news or incomplete news. Just f***ing tell me if I need to start planning for an alternate connection, or if I need to find a hotel room. I won’t be happy, but at least I can take charge of my situation.

    • @johnheaney TOTALLY agree! For those of us who travel a lot, we know the warning signs and can begin to make other arrangements while everyone waits for the gate announcement and then rushes the counter to get on a different flight. You’d think it’d be easier for everyone if they managed that process differently.

  • rdopping

    Hilarious! Considering airports are “temporary” spaces I can totally see why it’s so difficult to offer exceptional services to please everyone. Businesses typically don’t have the same breadth of consumer base than an airport does, right? That’s not an excuse but it makes it easy to find fault. 
    I had an awesome experience at Charles De Gaulle but then again I was on vacation. Check this out
    Business travel has a totally different mindset and certainly exposes a different framed of reference. How do you win when people are just trying to get somewhere else other than the airport?

    • @rdopping That was a point Seth made in his blog post about the same topic…it’s hard to create an outstanding customer experience when your customers change by the hour. But why not improve the overall experience, like better (and more healthy) food options? Outlets in places where travelers can reach them? Tables and chairs so you can sit and eat or work or knit? Smiling, happy, and empowered employees? These can all be done and done well without having to focus on seeing the same customers day in and day out.

      • rdopping

        @ginidietrich Certainly. The physical spaces are now being based on revenue generating opportunities and less about customer comfort. That’s what the airport authorizes want. That doesn’t mean better food choices are out of the question.
        In the transportation world airports are a unique beast and a massive revenue generating opportunity so the first priority is always going to trend toward guiding the occupants toward purchasing stuff. Less seats in gates is becoming a reality.

  • @ginidietrich doesn’t like surprises, even the good kind. (mental note)
    I enjoyed this one Gini — I’m not nearly the ‘status’ flyer you are, but all of your points seem extremely valid and “duh, why wouldn’t you do/not do that?” How many times were you strip searched? I ask that for this reason: I’m not an avid flyer, so I’ve never actually seen anyone get strip searched. I have no context for how often it happens.
    Question: if we live in a world of disruption, why hasn’t any airline done it differently? CHANGED to be the exception, not the rule? It seems to me that in the social-sharing age we live in, that is something that would gain notoriety and fast. It sounds, to me anyway, like ‘status’ flyers like you would pay $30 more all-costs-included for that experience. I have to imagine that would trickle down to the not-so-frequent-flyers like myself.
    So I ask the question again: why hasn’t anyone done it differently?

    • @ryancox Strip searched was me being obnoxious. You don’t actually have to strip, but it sure feels like it as invasive as they are.
      It’s not really the airlines that are the problem…there are some good airlines who get it. British Airways is exceptional. But you have to go into their lounge, away from the airport, to get the experience.
      It’s the airports that are the problem.

      • @ginidietrich this might be a stupid question, but who owns the airports? Are they government owned/ran I’m assuming? Or are they private companies?

  • John_Trader1

    Although I am a not a “frequent flyer” I travel enough to agree with your assertions here Gini. I wonder if Southwest airlines can be considered an exception to the crap service we get from almost every other airline? My experience with them has been nothing short of spectacular, they (at least seem to be) honest, forthright and entertaining, which we all need a little more of. Anyway, just wondering if anyone else feels they can be the exception, or just lumped together with the other airlines?
    One thing that I can tell you we will see in the not too distant future is the increased use of biometric identification in airports to help speed up security lines. There are select airports across the country and many in different parts of the world who allow passengers to be expedited through security without having to remove clothing or go through a full body scanner by submitting a biometric ePassport, embedded with a chip that contains all of their identification information, including their fingerprint, iris, or some other form of biometric credential. It is used extensively in other airports outside the US but has met resistance here in the US from privacy advocates and civil liberty proponents who claim it violates individual privacy. Hopefully, tech like this will help ease the pain of waiting for security, and removing clothing or being subjected to a full body search.

    • @John_Trader1 I have that for entry in and out of the U.S. and for expedited travel through security. It works brilliantly through customs (I’m the jerk everyone watches go up to a kiosk, scan my eye and finger, and go into the country while they all stand in line), but TSA still hasn’t figured it out. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. And it’s not in every airport yet. It’s really freaking irritating.

      • John_Trader1

        @ginidietrich You are “special.”

  • Agree with all of this, except I have to say that Newark Liberty has a really wide selection of food. And agree about this not just being the U.S. In fact, the Rome airport makes U.S. airports seem like the pinnacle of efficiency.

    • belllindsay

      @AmyVernon HA! True re: Rome! Though they DO have the train from the airport to DT. Wish we had something similar in Toronto.

      • @belllindsay  @AmyVernon I’m trying to remember the Rome airport. I don’t remember it being painful. You know which airport I hate? Heathrow. HATE. They make you go through security THREE times…even if you’re connecting from a flight. HATE.

        • @ginidietrich  @belllindsay Trust me, Gini, you blocked it out of your memory. And I was just at Heathrow earlier this year and only had to go through security once. Though, on the line for security, I was asked at least 6 times if I had any liquids. Or makeup. Or lip balm. Or liquids. I was hysterically laughing by the time I reached the passport check.

        • @AmyVernon  I would have changed my answer each time.

  • I prefer the group strip search……..
    Fortunately most of my ‘travel’ is local and I don’t have to endure the horrors. My best friend is in sales for the Dornier Corp out of Charlotte and he basically covers the ‘world’ so he travels all the time and he could probably add to this. He hates to travel, it quit being fun and exciting a long time ago.
    I saw him last night in Orlando and this morning at the Orlando airport he had a 2 hour delay on his flight because of the weather/front that just went through. Just another reason to love the experience, huh?

    • @bdorman264 I actually don’t mind delays because it means I can get uninterrupted work done. But if I were traveling for pleasure and were delayed, I’d go ballistic.

  • I have been the recipient of incredible customer service from airline personnel, but it has been the exception not the rule and it has been when an individual was courageous enough to make decisions based on his or her own personal sense of right or wrong, not because they were following airport or governmental policies. As far as what NOT to do in business? I think you’ve listed it above.

    • @allenmireles You also had a horrid experience this past Thanksgiving.

      • @ginidietrich I remember. All too well. And the employees of Spirit Airlines demonstrated the worst customer service I have ever enjoyed, working their way through each one of the eight points you’ve listed with awesome concentration. What was notable to me, was the way they handled my questioning them. They presented me with a document warning me of the consequences of not obeying the rules as if I would be turned over to the authorities upon landing. Someone (a particularly snippy stewardess of limited intelligence) was busy taking the Spirit guidelines and ENFORCING. because she could and that probably represented the high point of the power in her life. Kind of scary, because it was taken waaaay out of proportion. I asked a simple question and she made it seem as if I was threatening someone or something.The point I made earlier was to say that I have experienced some incredible customer service–as an exception–not as the rule. For the most part I consider it good day if the flight is uneventful.

        • @allenmireles I was on a flight working one time and a flight attendant tapped me on the shoulder and told me I was not allowed to use my mouse during flight. Yes, the mouse. On the laptop. I looked at her incredulously and said, “How, on earth, am I supposed to work if I can’t use my mouse?” She shrugged her shoulders and told me if she caught me using it again, she’d have the authorities waiting for me when we landed. I kind of rolled my eyes and just went back to my work. A few minutes later, she brought her fellow flight attendant back with her and had a 300 page manual they use…on page 216 there was a bullet point that said it was up to their discretion if passengers were allowed to use their mouse, if they thought it was interfering with the plane’s systems. I’ve never been so angry.

        • sazbean

          @allenmireles  @ginidietrich We had a horrid experience with Spirit airlines about 6 years ago trying to get home from Disney World.  Long story, short, we ended up renting a car and driving home because it was cheaper than rebooking that they weren’t going to pay for.  I’ll never fly with them again.  I’ll pay more for another airline just to avoid them.
          The electronics issue is so dumb.  I understand wanting people to pay more attention during takeoff and landing, but no one does that anyway — if you can’t turn on your ipad, you usually have brought something else to keep your attention.
          I wish there was more thinking and less bullying at airports.

  • _AlexisAbel

    I hear that Wicker Park sushi in Terminal 2 at O’Hare is very good. You might also be inspired if you visit their garden in Terminal 3.

    • @_AlexisAbel Except I’m a vegetarian so that won’t help me. I fly in and out of Terminal 2 mostly. I can tell you everything that is there and where you can find seats and outlets and where the shortest lines are at Starbucks.

      • _AlexisAbel

        @ginidietrich What about vegetarian sushi? 🙂

        • @_AlexisAbel I had a REALLY bad sushi experience about seven years ago and have never been able to get past the gag reflex when rice and seaweed are combined. I’ve tried vegetarian sushi, but I can’t do it. It makes me sad…I used to LOVE sushi. But it was the catalyst for going entirely vegetarian (I was pescatarian to that point).

        • _AlexisAbel

          @ginidietrich Oh no! That’s terrible. Sorry to hear that!

        • @_AlexisAbel Sucks, right? Sushi used to be soooo good.

  • decillis1

    Whenever I read what other people say about airports, it just reminds me how lucky we are in Columbus. True, it’s a smaller airport, but… You’re basically tripping over all of the outlets, free WiFi, local eateries have a place in there right along with the big boys, people are nice and, for the most part, security is a breeze. A lot of what they do helps me out my anti-flying boyfriend at ease (although, I admittedly try to keep him at home for the sake of our relationship ;)).
    And I LOVE flying Southwest through Newark. The security is the nicest I’ve met and one of the gate agents is hilarious. When I flew on a pretty empty plane, he asked us to all take a window seat and wave to the other planes. Luckily, these are the two airports I’m mostly in, so I’m always the happiest flyer ever… But once again, only when the boyfriend is home.

    • @decillis1 You know what? You’re right! The Columbus airport is VERY nice. I’d forgotten about it.

      • debdobson62

        Columbus airport is sooooo easy.  KC airport a pain.  Once you go through security you’re basically screwed.  St Louis is always delayed if there are clouds in the sky and a sprinkle.  But, if you have to fly there or through, take Southwest as gate attendants are friendlier.  My St Louis best friends (years of being stuck with delays or cancelled flights) were the skycab guys and the bartender.  Both took good care of me. 
        You nailed this for anyone who has the “pleasure” of traveling a lot.  What would drive me nuts is to have to pay for wifi for that 1 hour you had in between flights.

        • @debdobson62 Oh yeah KC sucks. You can’t leave the gate to get food or drink without having to go back through security.

  • DanielMarrazzo

    This is what Seth Godin wrote a few days ago. Almost exactly…

    • @DanielMarrazzo Um, I know. That’s what the entire intro of my blog post says.

  • First, I tried the Rick Bayless “restaurant” at O’Hare on a recent business trip… even blogged about it ( Get a sandwich to go and take it to your gate… it’s possible… and worth it!
    Second, I have an airport-related video to share! 🙂  If all airport personnel were like Cindy, traveling would be a much better experience.
    –Tony Gnau

    • @T60Productions Why have I never seen Cindy at O’Hare? It’s a nice video, but based on my experience at that particular airport, I’d be more impressed if it was shot without her knowledge.

      • @ginidietrich  @T60Productions Tony: you’re not alone… I get all sorts of people wanting to post anti-United comments on YouTube for that video.
        You’d like Cindy though… she was awesome.

  • KevinVandever

    Ah, yes, the airport has been inspiration for how NOT to do things for a while now. I wrote a column in a tech newsletter back in 2003 comparing how IT’s user community might view IT like the rest of us view the airport when it comes to customer service. Different procedural issues back then, but the points made by your eight bullets are the same now as it was then.

    • @KevinVandever Do you still have that?! I’d love to see it.

      • KevinVandever

        @ginidietrich I just sent it to you, along with other stuff. You’ll be sorry you asked.

  • I actually wrote about airline/airport customer service awhile back. The biggest problem is a lack of economic incentives for improving the customer (traveller) experience. The airlines themselves are oligopolies, the airports are virtual monopolies, and the government, which is a huge participant in this experience, is a pure monopoly. 
    There are a ton of ways air travel could be improved (per your list), but will that move the profit needle for most of the players? There is little to no competitive impetus to drive change.
    Perhaps the players don’t have a sense of the opportunity cost. Unless it is a rush trip, I’ll usually take the car for anything that is a 7 hour drive or less. But perhaps there are not enough people that make those decisions. 
    There certainly are exceptions, so it’s not all gloomy. Some airlines are trying to improve, but so much of the experience is still outside their control. Overall, I just don’t see the economic incentives being in place for the system to drastically change.

    • @Adam | Customer Experience I’m with you…I don’t see it changing. But I do see big areas where other organizations can learn: Customer experience, empowering employees…stuff like that.

  • I would add:  “This flight is over booked, would anyone like to give up their seat?”
    If no one volunteers, the last person in coach to check-in gets bumped from the flight. I’ve yet to understand why Airlines overbook flights. It’s bad business to stretch yourself thin on purpose, take a customer’s money and then inform them you can’t accommodate what they paid for because you sold too many tickets. And the gate attendees are never ever sympathetic, almost like it’s the customer’s fault.

    • @stevenmcoyle Yes! Bingo! Your last sentence is EXACTLY the way they make you feel.

  • Dan Wallace

    Great stuff, Gini.  The power of deciding what NOT to do is immense.  If I ever get my head actually writing a book on this, it will be called “Fire Away!”
    At the risk of seeming self-serving (a risk I incur at least several times a day), here are three blog posts I wrote over the past couple of years about my airport experiences. The stories are true, I promise a few laughs, and there’s some sexual humor.   If that doesn’t get you to read them (Sex Sells), what will?

    Regarding #4, the airlines have a business model problem.  In the late 90s, 10% of passengers – those in the first 15 or so rows of the plane – accounted for 40% of revenue.  By the early 2000s, both numbers had fallen by half – 5% of passengers accounted for 20% of revenue.  Those numbers haven’t gone up, and have probably gone down.  The airlines would love to figure out how to break the plane into 2 pieces, but they can’t.  SWA and perhaps Jet Blue, unburdened by legacy, have business models that provide a good experience for the 95%.  The rest are stuck trying to figure out how to provide differential experiences on a single set of assets.  Very difficult, which is why they now make the basic service so uncomfortable that many people will pay to avoid pain. 
    In Competitive Strategy (which his students, me included, lovingly referred to as “The Old Testament”), Michael Porter described industries with low entry and high exit barriers as producing returns that are both low and volatile.  Over its entire history of ups and downs (see what I did there?), the airline industry’s ROI has been. . .0%.
    Lastly, I went through O’Hare last weekend and had time to try Bayless.  Not  bad, there were seats at the bar on Sat AM, and I even got an outlet!

    • @Dan Wallace The Old Testament. LOL! Clearly I am a high user of airports AND airlines. They know who I am. Why wouldn’t they ask people like me how to make the experience better? Heck, I just gave them eight ideas. Seth Godin gave them 11 ideas. All for free.

  • jmjm55077

    When they create the time travel portal to beam us around, half these complaints won’t matter…hopefully!

    • @jmjm55077 When “they” create it?! DO IT! You’ll be a gazillionnaire!

  • To go by air – to not go by air! Why is it I seem to be only one in the terminal to help  a fellow passenger –  someone who is less capable than myself with – her/his baggage? Is it because I’m not loaded down with electronic equipment in use and just too important to relate to my fellow passenger? Or is it because I need to get to some flat surface where I can set up my portable office so I can conduct business for the 40 minute layover? Or is it because I can afford $7.00 for a cup of what must be arguably the most horrible coffee AKA Starbucks and must elbow my way through the crowd to get it? Or is it because I’m rich and important and don’t need anybody for anything except that which I demand. I ride last class because it’s all I can afford – but I usually bring a book to read and try to be a friend to man.

    • @jdrobertson All very fair points. But when you travel for a living and that 40 minute layover is all you have to recharge your laptop and quickly download emails, it’s pretty important to get to it!

      • @ginidietrich
         Ms. Dietrich – Would you consider taking Amtrak in lieu of air? Amtrak: povides AC voltage at almost every seat – the seats are big and comfortable – the ride is unbelieveably smooth – there is food served in a diner – when the diner is closed there is a snack bar – in most cases the train will drop you off in the downtown area of your destination. If the connections are right – you could get a “red eye”  – allowing you to sleep aboard and (in a room/ette) meet your business obligation in the morning without figuring travel time into your schedule.

        • @jdrobertson If there were an Amtrak to get me where I needed to go, I would consider it. Unfortunately only the east coast has train service that works effectively.

  • Oh, and the inhumanity of making smaller seats and adding rows.  Charging extra for an exit row, which is a volunteer service that should not be for sale.  Hidden fees — like baggage fees.  You know me, I’m not one for more government, but we need a passenger bill of rights by law, not a voluntary agreement the airlines never live up to.  Maybe these have less to do with airports pe se, but it’s inclusive of the overall flying experience.

    • @Frank_Strong One of the things that drives Mr. D crazy about flying (he’s 6′ 3″) is when he gets on the plane and someone small like me is sitting in the emergency row with all that extra legroom.

  • No Starbucks at the Ft. Lauderdale airport? I see that as a plus!
    But your points are dead on.

    • @KenMueller Yeah…well there’s NO coffee anywhere. I don’t drink normal coffee so it’s very upsetting to me.

  • Dan Wallace

    Happened to see this on CNN just now.  I’ve thought for a long time that this would/will happen eventually.  The industry splitting in two – small jets providing high-end service for the <5% who want it, and airborne buses the other 95%.  The small jet thing has been tried before w/o success.  Too expensive and not convenient enough.  But I think the industry will get there someday.

  • I’m always shocked at how bad the experience is when I travel.  It also doesn’t help to get crazy super status man who likes to let you know he’s the best.

  • airlines “can” get a bum deal sometimes I think…..  they have to put on a service that is 100% safe and pleasant for all in a standardized format – the seats all have to be the same size / the space between the seats have to be the same size, the food has to be relatively standardized…….  when their customers feel that they deserve a personalized service (more leg room for my 7′ 6″ uncle (#madeupfamilymembers) and wheat free bread for my health conscious aunt (#seeearlierfamilyreferecne).  All whilst trying to turn a profit when the biggest costs (Tax and Oil) are controlled by others (govt and the real world powers!)
    Most other industries have more scope for flexibility and less issues with failure (the plane HAS to work!) – so when I travel, maybe my standards drop a little (we are FLYING “!!” eek – after all).
    Having said all that (and no – I do not work for an airline, never have, and probably never will) – the points you make still 100% apply and there are some good airlines out there who are fun to fly with – and some disastrous ones who fill me with dread at their name…  
    Sadly – Europe’s flight success story – ryanair – bases its business model on deliberate poor customer service (to keep customer costs down)…..  The world’s current modus operani of “Pile em high and sell em cheap” – seems to work!!

  • Love this! I also spend way too much time in airports. I know where all the outlets in the Calgary airport are, even the one you have to climb under a billboard to get to. I have to say, I am fortuitous enough to fly mostly with WestJet here in Canada, and their employees are always helpful and happy. I will do almost anything to avoid flying in and out of YYZ, especially on an Air Canada flight… *Shudder*…

  • As to the “no tablets” rule… I believe it is more about crowd control or classroom management. I saw a special where they took off and landed in a p[lane full of electronics actively sending and receiving messages. I believe the air staff already have enough troubles getting the active attention of the passengers to reinforce safety messages. While you and I travel tons G, there are many who do not, and need to hear those safety messages.  All they ask is for a few minutes of undivided attention during the most dangerous times of the flight, and I give it graciously, as they really do have our safety in mind.

  • TimBradleyWriter

    It seems that to address all of these points, you’d have to upend several discrete hierarchies: TSA, FAA, NTSB, local law enforcement, food companies, airlines, ticketing agencies, unions (pilot, attendants, baggage handlers, etc.), airport staff, et al. Good luck! P.S. Spirit Airlines has none.