How to fix air travel

Published on: 3/10/2011

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to travel around our fair country via airplane. I am old enough to tell you that air travel is NOT what it used to be. In fact, it kind of stinks. Safety concerns and cost-cutting measures have made it only slightly less fun than sitting in a cattle car. Still, for a somewhat reasonable cost, it takes you places fairly quickly.

Nevertheless, I think air travel is in great need of a makeover. Here’s what I think needs to be done to fix it:

Stop charging for checked baggage.
Look, I get it. Fuel costs are higher and airlines needed to make up those costs somewhere. Since many people don’t need to check baggage, somebody decided to charge those of us who do. That’s great, except that Americans are nothing if not frugal. We’ll do almost anything to get out of paying extra, including carrying on items the size of a tool shed. Nobody stops them – not TSA Agents, or ticket counter agents, or even gate agents. I’ve watched on every single flight I’ve been on in the past year while people lug their so-called “carry-ons” onto the plane and then are shocked…SHOCKED when they don’t fit in the overhead bins. This holds up the boarding process and causes flight delays.

Just charge us more for the damn tickets and let each passenger check one bag for no charge. We’ll grumble and whine about the price hike…for a while. Then we’ll get over it.

Limit the size of carry-ons
The airlines SAY they do this, but they never do. They have these little signs pointing to a bin and say that your carry-on must fit in there – but they NEVER use them. They literally wait until those crafty passengers make the “overhead bin cram” to find out that a duffel bag the length of a hockey stick won’t fit. Just don’t let people get to the gate with monstrous bags in tow. Make them go back to the ticket counter and check the bag. Some of us somehow manage to follow this rule.

Don’t serve anything on flights less than two hours
Exactly when did we get to the point of needing beverages every 30 minutes? If I fly to Nashville (90 minutes) or Detroit (75 minutes), I will be offered a free non-alcoholic beverage. Why? People can bring their own beverages on the flight. They don’t NEED to be served…ANYTHING. It’s just a waste of time, money and space. (Ever sat in an aisle seat and have your elbow bashed by a drink cart? Ouch.) I actually think we should outlaw alcohol on airline flights, but that may be going too far.

Be honest
I almost always prefer a worst-case scenario. If my flight is delayed, tell me it might not depart for 4 hours. Don’t tell me that you’re “hoping” that it will leave in two hours. Just give us the bad news. It’s our job to decide how to react and to, hopefully, be polite and patient.

Forget the seatbelt instructions
I understand pointing out the exits and explaining how the oxygen masks will work. I don’t deal with either of those in my daily life. But the seat belt instructions? Unnecessary and a waste of the flight attendants’ time. We all buckle regularly. We’re good.

Promise to never allow cell-phone usage on a plane
One thing I love about air travel is that it’s very old school in the sense that we modern people have to do something other than talk on a cell phone. Even if cell phone usage were deemed safe, it would make air travel intolerable. It’s bad enough dealing with drunk guy in 5A who needs to share his thoughts on, well, everything. I like the airplane to be like a library. Quiet and contemplative. A place of refuge for a nap, a good book or finding new oddities in the Sky Mall. Please let this be the last place on (or above) Earth where we allow cell phones.

Of course we all know that the best way for air travel to improve is for travelers to stop being rude. People need to be patient, kind, quiet, understanding and slow to anger. They need to stop traveling with a sense of entitlement and start appreciating the privilege of traveling safely via air. Yeah, I know. That will never happen.