This past weekend we headed to Chicago for yet another wedding. At 8:00 am we arrived at National, ready to catch our 10:15 flight. At 11:40 PM (Eastern) we hit Chicago's runway. Our day featured a delayed flight, missed connection, a detour from National to Dulles to find another flight, super-secret security fun complete with an ion scan and "full" pat down, another delayed flight and finally, to top it all off, a nice hour-long sit on a runway. So fun. We missed rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner, and ended up wandering through greater Naperville, IL searching for a dive that would serve food at 11:30 p.m. (central - 12:30 eastern).
The tally for the weekend?
27 hours travel
28 hours in Illinois (16 spent sleeping = 12 waking hours).
It's no wonder that our airline system goes belly up every few years. It's plagued with ineffencies, poor management and it's a logistical nightmare. During my 27 hours of standing in line, I figured out the solution. One single company could replace this entire f'd up system. They'd start completely from scratch and own all their own airports, planes and staff. Here's a rough outline of how it would work:
- New airports. They would have one and only one carrier, making them small, private, with 64 major city departures and 32 local flights daily between 6 am and 10 pm. That's 6 flights an hour departing and 6 flights arriving - piece of cake. The airports would remain small and intimate. As more travelers flux into the system, new airports would be added around the city in strategic locations (North, South; West, East).
- Ambience. Keeping with the massive current trend of customization, each airport would have a similar "feel" with a flair for the location (think Starbucks). They'd feature comfy seating in the airport; free WiFi while you wait; upper tier vendors; the smells of baked goods and coffee as you enter. No more toilet-bowl-cleaner smelling waiting areas.
- Consistent rates. No sitting online waiting to pounce on a low rate. The rates would be the same from month to month, with quarterly adjustments as needed. The "Saturn" model if you will (no hassle, no haggle).
- In-flight food. This one is simple, folks. Hit up the food and beverage companies for snack sizes of their latest, hottest items. They'd get free promo on the plane (Today's snack courtesy of Kraft. Touch the screen for nutrition info...) and all they'd have to do is provide product. For longer flights, feature frozen entrees in the same manner - Wolfgang Puck's new entrees come to mind. Fed passengers = happier passengers = happier employees. Easy equation.
- Corporate discounts. Entice the early adopters by negotiating large corporate contracts. It will ensure the start-up costs are recouped quicker.
- Top-of the line planes with comfortable seating, interactive screens on the back of each seat, the latest safety options, etc. So we lose 4 seats on the plane by having seats that recline more than 5 degrees. We'll make up the difference by having full flights.
- Courteous flight attendants. Much like you would not expect to find a McDonalds employee waiting tables at Ruth Chris, no United attendants would be a part of this air service (yes, still bitter).