The current edition of the APEX (Airline Passengers Experience Association) Editor’s Blog is titled “Ten Things that Premium Airline Passengers Really Want.” Their list includes seats that are comfortable for sleeping, dining and premium beverages that are culturally representative of the region being visited, more storage, better in-seat power, etc. You can read their whole list here.
This list got me thinking of my personal travels. My personal brushes with first class greatness have been few – using credit card points to upgrade into the front cabin, taking advantage of one of our wholesalers or air consolidators discounted contract rates on business or first class, receiving the exceedingly rare but coveted comp’d upgrade (for the win!).
I’m a vacation traveler, and a bargain shopper. I want my airline ticket to be as close to free as I can get it, so I can spend more on my vacation. I like nice hotel rooms with great views, I like my cruise ship stateroom to have a balcony, I like to try all the great local restaurants and visit all the museums…I want to spend my money at my destination, not getting to my destination. So splurging for a business or first class airline ticket isn’t a regular thing for me.
So when I read things like “pleasant and efficient “premium-feeling” terminal experiences at both ends of the flight,” I couldn’t help but chuckle. When was the last time I felt anything about air travel was ‘pleasant and efficient?’
And then I got to thinking…what are the things I want out of coach travel? I don’t need the airlines to provide me with in-flight entertainment – we all have gadgets full of music and movies; I don’t need pillows and blankets (kind of gross to think about reusing someone’s pillow). I don’t even need them to provide meals – we can pack our own snacks, as long as they keep offering us beverages. So – what do I really need from them?
- Seat assignments. That are free. And honored. I used to pride myself on using sites like seat guru to help me find the best seating for my clients. I’d grab those seat assignments the moment I booked their trip, and if there was a schedule change or an equipment change I’d go back into the record to get good seats again. And if there were no good seats left to assign, I’d get on the horn to the super-secret-travel-agent-line (yes, they do still exist!) and get someone from the airline to GET me the good seats. Now most airlines offer advance seat assignments to very early bookers, or premium frequent flyers, or people to who either pay for it. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked hard to have a special seating request confirmed by the airline, only to have it revoked at the airport. And I’ve HEARD airline employees say things like “your travel agent didn’t get you seats,” which I KNOW isn’t true. (Another reason why I sell and fly Southwest Airlines when it works!)
- No fees for changes. Sure, make the ticket non-refundable. I get it. But charging $75, $100, even $150 just to change an itinerary? It is so unfair. Why not just let us take the value of the ticket and apply it to the new reservation, and pay the difference? Seems like a steep penalty for a person that has to change their plans.
- A few extra inches. I want an extra inch for my knees, an extra inch for my carry-on, an extra inch for my butt, an extra inch to recline. I don’t want to do dental work on the passenger in front of me, and I don’t want to nap in the lap of the person behind me.
- Power. Lots of power outlets to plug in our gadgets. My family travels with tablets and laptops and iPods and Nintendo hand-held games. We need to be able to recharge at will, from every seat, on every flight. It keeps us entertained, thus happy, thus quietly buckled in our seats.
- One free checked bags. Charge away for lots of bags, oversized bags, extra-heavy cartons. But why not let us check a single bag for nothing? I was on a flight from San Francisco to New York on United Airlines, and I was one of the passengers boarding with a carry-on bag. The flight was full. By the time half of the passengers had boarded the overhead compartments were almost full. So each passenger took forever to get to their seats because they had to spend time looking for a place to stow their luggage. And the last 20 to 30 passengers to board were required to check their bags at the gate, which United did gratis. And everyone was grumbling, and it took forever, and by the time that plane took off – 10 minutes late – it was full of disgruntled passengers. Is this what they’re trying to achieve? And, another reason to love Southwest, by the way.
S0 – what do you want when flying coach?