Build Your Dream Airline

The USA Today tossed three travel experts in a room and asked them to describe their dream airline. An airline that restores the grandeur of flight by focusing on passenger value and convenience. Pay attention airlines, and consider giving us the following:

  • Awesome Flight Attendants: Fuse Southwest’s spirit, Virgin Atlantic’s British accent, and Singapore Airlines’ uniforms, and you have chipper, upbeat flight attendants that can make the most daunting flights feel welcoming.
  • Decent In-Flight Entertainment: Take a page from JetBlue and Virgin America and cram a TV into the back of every seat. If on-the-go entertainment can sate a cadre of screaming kids chucked in a minivan, why not provide the same artificial calm to stressed travelers?
  • Delicious Food: Seriously airlines, $5 for animal crackers? Every airline fails in-flight food service, but the long-haul carriers come the closest to getting it right.
  • Luxuriously Large Seats: Airlines bring a trench warfare mindset to the fight for seat inches. Thankfully, airplane makers listened to consumers and are designing wider planes to give passengers extra-wide, extra-comfortable seats.
  • Friendly Websites: Fuse power with simplicity. Airline websites should empower consumers with most of the same tools available to customer service representatives.
  • Valuable Frequent Flier Programs: Stop neutering your frequent flier programs! Once designed to engender customer loyalty, the constant depreciation of frequent flier programs now reminds consumers that they come second to the corporate ledger.
  • Amazing Customer Service: The dream airline is one we wouldn’t write about, except to praise. One that defers to its passengers, anticipates their needs, and honors its commitments.

The dream airline doesn’t exist, which is why airlines regularly rank below the U.S. Post Office on the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index. What would you dream airline have? Tell us in the comments.

Flight of fancy: Fly the airline of your dreams [The USA Today]
(Photo: Skrewtape)

Comments

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  1. FishingCrue says:

    An intermediate class between coach and business class. Just a little more leg room and a hot meal. I love being pampered in business class but I don’t need warmed nuts and champagne. I just need 5 or 6 more inches of legroom and a hot meal and am willing to pay for it.

  2. jamar0303 says:

    @FishingCrue: Probably ANA’s Premium Economy class is what you’re looking for. Not very helpful if most of your travel lies within America (they codeshare with United for domestic flights), but certainly an example that US-based airlines should look up to (especially United- for certain flights it’s quite the jarring transition between ANA and United for those flights that need connections).

    Go take a look here.

  3. jamar0303 says:

    Oh, almost forgot- that’s just the seat- here’s the rest of the info (about their coach [consumerist.com] in general; everything but the seat info applies to both coach and Premium Economy).

    Japan just seems to do everything better.

  4. TWinter says:

    I wish airlines would fight for better integration with public transportation at their major hubs. It’s a huge hassle to get into and out of many large airports in the US.

    Most major European airports are a huge contrast with convenient rail and subway connections to the airport. Siphoning a portion of travelers off the roads makes it so much easier for those who drive and for those who take the subway or train.

    They should also rebuild the handful of airports that require you to go through security again when switching terminals. That is such a waste of time and slows down not only those who have to be rechecked but also those who are waiting to be checked behind those who are being rechecked.

  5. CurbRunner says:

    I don’t care what they have in the plane as long as they promise not to hold passengers hostage for endless hours, while stranded on some airport tarmac,
    just because some flight crew wants to finish their shift on the ground, knowing that if they pulled back to the terminal the shift would end.

  6. nweaver says:

    And a pony… don’t forget the pony…

  7. crnk says:

    umm sure. If someone could pull this off, why haven’t they, and why is nobody trying?
    If they did exist, they’d have to charge an arm and a leg above anyone else.
    Think of it this way….if you’re paying less than $500 for a transcon fare, then an airline is losing money on you. Now you’re expecting them to offer more/better food, fewer larger seats, and fancy gadgets, and customer service that is probably kinder and more flexible than it needs to be (cancellation fees, etc). All of those cost money, and you’re still going to be looking for them to compete with the cheapest fare out there. Also, furthermore, while some people would pay the extra, business travelers and corporate travel agents won’t justify the additional cost.

  8. jamesdenver says:

    ok – since routes and cost aren’t mentioned these airlines already exist: Eos and Maxjet fill all the above requirements.

    The problem is “luxurious large seats,” delicious food and amazing customer service command an extremely high dollar above the level of standards found in regular airlines models.

  9. jamesdenver says:

    p.s. it’s also laughable for customers to want “luxurious large seats,” yet pay $80 dollars to fly coast to coast.

    I think barring the seats and food, jetblue and Frontier get it right. Both have live TV, excellent flight attendants (unless you get a stooge every now and then,) new planes, and good CSRs. Frontier lets you redeem miles at 15k.

  10. chili_dog says:

    The very 1st airplane I ever walked onto was a TWA 747-200. Upstairs in “the lounge” was a baby grand piano and en route they had an open bar and a pianist. But then again, this flight from Denver to NYC cost like $3K/ seat.

  11. bohemian says:

    Combine Braniff and Virgin and I might consider forking out the money to fly.
    I would rather have a workable rail system. Really the only place people would need to fly if we had one would be overseas and direct coast to coast.

  12. swalve says:

    1) Buy Cessna.
    2) Never have to fly with people or go through security again.
    3) Profit!

  13. Trai_Dep says:

    Wider lavatories. Because joining the mile-high club shouldn’t entail visiting a chiropractor afterwards.

  14. erratapage says:

    1) An airline security system that doesn’t make me feel like a criminal.

    2) Customer service that doesn’t make me feel like a bother.

    3) Something to do on the plane while I can’t use my PDA (in flight mode) or iPod.

    4) Either good things coming from the flight attendants or an end to the flight attendant as drink/boxed snack server. I don’t need a 5 ounce glass of ice and Diet Pepsi with a minibag of pretzels. On the other hand, I might appreciate a hot meal.

    5) An air traffic control system that is actually designed to accommodate the amount of air traffic in today’s world.

    6) A better way to help passengers deal with delays and the need to reschedule. I don’t like the fact that I have to both stand in line and call on my cell phone for rebooking.

  15. mgyqmb says:

    I’ll pass on all of these if you give me a cheap price.

    Cram me in a box and ship me overseas – as long as I don’t have to pay $1000 for it.

  16. JDobbs says:

    I’d forgo every one of those “improvements” for a ticket price that didn’t make it cheaper for two people to drive anywhere in the country rather than fly there. Then again I have no interest in luxury and refuse to fly anywhere unless someone else is paying for that exact reason.

  17. Mary says:

    Starve me, bore me, squish me, but as long as you give me a super-cheap ticket, I am all yours.

  18. BigNutty says:

    Two European companies are pimping up an Airbus 380 “Super Jumbo” that will include private bedrooms, a movie theatre and gym with saunas and spa’s. I didn’t see the price of tickets but I’m sure we will all be able to afford it.

  19. KJones says:

    My “dream airliner” is no airliner. Build a worldwide highspeed three-rail network linked by Russia to Alaska and improve North American rail service. You could connect every contintent except Australia (even Spain and Morocco can be joined) and nearly all major economies except Japan and Taiwan, and even Japan could be connected to the mainland. The only place that airtravel would still be needed is Taiwan to the mainland and Europe to North America.

    “Rail would take too long” you say? Tough. Three days from LA to Beijing isn’t unreasonable except for the impatient. When oil runs out, rail will start to look good.

    Plus, you can ship cargo by train as easily as by ship. I saw a Newsweek item on the updated Chinese and Russian railway; it would take half the time and money to move cargo from China to Europe that shipping now takes, never mind having less environmental impact. Air travel is one of the worst contributors to global warming. Electric rail is cheaper and cleaner; even Greenpeace is going pro-nuclear.

  20. jamesdenver says:

    @JDobbs:

    You’re kidding right? If you pick the right days, special and airlines you can fly coast to coast for around $100-$200. Driving? By the time you hit Mesquite you need a second tank of gas, plus money for motels, crummy truck stop food, and god knows how much wear and tear on your car.

    I love a road trip, but spending a weekend in N.Y. or S.F. can’t be done going 75 on I-80. Plus some of us like traveling overseas.

  21. XTC46 says:

    @JDobbs: cheaper in what sense?

    If you live in New York, and have an event to attend in LA, is it cheaper to drive across the country than it is to fly? not if you factor in the extra 3-5 days you need to take off work to drive there and back.

    I live in Hawaii, so if I want to get anywhere more than 100 miles from my house, it requires an airplane, and I have always found reasonable fares (I fly to LA frequently and don’t recall paying more than 500 for a round trip ticket, and its usually closer to 300)

    I wish a lot of these improvements would be made, although I have always had a good experience with United Airlines. I have never had a late flight, never had trouble getting my seat, always great customer service. Its wonderful. I would definitely like more leg room, but united does have economy plus, which adds another 5 inches or so, and thats if im not flying first class via free upgrades from my frequent flier miles.

  22. CumaeanSibyl says:

    I would forego all the amenities mentioned above for a cheap flight IF I could be guaranteed efficient boarding procedures, minimal time on the tarmac, and on-time arrival, with luggage intact. Baseline competence should not be costly.

    @FishingCrue: I like that idea as well. Most of the time I’m fine with being a bit cramped and underfed on a plane, but it’d be nice to have the “reasonable comfort, nothing fancy” upgrade available for long flights.

  23. swalve says:

    @JDobbs: Dude, flying *is* a luxury. It’s supposed to be more than driving because you are getting there quicker.

  24. humphrmi says:

    More room. That’s all I want.

  25. synergy says:

    I love the post office. And I’m not being sarcastic. I certainly love them more than UPS which seems to like lurking in the bushes until 730PM when I finally get tired of being under house arrest waiting for a package all day and leave to get dinner. Of course I come back to a sticky note saying at 732PM they came and no one was home.

    I don’t have a huge problem with airlines although that’s probably because I’ve used them only twice since 9/11. If anything I have a bigger problem with the TSA, DHS, and all the wankers on the plane.

  26. erratapage says:

    Sometimes, it doesn’t take much longer to drive, once you factor in the time to drive to the airport, find a parking space, go through security, find a fast food place to get food to take on the plane, and deal with delays.

    We’ve discovered several trips which are actually cheaper to drive, especially with multiple destinations and remote airports. We actually found it much cheaper to take a train to Glacier National Park last summer… and we didn’t have to take an extra day off work (over half the trip is overnight from here).

  27. GF_AdventureGrl says:

    All I want is a more efficient system with fewer (preventable-I understand about weather) delays and cancellations, cheap tickets and enough room to sit and maybe stretch once in a while. Oh, and to let me bring my water bottle on the plane. Is that so much to ask?

  28. Buran says:

    @jamar0303: Try again, on a domestic airline — I have no plans to travel outside of the country any time soon what with ripoff prices like $8 for a soda.

  29. Buran says:

    @swalve: It’s not more than driving. It’s actually quite a bit cheaper.

  30. Buran says:

    @trai_dep: Forget that. USING them shouldn’t require a doctor visit.

  31. JDobbs says:

    @jamesdenver: You can fly two people coast to coast for 200 bucks? Neat! That’s the problem with airfare. It’s only worth is for single travelers. While i’d admit that i hate traveling and certainly have no interest in anything east of the Mississippi my main complaint is the cash.

    If i want to fly down to LA or so sure it’s only 80 bucks or whatnot and that’s only about 20 over what it costs in gas, but what if i’m going with one or two other people? Now driving gets cheaper and flying gets more expensive. On top of that once i get there i don’t have to rent a car nor am i stuck with a schedule that is dictated by flight schedules and the prepaid flight that had to plan months ahead of time to get the cheap ticket.

    As far as hotels on the way i don’t use them. I’ll break every 30 to 36 hours for a little shut eye in the car and I like truck stop food so i guess it’s just a to each his own situation.

  32. jamesdenver says:

    ok my mistake – I thought the discussion was for fantasizing over the best possible airline and flight logistics.

    Keep the posts about Bering Strait rail links and expressways through the earth coming.

  33. saltmine says:

    Hmmm. You got it wrong on one thing. Those airliners aren’t being built wider for “extra-wide, extra-comfortable seats.” They’re being built for extra wide, extra fat asses. It has nothing to do with comfort.

  34. BK88 says:

    @erratapage: Number 5: The air traffic system can handle the traffic. There are not enough runways to handle all the scheduled traffic at the scheduled times.

  35. ideagirl says:

    @jamesdenver: “delicious food and amazing customer service command an extremely high dollar above the level of standards found in regular airlines models”

    Sorry, but I disagree. It is not that hard to make food that doesn’t taste like dog poo. Even those $5 lunches American sells are an embarrassment. I am not opposed to to paying for onboard meals, but odiferous turkey on soggy white bread should never be toloerated if they really want happy customers.

  36. jamar0303 says:

    @Buran: That’s the point I was trying to make- every domestic airline seems to be epic fail in comparison. Oh, and they don’t charge for soda. Like I said- America should be looking to them to see what they should be doing.

    Then again, Japanese airlines have a *great* high-speed rail service to compete with. If Amtrak got better I bet we’d see better service from the US airlines.

  37. swalve says:

    @Buran: If you drive a tank.

  38. chili_dog says:

    Why do so many think that paying for something should be under 5 bucks? It costs money to buy, provision, have available and serve products and I know for a fact that those $5 boxes of animal crackers cost about $4.25 delivered to the passenger. It’s not like driving to the local Krogers and buying food, it must be planned for.

    On a side note, are you all aware that 1 meal delivered to 1 passenger must be handled between 7-9 times just to get it?

  39. stubblyhead says:

    ok, who’s your man in seattle? those damn pigs are all over the place, and they’re an eyesore.

  40. Benny Gesserit says:

    “Thankfully, airplane makers listened to consumers and are designing wider planes to give passengers extra-wide, extra-comfortable seats.”

    Sorry, the cynic in my says all wider places will get us poor joes and janes in economy one thing: 4-6-4 seating configurations. (And higher physio bills for the attendants as they kill their backs passing trays into the poor sod sitting in the dreaded window seat.)

    Airplane makers can listen to us as much as they want, it’s the airlines themselves that choose the seat config they’ll buy.

  41. jamar0303 says:

    @Jim (The Canuck One): If the airplane makers really listened they wouldn’t even allow such an option to be created. All of them.

  42. Ben Popken says:

    So they basically just invented Virgin America.

  43. jamar0303 says:

    @Ben Popken: Not quite. Virgin America is close (very close), but they could do better.

  44. VaMPKiSS1 says:

    @stubblyhead: If those are the kind of pigs I think they are, at least you can take comfort in knowing they’ll eventually vanish as mysteriously as they appeared.

    The first time they did this retardation with the random animal sculptures in NYC was with cows a long time ago. I was glad when they vanished but horrified to find that one of them had been bought by a resident of a neighborhood I travel through frequently and placed on their front lawn as a lawn ornament from bovine hell. It’s staring at me, I tell you.

  45. BugMeNot2 says:

    My dream airline would include a specialized filtering ventilation system that doesn’t just shove germy recycled air around the plane so that if anyone has a cold, you’re sure to get it too.

    Also either provide adequate knee-room for a tall adult, or give up the reclining seat feature entirely! As a compromise I’d accept an unlock lever that permits or prevents the person in front of you from reclining as one deems appropriate.

    And all headphone jacks and button controls should be in the seat/screen in front of you and not out of sight and poking you in the leg.

  46. AlphaWolf says:

    A co-worker and I had this same conversation not long ago as we both were booked on a very shaky Northwest airlines at the time. Would the majority of people pay more to have a comfortable seating arrangement, an ok meal, and decent customer service?

    My argument was that most people would NOT pay extra and that is why we are in this mess. To further my argument I mentioned that our company travel department would never pay the extra $80-$100 per ticket for this scenario either. So only a small minority would pony up the extra cash.

    So the $300 ticket airline that everyone would love would get it’s lunch eaten by the $180 airline with cattle car seating and pretzels as long as it was cheaper.

  47. UpsetPanda says:

    People always want more for less, and for some reason, a lot of people feel entitled to this. In a lot of cases, it works, like JetBlue putting screens in every chair. In other cases, it doesn’t. Larger airlines like United can’t necessarily do all the things that JetBlue is doing because they operate more flights.

    My biggest thing to improve is seats..food, that’s okay, as long as they don’t make it mandatory and charge me. Usually, on long flights (7+ hours) the food isn’t so bad. What I REALLY want is leg space. I’m only 5’3 and I want more leg room.

  48. kittikin says:

    How about a ban on those frickin’ carry-on bags? I am SICK of waiting for slow-ass people to stow or to remove their crap from the overhead bins. They should be made to board/deboard last so the rest of us don’t have to wait.

    Sorry for sounding so bitchy, but I flew yesterday and am still a little annoyed about the whole experience.

    Also, my lip gloss is NOT a terrorist weapon.

  49. Mr. Gunn says:

    CumaeanSibyl: I’m in your camp. I don’t mind barebones amenities, as long as the plane arrives and departs on time, handles people and property with respect, and makes it up to passengers without lying or other ridiculous shenanigans when that doesn’t happen.