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Today, I Solve The Airline Industry

American Airlines
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

It seems that the Airlines haven't managed to hire enough problem-solvers to handle the various issues they face on a daily basis. They suffer from slow boarding, irritable customers and employees, and, of course, reduced profits due to the above. Since I have about 20 minutes of time available, I thought I'd lend a hand and solve all their problems:


So far, only Southwest does a good job keeping people orderly and calm during boarding. This is because they not only have enough space for all the passengers AND their carry-on items (unlike American Airlines), but they use a simple A-B-C and 1-60 lineup system. People calmly line up according to their letter/number combination so there's no rushing the gate or tension while others get in line before they're supposed to.

Southwest's one error is having unassigned seating. Because of that the plane fills up from front-to back in the window and aisle seats first which makes it harder for people traveling as a group and takes a lot of time as people shuffle around to let the middle-seat folks in.

Solving it

All airlines should adopt the letter/number system that Southwest uses, but each ticket should be assigned seating. Further, all planes should board from the BACK to the front. If the first-class people want to deal with all the bumping and jealous stares, I guess we can let them go first, but otherwise back to front because duh.

The only reason I can imagine why we don't do it this way now is because the people who get on first get priority for the overhead space and they can sell early access for more. The answer of course is to stop being such greedy pricks and just make sure you have no more seats than your overhead space can accommodate. Firstly because it's customary and completely reasonable to expect each person to bring one bag and a "personal item" with them and you should have enough room for it all without theatrics (right, American?).

If you're not playing stupid games with your customers and your gate and plane staff put in a minimum effort to make sure people have the proscribed number/size of baggage and only use the bin space above their assigned seats (you know, actually manage the boarding process), then boarding back to front would be much faster, far lower stress, and translate to profits due to efficiency every time.

Bonus: if people's bags are only in the space above their seat, they won't be wandering the plane during the flight or after (when everyone's trying to get off) trying to get the bag that's nowhere near them

Sales Pitches

One of the things that annoys me most about theaters is that I already paid a ticket, I participated in their back-ally mugging for snacks, and I even sit and watch commercials for movies that are coming out soon in order to watch the film I paid to see. On top of that, they have the nerve to play annoying and distracting ads before the movie AND after the movie start time before the other movie previews. And then they wonder why I might go to a theater once a year or less…

Likewise, you have airlines that are haven't been able to make enough money by cheapening snack and meal service; now they have to hassle you on the plane with loud ads or flight attendant sales pitches for your "club" or BS credit card, or whatever. I'm surprised they haven't already figured out that a 4-hour flight of captives is a great time to pitch high-pressure timeshares.

Solving it

The answer to that is simple: STOP. Leave us alone. You want to pitch us for your blather? Do it on the ticketing website or in the ads on our tickets (which they already do too by the way). Outside of that, your window of acceptability has long since ended. Once we reach the airport, your job is to get us to our destination safely and professionally; not beg or steal for your scam deals while we're trying to deal with the stress of flying.

Rude and Angry

I have dealt with a variety of stressed, angry, and rude airport employees, but I don't fault them. I know that poor customer services is always a reflection of the hiring services and company policies and not the individual. Especially when you see it over and over or compare it to the companies whose employees are generally helpful, happy, and friendly (Southwest).

Employees in this mindset are likely to make mistakes that can be costly or embarrassing (like the poor doctor who was injured during a forced removal from a United flight). Trying to lead by spreadsheet is failure seeds that will eventually blossom into disaster.

Solving it

Run your company in collaboration with your workforce – listen to the problems they raise and do what you can to fix it. They want the company to run efficiently, so let them help you do it! That, and make sure you pay fairly and provide good benefits. In an industry where small mistakes are magnified immensely in terms of consequences, making sure that people are treated well.

In closing

There's probably more I could think of if I put some effort into it, but these problems aren't that complicated nor hard to solve. It will mean cutting profit margins somewhat in the short term, but the efficiency and loyalty you create will be far more profitable in the end. If you can't manage it, here is my simple trick for responsibly moving forward: shut the doors and go home. If you can't run a business fairly and well, don't. Tags: ,

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