Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Improving the Aircraft Travel Passenger Experience

Subtitle: Let the Un-Prepared, the Polluters and the Pricks pay more

Recently, Marcus and Agata flew back home to Switzerland. As usual there were a share of frustrations, setbacks and so here is an open letter to all Airlines.

Here are some ways, (not all so easy) to improve the Customer Experience, your esteem to the Public and still make a Profit, even perhaps a larger one from Air travel.

Yes, you are welcome!

Guiding Principles
- The Internet is here.  Customers need to use it to their advantage and save both you and them time
- The Polluter pays.  Awkward customers or those who use more should pay more.  Use more, pay more.
- People like rewards.  The price of a flight should include the standard services, wherever possible if customer make less use of something they get money back
- Business Class Users, no change.  None of the suggestions below apply to Business class passengers who already pay a fortune for flying with you.  They pay a premium and for that expect better facilities, unlimited kindness from you, and the right to have you smile even when they are rude and unreasonable.

Here are the Improvements

Marketing Foreword
The people who are going to complain about the measures we suggest are predominantly the /pricks/.  These are the people who principally through their inaction, lack of preparation, or continued stupidity or selfishness (hey, but why try to change, there is nothing in it for me right)  both make other travellers lives worse, cause you the airline; extra hassle and effectively are being subsidised by the other passengers.  

It is time they paid for their slovenly behaviours.

All these people in order to re-enforce their type behaviour will no doubt be the first to winge and complain.  You have to fight back with good marketing and technology.  Perhaps a How are we doing button at the checkin desk, allowing the majority to vote for happy :-) leaving the winging minority to press :-(.  You decide.

Agreeing with and Following the Law
There are procedures that I just don't agree with at airports. For example no mobile phone calls near Baggage Scans or Photographs of their equipment.  But I see the rules and I obey them as best as I can.

One needs to be aware people (like Marcus and Agata) who follow the rules even if we find them sometimes idiotic and stupid  because it is needed in the following 3 tier categorisation.  (We'd get an A rating because we followed the rule even if we did not agree to it)

The 3 tier categorisation
The idea is that for the Checkin, The Baggage Scan, and at the Gate, you the passenger will be ranked into one of 3 categories A, B, C.   Every time you use the airport you have the opportunity to migrate up the chain to A or down the list to C depending on your observed behaviour, attitude and speed.

Each of the Checkin, Baggage and Gate has an A B C section.  You must enter your allotted section based on your current ranking.

A The Best
You use the Internet facilities wherever possible
You have checked in and have all your passes ready
You are on time or ahead of time
You observe without complaint the annoying Bagscan regulations  (computers and liquids in the right places, clothes taken off as advised, scans that make you look naked)
You agree to Airport Location Services (see below)
You pass quickly thru Checkin, Bagscan and Gate areas.
Your dependents (if any) behaved themselves for the duration
B Can Do Better
You are tying hard but you don't have everything to hand.  You have almost everything right, but this one time one thing e.g. you don't have boarding passes printed.

B The Worst
You are late  (again)
You do not have your tickets and you have not checked in
You cause a delay to boarding
You carry illegally sized or weighted hand luggage
You like to strike up a long and irrelevant conversation with checkin staff to delay others.
You are unaware that you can't take an unlimited number of items as hand luggage
You will argue the toss at any occasion
You are overweight and dressed to sweat all over your neighbours or seats
You have children who are unruly, noisy and rude to passengers and staff alike
You hold baggage is oversize and overweight

Pre Boarding Safety
Before boarding the plane you need to watch an Instructional video at the gate relevant to the plane you will actually board.  Since your seat number is known the video will be tailored to your actual seat showing you the exit and also where your seat it.  It will also be presented in the language of your choice.   You need to indicate you understand and agree to the video contents otherwise you cannot board the plane.  To save further time this video can be watched online at home, and you would accept the conditions there.

If on boarding the plane something is not as described you need to summon the attendant for an explanation and clarification.

Airport Location Services
For the duration of entering the airport you voluntarily agree to detailed location tracking via your Smartphone  (say by its Network MAC address and GPS).  Using this mechanism the airline can figure out how fast you did indeed traverse thru the Checkin, Baggage Scan, Gates and this will be helped to score you into the correct A B C categories.  Additionally the airline can assist you if you seem to be late, by accelerating you thru Baggage Scan so that you don't miss your flight, or finding you if your lateness will delay the entire plane.

Uniform Passenger Services
Your travelling preferences should be stored in a non airline specific centralised database that can only be accessed by partner airlines.  It will store your A B C category ranking so that this is used whenever you checkin no matter with whom you fly.  It will store your magazine and media preferences, hot drink and seating preferences, tall requirements etc.

You have a right to edit and modify the factual components of your data, for example height, film preferences.

There is a balance to be struck between how much personal information can and should be shared.  But in this day of Facebook and social media where people elect to publicly declare all matter of personal information this bar raises steadily every day.

Seats will always be booked ahead of time.  This is essential for pre flight safety routing.  Also some seats e.g. emergency exit seats needs special passenger information and acceptance.

See note on tall people below.

Food is NOT provided on the plane only hot drinks.  For everything else i.e. food, cold drinks, alcohol  you must use the airport shops flightside. You are given an allowance and if you choose more food/ alcohol than the allowance you pay the difference.  Alternatively if you don't use the allowance you get a CREDIT to use on a further flight or for a cash refund.  You bring this food on board as you walk onto the plane.

Because of the dangers of a plane full of passengers carrying on board and spilling hot drinks, these drinks are available on the plane.

No paper newspapers or magazines are provided on the plane but see below

On boarding the plane each passenger will pickup a Tablet computer which will come preloaded with the Aircraft flight magazine, the Duty free magazine, and if you populated the Uniform Passenger Services database  magazines according to your known preferences.  It will also have the in-flight movies and other media loaded according to your know tastes.   There will be a provision to attach this tablet to the headrest of the seat in front of you for hands free operation.

Airlines will allow advertisers to buy Advertising space in the Electronic magazine or pay them to load their apps onto the tablet.

You will be obliged to logon to the tablet with your Uniform Passenger Services credentials where it can further track your activities and help you interact with the promotional apps or airline specific apps.   It will also allow you to update your profile and feed back metres to the Uniform Passenger Services database.

You the airline will initiate a remote shutdown of tablet at times when electronic devices may no longer be used  (though it is hoped that in the future these times will diminish)

The airline will NOT need to provide a crummy TV screen in its headrest, saving a lot of aircraft electronics and messy wiring in the plane.

Tablets will be refreshed after a flight so that no personal information is left from one user to the next.

There will be connection from the tablet computer provided to free in flight WiFi based Internet.   It will be free and open but passing thru a firewall so that Adult rated sites and content is blocked.

Duty Free
You can order any duty free items using the provided Tablet computer.  No duty free items are stored on board they are provided at the arrival gate for pickup or posted directly to customer home address based on preference made at the electronic order.

In advance of flying parents must declare what kids will accompany them and any special requirement they need like additional tablets or seating.   At checking Parents will only be accepted if the prebooked children match the reality e.g prebook 2 kids, arrive with 2 kids.

Wheelchair users must say ahead of time via the Internet booking what special arrangements are needed.  The airline will do its utmost to provide end to end assistance free of charge.  Wheelchair users don't have a total weight restriction within reason.

People of Size
Tall people should be given preferential access to seats with greater leg room and shorter people should accept the fact they can fit into a smaller space.

No discrimination is made for obese people but note the Total Weight ruling.

Total Weight
Your initial ticket will include a weight allowance for you, all your carry on and hold baggage and food and any children travelling free of charge. Say 100Kg,  It is upto you how you distribute that.   If you are over the limit you need to pay a surcharge.  If you are under you get a CREDIT.   You can use that credit against further travel where you would be overweight, or cash it in for a refund.

If a passenger is over the weight quoa and cannot pay they can still board the current flight but any subsequent flight or booking may be refused until the debt is cleared.

Post Flight Behaviour
People need to change behaviour to leave their seats in a clean and tidy state so that minimal cleaning and reorg is needed by the airline.  Part of this is automatic with the removal of paper magazines and other paper.   Passengers must however get used to throwing away their trash pre flight end as directed.  The aim is to reduce complexity and cost of getting plane ready to fly again.  This saving is passed onto the customer with lower prices.

Some Aircraft Benefits
The above mechanisms mean that food and drink and newspapers and duty free are not taken on plane greatly simplifying the logistics.  (We have to think about Business Class).  Also Portable Tablets obviate the need for local headset devices and a lot of aircraft wiring.  More simplification.

So Airlines, I hope you read this.    If you need further help on implementing these facilities then I guess you should get in touch with us.   Our consultancy services are always available.