Because getting there is not fun.
Mon, 2009/09/07 - 12:07 by aargh

More cheating -- erm, summer reading.

"15 Brilliant, Bad and Downright Strange Plans to Save Airlines"

Not sure I agree with all of these, but at least people are willing to think about it.

I strongly believe innovation is the key. The right type of innovation, that is:

- Customer-side innovation to retain and attract passengers

- Technology and business innovations to make the airlines run more efficiently

These may sound like business-school cliches but ask yourself how they came to be cliches in the first place?

To simply nickel-and-dime customers is a short-sighted idea. Think of gambler who keeps looking for items he can pawn off, or the person living check-to-check who juggles credit to make ends meet.

(and to dress up the fees in a fancy term "a la carte" is just an insult.)

Tue, 2009/08/25 - 17:45 by aargh

A typical airport screens passengers for appropriate documentation, baggage size, and footwear.

Can we please add "intelligence" to that list?

"20 ridiculous complaints made by holidaymakers"

"20 stupid questions asked by tourists"

What really frightens me is that these are likely from the smart end of the bunch.

Mon, 2009/08/17 - 12:54 by aargh

It's tough to get comfortable in an airport gate area. Admit it. Having just passed half a lifetime waiting for someone to figure out what will set off a metal detector, you hustle off to your gate and try to claim a spot on some terribly uncomfortable chairs. Or worse yet, you've just stepped off a plane and you have to while away four hours' worth of layover while carrying nine hours' jetlag. No amount of meditation will shield you from the chatterboxes on their mobile phones, nor their larger counterparts the gate-area loudspeakers.

If you're only in an airport now and then, maybe you don't notice or you chalk it up to the experience. (-and if you're only in an airport now and then, chances are you're part of the problem.) So here's a tip -- and no one's paying me to say this -- if you're involved in any serious air travel, get yourself signed up for your airline's lounge. American Airlines calls theirs "Admirals Club." I call it home.

Airlines, knowing the wear and tear airports wage on travellers, have managed to create a very un-airport atmosphere tucked away behind big metal doors and membership cards. Comfy seats, subdued lighting, some degree of snacks and drinks all help you forget that you, yes you, are in Chaos Central.

The decor ranges from "tastefully upscale" to "palatial and opulent." If you're short on ideas to remodel your home, here's where to look. Take special note of the newest Admirals Club in DFW terminal D. I about cancelled my flight so I could move in.

Best of all, if your flight has been delayed or cancelled, you won't be at the gate area when the barbaric masses decide to revolt.

This year American Airlines is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its Admirals Club line. I didn't think much of it until, just the other day, I saw someone snapping a photo of a display at Chicago's O'Hare AC:

fancy cake

No, that's not a statue. That's a cake.

A cake made and delivered by this guy right here:

chef Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes

That's right, the ORD Admirals Club celebrated with a presentation by none other than chef Duff of Charm City Cakes, the bakery behind the TV hit Ace of Cakes.

There's nothing quite like learning about an event after it has happened. Had I known, I would have arranged to pass through O'Hare Thursday instead of Friday...

Mon, 2009/08/10 - 14:28 by aargh

Compared to air travel, videoconferencing has much lower variable costs, avoids ancillary costs such as hotel stays, and doesn't require participants to get a free glove exam by airport security.

Which is why, every once in a while, people ask whether videoconferencing will kill business air travel.

They asked this question during the dot-com heyday, after 9/11, and I'd swear it has come up several times since then. Just recently, a blog on Harvard Business Review posed the question once more.

(Mind you, no one's asking me -- I'm not that important. But since they pose the question I may as well answer.)

So, will it? Will videoconferencing largely overtake face-to-face meetings, to the point of swallowing business air travel?

No, it will not.

So long as people want to see exotic locales on the company dime,

So long as there are fat businessmen looking to hit strip clubs and claim it was at the client's request,

biz travel will live on.

(Let's pretend that the businesses stop collapsing upon themselves and continue to exist long enough to send people around.)

Videoconferencing will likely eat some of air travel's market share for people jaunting between different offices of the same company. But let's face it, there are some aspects of business that the human animal insists on doing in person. And in seedy bars. And far away from anything that could lead to the conversation being replayed in a courtroom. But let's not worry about that.

Now, granted, there are quite a few deals that take place online or by phone. The modern age of technology has opened up a new class of professional, one who needs just a laptop, a mobile phone, and a coffee shop to do their do. These people and their parent companies are increasingly comfortable not seeing their coworkers in-person. And I'd say these are people who weren't going to fly anyway.

But that brings up new questions:

Given the pace of communications technology, will something come along and eat videoconferencing's lunch? That is, will the full-blown videoconference -- with its big brand names and requirement of an established physical location for the hardware -- yield the floor to something newer and more nimble and with a cute name that ends in some consonant followed by a letter R?

As this new hyper-wired generation sets the tone for the next era of working, will business travel atrophy as its current clientele fades away without a replacement?

If so, does that mean I can look forward to a plane trip that doesn't involve loudmouthed salesman barking into their earpieces? Please let me know. I can hardly wait.

Mon, 2009/08/03 - 19:25 by aargh

As I have mentioned before, we here at TravelHell aren't crack journalists. Which means no one comes here expecting the news. As such I won't apologize for sharing something that's not exactly hot off the presses nor even lukewarm. (This is where I could be a jerk and say that I'm doing my impression of print journalism, talking about a story well after it has hit The Great Internet, except that I'm too nice to say that.)

Here's an interesting piece if I've ever seen one: airlines may ditch in-flight entertainment. The reason? Apparently, so many passengers have their own gadgets that they're able to entertain themselves.

Makes sense, right? They're already yanking the galley areas since they no longer serve food. Why not take the next logical step and ditch the flight crew?

(Note to the airlines: please don't do that. You'd be better served replacing the flight attendants with riot police. But that's another story.)

Even if this report were anything more than one possible direction the airlines may take, I'm skeptical.

I have seen an increase in personal DVD players in recent years, true. But I say "increase" in the most technical, mathematical sense of the term: increasing from zero to two or three per flight. Statisticians worth their Greek letters would call that a sampling anomaly. I simply call it a rounding error.

Let's pretend for a second that personal entertainment gizmos are indeed the majority. My dear airlines, don't you realize that mass-frustration and rampant individualism make for a dangerous cocktail? Let in-flight movies be the opiate for your masses and quell the mutiny. Let the passengers stare at the little flickering screens to help them forget how little personal space they'll have for the next twelve hours. Take their mind off of the nickel-and-dime charges you've tacked on to their voyage. Hell, it may even steer them astray of joining the mile-high club.

(Well, maybe not. Ask around for the numbers on couples who watch television in the bedroom. If you can't get official stats just ask your local cable guy.)

No, no, and no. Since we here at TravelHell like to pretend we are somewhat business-minded, we propose a solution to the weary airlines and their accountants:

If you're so hurting for cash, why not sell the systems? I don't mean sell the equipment; I mean, sell the rights to our in-flight entertainment. Let some television network or film group decide what to pump into the little screen. Let some video game studio put their wares in front of your passengers. Any media company worth a dime these days would salivate at the thought of flashing their logo and content in front of a captive audience. International flights could become a testbed for new movies. Passengers would benefit because we wouldn't be subject to The Same Old Movie Again.

Just think about it. Please.

You could even sell the rights to some ad broker system, like many websites use. And when you do, drop us a line here at TravelHell. We'll pony up a spot we like to call, "Ten Ways to Annoy Your Fellow Passengers."

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