Since United’s “Re-Accommodation Heard ‘Round The World,” airlines have been issued a simple and powerful directive: Act like a giant, user-hating corporate machine at your peril. While price is still the number one factor for flyers, “not having our heads slammed into an armrest” seems to be coming in a close second.
As United dealt with the fallout of a catastrophic situation followed by a catastrophic PR response, other airlines trolled them with new ads and fresh policies. Delta’s decision to allow gate supervisors to award nearly $10K in vouchers (just barely below, so as to miss the tax threshold), seems to be the standout among these. All of a sudden, getting bumped doesn’t seem so bad. Screw making it to Thanksgiving, you can take a family of four on vacation to Madagascar for $10K.
With the airlines clearly listening, we decided to give them some more reccomendations. Some of these conflict, some of them would impact price, some you may not like, but they are all ideas and that seems to be one thing the industry has a shortage of right now.
Delenda Joseph: Assigned Bins
I’m so sick of leaving it up to chance on whether or not I’m going to have a spot to store my carry-on in the overhead bin. Overhead bins need to be assigned by seat. I already have to wait until Group Z is called to board the plane, but then there’s a possibility some jackass has taken the overhead bid above my seat? And it’s always a passenger who’s sitting way back there and wants to steal someone’s overhead bin space and put his crap up front.
Then they want to get upset and call a flight attendant when you take their stuff out and leave it on the floor. Whatever!
Vince Mancini: No one under 18 allowed to sit in first class
Every time I walk through first class on my way to the prole section I see a few kids here and there, which on the one hand is nice of the parent, because those of us in economy don’t have to sit next to your kid, but on the other hand, that’s too much luxury and special treatment for some dumb wiener who didn’t do anything to earn it. They’re young, they don’t need the extra room.
Besides, circulating with the riff raff would do them good. I’m convinced a kid raised on first class seating he never earned is going to grow up with a serious entitlement complex and the last thing we need is a bunch more Jaden Smiths and Donald Trump Jrs running around.
Stacey Ritzen: Food + Booze
Unlike in the United States, many airlines in other countries around the world take care of their customers. The first time I flew British airlines I was shocked to be treated to two full meals during my flight, and all of the tiny bottles of Chardonnay I could drink. But on domestic flights? The most balanced “meal” you can typically expect is a bag of freaking Chex Mix and you’re going to pay like five dollars for it. With airlines already nickel and diming passengers at every turn, how hard would it be to offer up free snacks and booze? Is it because Americans can’t be trusted with free, unlimited booze? (Well… )
The bottom line is people like free food, even if it wouldn’t really be free since it would be rolled into the price of each ticket, one way or another. United could bash faces into armrests all they wanted as long as they offered up some cheese and crudites after. Mark my words.
Bill Hanstock: The big boys need their space
Thanks to Kevin Smith and others, we all know that plus-sized passengers (like myself) are occasionally treated like second-class citizens on planes. But beyond just a blanket “treat everyone like a human being” policy for all airlines (I’m not holding my breath there), let’s just make it universally understood that we gotta all have better spatial awareness on an airplane.
Flights are already long and cramped, and that’s before we get into manspreading and armrest hogging and all that other unfortunate jazz. So speaking from long experience as a big boy on many flights, here are my sensible requests:
1) Alternate between big boys and small boys. If flight attendants are getting the lay of the land on open seating, let’s get an even distribution of body types. Obviously groups stay together, but let’s Tetris the hell out of shapes and sizes. You’re not gonna put all the L-shaped pieces right next to each other. Come on.
2) No big boys on the aisle. If you have wide shoulders, you’re going to get knocked into by every damn person and cart that passes by the entire flight. This is one of the worst things ever.
NOTE: I realize how potentially problematic this could be from a body shaming/profiling angle, but as a potential victim of body shaming/ profiling in this scenario, I would gladly register as “more to love” or whatever on an airline website if it meant I wouldn’t have to get slammed by a drink cart, or have to fold my shoulders together and press both my legs to one side for six hours. And yes, manspreaders will have to register as such, and any non-registered spreaders that attendants see will be issued a second seatbelt to lash their legs together.
I don’t think this is too much to ask.
Allison Sanchez: All planes should have free wifi
Paying money for wifi on a plane is one of my deepest annoyances and biggest frustrations and I end up spending 45 minutes every flight trying to con the “Gogo” in flight help person into giving me a free pass. Being able to watch YouTube makes up for a lot.
Steve Bramucci: Turn getting bumped into an auction
I wrote about this in my original article on the subject, but I think airlines would gain a ton of goodwill by auctioning the right to be bumped to the lowest bidder. Essentially, the gate agent would say: “Who will get bumped for $400?” If no one steps forward, it goes to $450, $500, $550… you get the idea. There would be no max cap, which isn’t asking much because the FAA doesn’t mandate one.
I love this for three reasons:
1) I think it’s generally better that rearranging someone’s teeth with an armrest.
2) I work on the internet and know it would be a huge, positive story the first time someone walked away with 10K.
3) I love the idea that these auctions would become demonstrations of game theory. Raise your hand too early and your rewards are minimal. Raise your hand too late and you get nothing.
Josh Kurp: Movie Selection
I have only ever watched two movies on an airplane: Tomorrowland on the way to Hawaii; Pitch Perfect 2 on the way back from Hawaii. (Both are bad; Pitch Perfect 2 is worse.) My preferred airlines are the cheap-ass ones that reluctantly hand out free water and bags of pretzels, let alone free #content, so I’m usually either sleeping or reading trashy magazines. But I would stay awake the entire trip if my in-flight movie options included the Criterion Collection*. There’s nothing else to do — why not finally check out Billy Wilder’s Ace In the Hole**?
*: And by “the Criterion Collection,” I mean “all nine Hellraiser movies”
**: And by “Billy Wilder’s Ace In the Hole,” I mean “Hellraiser: Deader”
Caleb Reading: Lay off trans people
I just want the TSA to stop harassing trans people and get rid of the nudity scanners — which have led to the TSA labeling people an “anomaly”, inspecting their genitals, saying stupid sh*t, and publicly outing them at great personal risk. I don’t really have any more to say about it than that.
Ben Sahle: Assigned overhead bins
If I could change one thing about flying it would be to have assigned overhead spaces. Why can’t we designate each passenger one slot? I don’t want to fight a family of three when they try to take over an entire column of overhead space. Do they really need 17 bags for their trip to Durham? What do they even have in there?
Now you may be saying, why don’t you check your bag? Problem solved. If you are the type of person that checks a bag for a domestic flight, you are cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. On a good day, your bag arrives late. On a terrible day, your bag is sent to Ghana and the airport gives you an IOU handwritten with a crayon. So no I would rather not play Russian roulette with my luggage, thank you very much. Assigned bins. Cased closed.
Alex Galbraith: Over-sized carry ons
I feel like we should be able to make citizens arrests of people who bring a bag bigger than my apt on as a carry-on. That’s really the only airplane gripe I have because it’s such a severe amount of entitlement to a shared space.
Dan Seitz: End The Reclining Seats
An airline policy I’d seriously like to see is the removal of reclining seats. As a person taller than 5’6″, which is apparently the only human being an airliner is designed around, if somebody reclines back fully, it makes it uncomfortable for me to sit, I can’t use my laptop, and it’s harder to reach anything else I’ve stored. I’d ask for better seat design but that’s unrealistic, so let’s stop screwing around and just lock in all the seats.
Allison Sanchez: Free champagne for anyone stuck in a middle seat between two “talkers.”
How will the flight attendant know if you’re stuck in that situation? A knowing glance between two comrades should be enough. Your pain will shine through.
Mark Shrayber: Full Soda Cans
If we’re all going to continue flying, we need to agree on one thing: Getting the entire can of soda should be standard rather than a request you have to scrounge up every last ounce of courage to make.
If I’ve paid hundreds of dollars to fly, then airlines should just go ahead and assume that I’m going to want all 12 ounces of Ginger Ale and plan accordingly. If there’s space for all that ice you put into my soda, then there’s space for a few more embarrassingly small cans of Diet Coke.
And for god’s sake: If passengers are stuck on the tarmac for more than sixty minutes, offer everyone one free alcoholic beverage (or a snack) to make up for it and breed a tiny bit of good will. Especially the kids. Maybe a shot of Jack will put them to sleep and no one will have to deal with the crying when their ears pop.
Zach Johnston: Put the TVs in the armrest
Listen, I like having a TV right in my face if I want to watch a movie I didn’t care to pay for on the big screen. I’ll also binge watch something on a long flight I might need to stay awake on. But having that shit in your seat is about the stupidest place it can be. The amount of flights I’ve been on where the person behind me is using their fingers like some sort of poking stick trying to get the touchscreen to function has just got to stop. It sucks to be coach in the first place. Having some asshole poking the back of your seat because they have no concept or dexterity or common courtesy for hours on end is almost unbearable. Either make the screen remotely controlled or get them out of the back of my seat.
Steve Bramuci: Divide rows up by ethical system
Okay friends, I’m crazy for this one but I’m going to try it. What do we want on a plane? Is it a Ayn Rand-ian, each-person-is-an-island type of place? Fine, then I’m going to recline (since I can) and use every inch of my seat space, with no concessions made for people around me. Or is it an egalitarian, “We’re in this together, fam” community-in-the-air? Okay, then we’ll need to be sensitive and compassionate. All of us. What about the idea that flying is an experiment in utilitarian ethics? That would mean we need to make decisions about the benefits of the group and some people might have a worse experience because of it.
These are all interesting ethical systems and all have their merits, so let’s divvy the rows up. Do you want to be all alone in a world of one? Fine, there’s a row for that. Do you want to be with the Steve Bramuccis of the world in hippyville? You’ve got a row too!