6 Easy Ways Airlines Could Improve the Economy Experience

by  Blane Bachelor | Sep 19, 2013
Girl on plane
Girl on plane / undrey/iStock

It’s no secret that flying isn’t what it used to be – ever-increasing fares, packed flights, and endless surcharges have all but extinguished whatever joy we used to derive from air travel (unless you’re fronting big bucks for a cushy ride in business or first class, that is). Then again, airlines don’t have it easy, either, with soaring fuel costs, razor-thin margins, and stifling government regulations.

To be honest, the average economy-class travelers of today aren’t asking to be pampered. Instead, what we expect (and deserve) are convenience, respect, and just a smidge of comfort. So, in light of a few recent frustrating on-board experiences, we thought up six easy and affordable ways airlines could raise the bar.

1. Remind passengers not to finger-stab their individual video screens.
As much as we love in-flight entertainment, it comes with a drawback: the passenger behind you hitting the buttons on their screen like they’re trying to poke out an attacker’s eyeballs. On a long flight, this can turn into a major annoyance – one that could be mitigated if airlines would simply add a gentle reminder to their in-flight safety announcements.

2. Add cup holders behind seats
A super-simple solution to both the annoying jostling with tray tables and spilled drinks? Attach a  cup holder to seat backs (or the bottom of tray tables) in the form of a simple, circular holder that flips up when not in use. Cup holders would also create more space on tray tables for laptops and tablets – and who needs the entire tray table for just a drink, anyway?

3. ... And while you're at it, add coat hooks too
Coat hooks are another simple addition that save space in the overhead compartments and make it easier to grab your coat (or sweater or hoodie) when onboard temperatures inevitably drop (since blankets on planes are rare in coach these days). Coat hooks are also a good spot for earphones.

4. Scrap needless announcements, especially during sleeping hours.While the Federal Aviation Administration requires certain (annoying) announcements we’ve heard countless times (no tampering with the lavatory smoke detectors; fasten seat belts while seated), some pilots blather nonstop about flight patterns and wind direction when all passengers want to do is tune out or sleep. Our suggestion? On early-morning and red-eye flights, stick to the FAA mandates only, then turn off the mic until it's time to return our seat backs to the upright position and turn off all electronic devices to prepare for landing.

5. Require flight attendants to wear soft-soled shoes.
On a recent long-haul, overnight flight, my already-shallow sleep was further interrupted by a flight attendant’s constant stomping up and down the aisle in high heels. Conscientious airlines should require flight attendants to lighten their step with softer-soled shoes, especially on red-eye flights when most passengers will be trying to get some shut-eye. Flying is already bumpy enough on its own.

 6. Require passengers to wear sleeves.
Airlines' dress codes are notoriously mysterious and difficult to find, but this is a simple solution that would help address two related issues that can be problematic: 1) too much skin and 2) not enough deodorant. Nobody wants to sit on a cross-continental flight pressed shoulder to shoulder against someone dressed like Larry the Cable Guy – a situation that, indeed, is very much the pits.

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