It’s 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon and my brother and I are arguing with an American Airlines agent about transit policies for the United Kingdom. Despite being a very frequent traveler with the airline ad this route, the agent at JFK is dismissive. I eventually end up calling the executive desk at American Airlines who then summons the airport manager to resolve the issue.
This entire process – and frustration that goes along with it takes nearly 2 hours and completely turns me off. What was supposed to start off as an amazing trip to India for a family wedding ends up starting off with extreme frustration.
As sad as this is – American Airlines is probably the best US airline in regards to dealing with these types of disputes, especially if you are a premium passenger. Overall, most commercial airlines in the United States suffer from the same problem.
Aviation is magical. Someone plans a trip with the intention of enjoying their destination. And while they’re thinking about the destination, the excitement starts far before that – when they are planning the trip, when they’re working out the logistics and when the arrive at the airport.
But, today, when you get to an airport, you’re almost guaranteed to be ripped off. Many casual travelers have no choice but to put up with the frustrating policies of airlines. It starts off with the baggage policies, then it’s the TSA in the United States and then it’s the $4 bottles of water – if you are lucky.
And that’s how most people end their vacation – dealing with the antiquated policies of airlines that are struggling to remain profitable.
Here’s the thing – airlines and aviation in general are perhaps one of the largest drivers of innovation of our generation.
I’ve had the great pleasure of going to bed in New York and waking up in Sydney.
I’ve had the distinct honor of judging technology contests at 35,000 feet.
I’ve flown in aircraft that define and then redefine luxury.
I’m just wrapping up a 34 hour trip – door to door – and I’m writing this on a seat that becomes a bed while wearing PJs and being pampered with cologne and other premium products by the world’s best designers.
But, I’m also fortunate that I’ve figured out how to make this all happen for me. For me, regardless of the destination, travel is still something so amazingly beautiful. The folks that I know who work in aviation are genuinely happy about how aviation connects the world. These people are friends, some are family. They want to see innovation. They still get excited when they get to visit a new country, whether it’s once a year or once a month.
Airlines – especially in the United States – have made the process of flying such a drag that I really wish we could hit the reset button and start all over again.
There isn’t a single person I know who wouldn’t like to be treated like a human being again on an aircraft. Aviation connects families. It reunites people. It fosters new relationships and has done more for commerce than many other forms of innovation the past few decades.
So, to all the legacy United States carriers – let’s keep the bigger picture in mind. Let’s reinvent and redefine commercial aviation. For our sake. And especially for yours.