Yes, it’s been said that it’s better to give than receive, unless the gift actually helps the recipient. And so, in that spirit, here are some very special presents for those in the travel industry to make 2013 a better year for all of us:
To the airlines: a gift of….portable stairs. It’s time to go back to the future. Let’s board (or deplane) planes the old fashioned way, if it makes the difference between leaving or arriving on time. It’s also frustrating to arrive on time — or even early — only to discover there is no jetway available. But who needs jetways? There are penalty boxes behind these jetways at every airport where planes can park, they can wheel up portable stairs and you’re off the plane. It’s a win-win for everyone: no late passengers, no misconnected bags, no excessive fuel burn waiting for that jetway for the airlines, quicker turnaround times for planes.
To the airports: a central de-icing location. This is one of the more common-sensical presents. Anytime you’re flying in temperatures at or below freezing, planes are required to be deiced. And that means a truck rolls up to the plane. You take a delay so the plane can be deiced – and then, after that delay, you push back from the gate and get into a long line of other planes that have been deiced and then…about 30 minutes later, you’ve been out there on that line too long and you have to go all the way back and be deiced again. It’s absurd, wasteful. Instead, airports should build a de-icing station 200 feet from the end of each runway. Planes will push back on time, taxi to the end of the runway, go through the deicing station, much like a car wash, and then take off. airports and airlines will save money on these expensive (and toxic) chemicals, planes will be perfectly trimmed (deiced) just before takeoff, and once again, on-time performance will improve and airlines will save money on fuel.
To the hotels: real 100, 150 and 200-watt light bulbs. as many as I can give them. I believe that no hotel room designer should be paid for their work until after they’ve spent at least two nights in the room they designed. The reality is that we don’t really change our lifestyle when we change our location. And, if you’re like me, you want the option to be able to read in your hotel room, or in some cases, even the option to SEE clearly! Hotel room designers these days seem to be in a vast conspiracy to give us mood lighting. And if that’s ALL they give us, it absolutely puts me in a bad mood. i want the option of brighter lighting. give me a 200 watt bulb with a dimmer switch, not a 40 watt bulb with an on-off switch.
And a second gift for the hotels: free wireless. Charging for wireless in 2012, let alone 2013 is downright inhospitable. Nothing ruins a guest experience more than having a great hotel stay disrupted by a $14 per day charge for a wireless connection. Ask most hotel guests (including me) what they consider a declaration of war, and they will not hesitate to tell you: charging for internet.
And now, my special present to the TSA: a copy of the airline schedules at each airport. Can everyone at the TSA please read them! then readjust your OWN schedules to be respectful of peak travel times. train your staff at 5 am and 10 pm, not during peak passenger times. That’s what really slows down the process.
A gift to US customs and border protection. First a shoutout to Global Entry, which allows you to reenter the U.S. after a foreign trip by simply putting your passport inside a kiosk, having your fingerprints read and in less than 2 minutes you’re processed and gone.
Now, my real present to major foreign airports where thousands of U.S. citizens visit: preclearance. You actually clear U.S. customs BEFORE you board your plane at foreign airports. the program is already in place and works fabulously in Canada, Bermuda, the Bahamas and Ireland. But why not London, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Hong Kong, and many other destinations with large numbers of U.S. citizens traveling? If implemented (and let’s face it, we already know it works) there will be fewer delayed passengers who miss their connecting flights in the U.S., fewer lost bags, and a net savings of at least an hour of our time every time we travel back from a foreign country. How much is THAT worth?
For the cruise lines: a gift of scheduling more sea, less ports. i cannot stand a cruise itinerary where the ship docks each day in a different destination for just eight hours, during which time you are shuttled off the ship to see the same tourist attractions, shop in the same souvenir stores, and buy a T-shirt you don’t need and get trapped on a bus. Instead, give me three days at sea on a 7-day cruise. My pulse rate will come down. I’ll enjoy the ship. I might even spend more money. So it’s a win for the ship and a win for me because i won’t have to hear any more steel bands at each port.
And finally, a gift to my fellow travelers: the gift of manners and patience. Please, on this Christmas Eve, let the holiday spirit extend throughout next year: Be polite, be understanding, be NICE when you travel. That applies to gate agents, counter agents, flight attendants, maids, bellhops, front desk clerks and other public contact folks who work very hard. In many cases, they’ve already been abused multiple times by their own employers before they ever see you. Translation: Being nice, especially when airports and airplanes are crowded, during peak check-in/check out times at hotels almost always pays you back exponentially. None of us should have entitlement issues, except for one non-negotiable area: we are entitled to be treated as nicely, and as well as we treat others. No more, no less. Whether the plane is late, or the hotel doesn’t have your room ready, whether you got your upgrade or didn’t, just be happy you even got on the plane. Get the bigger picture and realize why you’re flying or staying at a hotel. You’re flying to get from point A to point B without dying. and you’re staying at a hotel because it’s safe, it provides you with a comfortable bed and a shower that works. Everything else is more or less a bonus. But the real bonus happens when you are patient, when you are understanding and when you are NICE.
By Peter Greenberg for PeterGreenberg.com