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      a large passenger jet flying through a blue sky: A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 takes off at Los Angeles International Airport in 2015.? David Bro/Zuma Press/TNS A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 takes off at Los Angeles International Airport in 2015. A week ago, Scott McCartney, respected Wall Street Journal "The Middle Seat" columnist, prescribed six ways to improve air travel "instantly." Well, maybe. Actually, my take is that three of his are no-brainers, one is impractical, two are questionable, and he missed one big one.

      1. Reduce or eliminate exchange fees. If you've followed these columns at all, you know I've been railing about those fees for years. Although they impact relatively few travelers, the impact is disproportionally high, and they're a major pain point for consumers. I get that exchange fees are an important "fence" that deters business travelers from using the lowest fares -- and that's a benefit to consumers. But for travelers who get hit, it's a big pain point. Airlines have traditionally ignored consumer pain points until consumers get fed up and demand government action -- and that will happen unless the airlines shape up voluntarily. I predict they will not.

      2. Bring back interlining. This is another no-brainer that probably won't happen. Time was, you could book a connecting trip on any combination of legacy airlines, with baggage checked through to your final destination. And if one line couldn't accommodate you in a delay or cancellation, it would transfer to another line. Many airlines can still do this, but for the most part they don't.

      3. Create acceptable space minimums. This sounds obvious, but it isn't. Each airline is already pretty consistent with front-to-rear seat spacing, called "pitch," and although current standards aren't really acceptable, they're here to stay. If an airline were required to standardize on seat width, they'd have to downgrade to the tightest 737 standard. Seats are typically an inch wider on Airbus 320 series planes and two inches wider on the new A220. Making every line standardize on 737 widths would make matters worse for many travelers and better for none. Seat width is governed by cabin dimensions, and there's no way to stretch a 737 cabin wider. McCartney does highlight one place, however, where minimum standards are probably appropriate: lavatory size. Apparently the lavatories on American's newest 737s are so tight that using them poses a real challenge.

      4. Bring back coupon books. Huh? At one point, senior coupons were a great deal, making most trips a lot cheaper than regular tickets. But airlines would never adopt a coupon system that did not increase total revenues or at least be revenue-neutral, so my take is "what's the point?"

      5. Make family seating easier to reserve. Requiring traveling families to pay extra seat-selection fees to assure seats together is the epitome of airline arrogance. This is another no-brainer that airlines will ignore at the risk of heavy-handed government regulation.

      6. Slow down price changes. I'm not sure about this one. For the most part, you can already lock in a price long enough to search for a better deal. Airlines may be ahead of the curve with denying dynamic pricing, but the practice is more likely to extend to other markets rather than to be abandoned by airlines.

      Missed. In business quality control terms, "quality" means how closely a product conforms to the original specifications, and today, airlines are delivering a product that is something like 30 percent defective -- arriving later than the schedule promises. These delays cost airlines -- and therefore their customers -- a lot of money. Airlines blame air traffic control, airport congestion and everybody else other than themselves for this dismal performance. But if airlines adopted the principle of operational excellence (OE), they could cut delays to near zero. So says R. Michael Baiada, president of ATH Group, who has been preaching OE to airlines for a while. Yes, Baiada has an interest in promoting the OE idea; his company develops and sells OE implementation to airlines. But his arguments are persuasive. Airlines could do a lot better than they do within today's traffic-control and airport environments.

      (Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at [email protected]. Also, check out Ed's new rail travel website at www.rail-guru.com.)

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