Thursday, November 24, 2016

8 Aspects of Air Travel to be Thankful For

As millions of Americans take to the skies this Thanksgiving holiday, there will no doubt be countless horror stories told of lost baggage, odorous seatmates, and 11th-hour flight cancellations as friends and family gather around the dinner table, although without poor old Uncle Joe who is still stuck at O’Hare. 

Even though for most people flying is the stuff of nightmares—complete with body pat downs and dehumanizing terms such as ‘cattle class’—in the spirit of the holiday, let us give thanks for eight aspects of air travel that make the experience of commercial flight just a bit more bearable: 

Inflight Connectivity 
The major U.S. airlines have recently made great strides in outfitting the majority of their fleets with inflight Wi-fi, USB ports, and power outlets in all classes.  

While inflight Wi-fi used to be limited only to certain geographic regions, such as the contiguous 48 states, the introduction of satellite Wi-fi has enabled passengers to connect to the web on international flights crossing the Atlantic and the Pacific.  

While the price of inflight Wi-fi is still quite high on the big three U.S. carriers, customer friendly airlines such as JetBlue, which provides free Wi-fi on all flights, and Southwest, which charges $8 for an all-day Wi-fi pass, foreshadowing the inevitable fall of the price of inflight Wi-fi as it becomes more ubiquitous. 

The ability to browse the internet at 40,000 feet is one of the greatest advancements in passenger experience in the past few years. Even though inflight connectivity does little to make up for lost baggage or delays, at least it provides a good distraction to the little kid crying at the back of the plane.  

TSA Precheck 
Nothing is more loathed in America than submitting to the humiliation of TSA security lines at airports. The lines are long, the agents are cranky, and the travelers are stressed. With all the negativity surrounding the TSA, one of the few bright spots has been the implementation of TSA Precheck.  

With extremely short lines, limited numbers of passengers, and no requirements for taking your shoes or coat off, among other things, Precheck makes all the difference when flying. Next time the word Precheck is stamped onto your ticket (after having signed up here, of course), take some time to be thankful for the opportunity to experience how airport security should actually operate. 

Low Fares 
Airfares in the U.S. have steadily declined since the deregulation of the airline industry in the 1970s. Even after the recent wave of airline mergers, airfares are still near historical lows. 

Recently, low-cost long-haul carriers such as Norwegian Air International and WOW Air have made it more affordable to fly to Europe. While the entrance of low-cost long-haul carriers into the trans-Atlantic market is not good for the legacy carriers who have depended on the market as a money-making machine, flyers will certainly benefit from the ensuing price war. 

Low fares have enabled more people to travel than ever before. That means more people can visit family, go on their dream vacation, or simply explore all the world has to offer. That is truly something to be thankful for. 

More Destinations 
Today, a simple click of a button on an internet connected device allows anyone to book a flight to practically any destination in the world. Through joint ventures and global alliances, airlines are more efficient than ever before in transporting passengers from one exotic destination to the next.   

The growth of airlines in developing regions has also increased accessibility to far-flung destinations.

The gulf carriers, although much derided by the legacy carriers and politicians in the western world, have also done much to make the world more connected. Destinations in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa that were very difficult to fly to previously are now only two flights and a short connection away.  

The Latest Aircraft Technology 
New generation aircraft such as the A350787, and the C-Series provide a much-improved customer experience with increased efficiency. These new aircraft feature more spacious cabins, quieter and more efficient engines, and a more comfortable cabin environment, complete with increased humidity and better cabin air pressure.  

The long range and efficiency of the A350 and 787 has been key in opening new point-to-point long haul routes, increasing the options for passengers.  

Flying economy class for a 12-hour flight will never be a comfortable experience. However, the innovations featured in the latest generation of aircraft have greatly improved the passenger experience. 

When your air travel experience goes downhill, Twitter is your best friend. Airlines are very responsive to the questions and problems tweeted at them by passengers, and will generally help to the best of their ability. If you are in a more combative mood, Twitter is great for rants against airlines, their employees, and even fellow passengers 

It’s also important to note that it is an obligation for celebrities to embark on Twitter rants against airlines when flying commercially. Luke Bryan,, and Russell Crowe are just some examples. 

When your flight is delayed for the umpteenth time, or there is a snake on the plane, remember, Twitter is there for you to vent all your anger, frustration, and stress. Thank you, Twitter. 

Baggage Tracking 
There is nothing worse than an airline losing your baggage. While passengers can pay for devices such as Lugloc to track their baggage, Delta recently launched free baggage tracking in their app. While tracking your bag in Delta’s app or with Lugloc won’t cause it to magically reappear on the carousel when it’s lost, it does give you some peace of mind. At least you know where it is. That’s something to be thankful for, right? 

Gate Agents and Other Front-Line Airline and Airport Employees 
Gate agents and other front-line employees are the real MVPs of the air travel experience. While they have zero control over weather delays, mechanical problems, or an overbooked flight, these employees get to bear all the consequences. The videos below are just a couple examples of the verbal abuse frontline airline and airport employees face.  

The next time you’re ready to pop off at a gate agent because your flight was overbooked, remember that the gate agent doesn’t dictate airline policy. Be thankful for the gate agents. In most instances, they’re stuck in a bad situation and are handcuffed by company policies. Oh, but don’t forget to take to Twitter to rant about it. 

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