When Jet Blue tortured passengers by not letting them go to the bathroom for days and then took a pound of grief, the airline responded by putting a dramatic stake in the ground. In their Travelers Bill of Rights they proclaimed that people could go to the bathroom after a certain amount of time. We are all thankful.
In a similar event Cathay Pacific kept people on an airplane for seven hours. Since it was a red eye, many went to sleep right away. When they woke up they thought they had arrived and they had yet to leave the gate. Cathay Pacific said they didn’t want to make a lot of announcements about the status of the flight because they didn’t want to wake people up. I am sure they will produce their own Travelers Bill of Rights.
Any Bill of Rights is a step in the right direction although what I have seen is as bland as airplane lasagna. I give Jet Blue a lot of credit for owning up to the level of service but where are all the other airlines? What are they doing about protecting travelers comfort? The airlines receive suggestions every day in the Customer Complaint department and lots of editorials have been heaped on. Do they integrate that info into Bills of Rights? I doubt it. Not one to pile on Jet Blue, I want to stand up for my own traveling rights. The airlines know I have logged more than my fair share of miles.
As a reluctant frequent flier I know my rights and how they have been trampled for decades. Here is my own contribution to the Business Travelers Bill of Rights. Industry take note.
• Reclining Seats should be illegal. At least, there should be a sensor so that if you have your laptop on the tray the sensor will not allow the seat in front of you to recline.
• Any business trip that involves the words tram, train, people mover or shuttle should receive extra credit in the frequent flyer department.
• Bags of nuts, the free ones that are distributed should contain no garlic. Every little bit helps when you arrive home later than promised.
• All lavatories should have timers. After a certain amount of time the offending occupant should get sprayed with blue water.
• Snoring alarms should be installed near the flight attendant call button. When snoring occurs the oxygen masks will drop. Put it over the muzzle of the snorer.
• Discount coupons should be provided if the person next to you requires a seat belt extender. A double discount if the people on both sides of you require extenders.
• A “Working Section” should be provided on every airplane. Like the old smoking sections this should be a place where laptops plug in and there is a printer somewhere by the lavatories.
• Any time a flight is late the airline should call your boss to tell them how you have suffered.
• No hanging around at counters allowed. Especially over by the side where the jerk thinks if he schmoozes the gate agent he will get the upgrade, and not you.
• Any traveler with over a million miles should be guaranteed a space for any carry-on bag.
• If the flight attendant knows your name because you fly so much, you should fly for free.
• After two million miles the airlines should provide all drinks for free. If you are already in business or first class, they should give you little bottles to take home with you.
Security requires another entire section of a bill of rights for business travelers. There are many reasons why. My children have collections of metal statues of the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Every time I go to New York City I get my daughter a memento of Lady Liberty and my youngest son an Empire State Building. Every time I go through security with these it requires a long explanation of how this makes my return from a long trip better if I bring trinkets.
The inconsistencies in security systems from airport to airport will make any consultant want to start doing diagrams of proper processes. What makes sense at one airport may or may not make sense at the next one. What passes through security undetected at one will cause the National Guard to point their guns at you at another airport. If security is the numerator, efficiency is the denominator.
I know the security situation changes constantly and that security is the first priority, still there is rarely a reason for Disneyland like lines. The engineering isn’t quite done yet but for the business traveler, here are some security guidelines:
• Get used to it; security is a part of business travel. There will not be a shortcut any time soon.
• Carry a cell phone always. Long lines will create opportunities for conference calls or to drain messages.
• If you wonder if it will go through security, leave it home. Wear loafers.
• There will always be a little girl with a Barbie pencil sharpener in front of you. The blades on the sharpener will require a conference among security personnel and delay the line.
• Make sure you need to go on the trip. The thought of long security lines might help you make the right decision.
• Plan for the long line and rejoice if you don’t have one. Use the time.
• Keep all phone numbers with you. You will need them all.
• Know that random checks might mean you are checked ten times a day.
• Have pity on the airline people and security; they are doing their jobs.
• Put every thing in the purse or computer bag that will go through security
• Always get in line behind other business travelers. It goes faster than the line with the guys taking off their belt buckles and big watches.
• Be prepared – Make a mental plan of what would Harrison Ford do anytime you see anything suspicious.
• Never, ever mention the word gun, bomb, terrorist, and hijack or tell a TSA joke anywhere around the security checkpoints. They won’t laugh and neither will you.
Security will be the one constant of travel for the foreseeable future. Can you imagine a day again when you can meet your loved ones at the gate? It ain’t pleasant, it is necessary but it ain’t easy.
No one will deny the rigors of travel. Travel makes you old before your time, it makes you gain weight, it gives you bad breath and it is stressful. Any time you plan to get work done on a plane you will sit next to screaming babies. After a steady diet of travel my wife told me I went from boyishly good looking to ruggedly handsome to weather beaten in about a month. A reasonable bill of rights for the traveler is the least the airlines can do.