Last month I boarded eight flights to seven cities in five countries across 12 times zones on five carriers in 25 days and clocked 44,757 km.
Putting aside my dismal carbon footprint at the moment, it was an interesting exercise in the delights (and mostly horrors) of flying. So here now are my 6 ways to make flying better:
1: Just let everyone board the damn plane: In theory, this zone business where those in the back of the plane board first makes sense. But in practice, it's useless. Business class passengers, the elderly, and parents with children and way too much carry-on luggage get to board first and they just end up being in the way as soon as the first zone piles on. Add to that those seated near the front (like me) who try to board early and those clueless people who board two minutes before they close the doors -- these are the same folks looking for seats in the movie theatre as soon as the trailers start -- and it becomes quickly apparent that there's no truly efficient way to board. Let boarding be the survival of the fastest.
2: Offer everyone a hot towel -- near the end of the flight: Singapore Airlines generally had the best service and was the only carrier with towel service but it's provided too early. I don't need to wipe myself off at the start of the flight, I want to do it after seven hours of recirculated air and Ebola virus have seeped into my pores and my soul.
3: Splurge on earphones: Hey airlines, if you're recycling them, how about you offer passengers a pair that actually drowns out or muffles the sounds of crying children. Which brings me to...
4: Ban crying children: Okay, I know. You can't really ban them but someone has to seriously do something about their parents. When I was a child, if I got rowdy in public, my mother served up the look of death. The look of death, in case you're unfamiliar with it, is that icy glare that warns you that if you continue your socially unacceptable behavior, there will be hell to pay at some to-be-determined time and place. Apparently sometime between my 20th century childhood and the 2010s, parents either decided they don't care or don't believe it's their place to tell their children to shut the fuck up. My flight from Sydney to Perth on Virgin Australia was the most memorable in this regard -- five full hours of wailing, whining, seat belt buckle clacking and this close to a little girl's projectile vomit. In large planes in particular, airlines should attempt to herd all families with children into one of those zones I mentioned in #1, then hermetically seal them for the duration of the flight. And in addition to earphones, airlines would be well advised to hand out pacifiers, since parents apparently no longer bother using them.
5: Design a better seat: With the billions of dollars spent by Boeing and Airbus developing state-of-the-art flying machines, you'd think a few million would be set aside to devising a seat that cradles your head and neck in a comfortable way. This might not be a problem if you're short, but I suspect anyone over 6-feet finds it impossible to relax on a plane.
6: Actually forget the seats: How about developing a technology that puts you to sleep for the duration of the long flight and wakes you up just before you land. If they could do this in the fake future of Planet of the Apes and Alien, it's time someone do it, now in the real future.
Richard Branson, you in?