I don’t want to be a pessimist, but it seems to me that with a lot of the news going around over the past month or so, Travel is Changing and it is not for the better. I think most of this centers around the changing Passenger Experience (PaxEx).
Travel is Changing by the Government’s Hand
The Passenger Experience is under attack, ironically, by as much the United States & United Kingdom Governments’ hand, as by the airlines’ actions. For example, we saw the initial Electronics Ban, which bans electronics larger than your smartphone from flying in the cabin from Middle Eastern airports. I had thought there might be a silver lining for travel hackers but that hasn’t panned out.
Instead, we are seeing rumors of an expansion of the Electronics Ban (in fact, Delta was ready last week) to westbound flights from Europe to the US. This is painful, since most westbound flights are during the day, usually during prime business hours. This will hurt business travelers and leisure travelers alike.
This is of course in the name of security, and unfortunately, it is challenging to know whether its just being used as an excuse or if there is a justifiable reason. The challenge with security is that we never really know unless it fails.
The Airlines Aren’t Helping Matters
The Airlines aren’t helping improve the Passenger Experience like they used to. Just this week, Delta Airlines announced that they will reduce the size of the premium cabin on their 777’s, and add more economy seats. Other airlines have embraced 10-abreast seating in the 777 in droves, including British Airways and Cathay Pacific.
One area that airlines are adding–for the most part– is Premium Economy. I would however argue, that airlines argue that this gives passengers more choice. I would argue that this is a euphemism.
At the same time, flights are flying with more seats filled than we’ve seen in more than a decade. Airlines are making more money, well, other than American Airlines.
Passengers are Responding Poorly
I won’t go so far as to argue a causal relationship between the above changes and the outburst of social media, news, and blog stories on passengers either being treated poorly, behaving badly, or both.
But the fact remains, #BumpGate, when Dr. Dao was forcibly removed from a United Aircraft, was perhaps the inflection point. Since that time, we’ve seen reports of a soon-to-be-married couple ejected from an aircraft (they were at fault, by the way), we’ve even seen fist fights among passengers break out on a Southwest Flight and more.
We’ve even seen issues in the airport itself, specifically Spirit Airlines Passengers in Fort Lauderdale, after Spirit took a different strategy in negotiating with its Pilots Union.
In most of these cases, the blame is shared between airlines and passengers, but the fact remains. Police–or their proxies–have been called to take on a greater role in air transportation, and it is not a good thing.
All sides have an opportunity to change the direction that we are headed in. The Electronics Ban could be more tailored, or