Tag Archives: APEX Editor’s blog

Randy Peterson To Airports: Give The Travelers What They Want (Part 2)

In yesterday’s episode, frequent-flyer guru Randy Petersen used a webinar hosted by New York-based Clear, which offers a shorter airport security checkpoint experience for travelers, to discuss the good and bad in airports.  The shorter version of this post appeared Monday on the APEX Editor’s blog.

Peterson took a page from David Letterman and did a top 10 list about airports,  “Don’t Change a Thing…What your Customers Like.”  As promised, we have part two of his top 10 list, “Time to Rethink…This is When Customers Gripe.”

Number 10 is Why Sigh.  “Airports have slow WiFi speeds. These systems need to be modernized so we can upload photos quickly. We already feel like we’ve paid for WiFi with all the airport fees.  So modernize and stop charging and we’ll love you for improving our experience,” he said.  “It also makes you look good.”

Number 9 is the 80/20 rule.  In airport security, travelers spend 80% of their time waiting for someone to check their drivers’ license and 20 percent is going through security, said Peterson.  “Something is wrong with that.  In some it’s the airport and some is the Transportation Security Administration,” he said. “The lines are the lines, so airports need to work with the government and the infrastructure to stop long lines just to check IDs.”

Number 8 is Til It’s Time To Go. There’s a lot of anxiety for road warriors, said Peterson.  “We’re waiting for things like buses to the terminal. There’s a lot of anxiety on whether will I make my flight,” he said.  “Of the 73 apps on my iPhone, 42 will tell me airport security checkpoint wait times, but they don’t tell me my personal wait times. It would be good to know how long a wait is at given points.”

TSA says anxiety is a sign of a terrorist, said Peterson. “No. It’s anxiety to get on your flight.  Just et us know if we will make our flight.”

Number 7 is Sitting Not So Pretty. “Its uncivilized to sit on the floor waiting for your flight. I won’t sit on a floor,” said Peterson. “Airports need more chairs to match the size of an average aircraft.  We don’t sit on the floor at a restaurant or in the doctor’s office. It doesn’t look good when half of your people sitting on floor at a gate.”

Number 6 is Two-Lane Highway Versus The Interstate. Peterson uttered two words: narrow bathrooms.  “I have crashed into other folks with rollerboards because bathroom entrances are abysmal and badly designed,” he said.

Number 5 is Drag And Drop. There’s always a conga line at Immigration, standing in line having to kick their luggage, said Peterson. “Sometimes I have to hold it for 45 minutes, then put it on the floor, move three feet – it’s kick the can,” he said.  “I’m getting too old to pick up my belongings.  There must be some way for those lines to be structured. Can we invent better way do to this?”

Number 4 is Do You Know Who I Am? “I’m an important guy. I have a titanium card and I have access to an airline premium line,” said Peterson. “I’m in different cities like Boise, and I don’t know where airports have these designated security lines.  I’m in a long line, and I see a small sign that says premium passenger line here.  So get better signage.  We have egos, so show us where to go to get the premium lines.”

Number 3 is Beware What You Wish For.  Congress wants to get rid of premium lines and have airports do their own security, said Peterson.  “I don’t think it will work. Security is not just guys with a black light checking licenses.  Where will you find the money to do biometrics?” he asked.

The folks from Clear got my attention in Denver and I like what I see, said Peterson.  “I see there’s less manual processes in security.  Can DIA do this without Clear? Can TSA?” he asked.  “Security is not like the old days.  Where will the money come from? I’d prefer to let Clear take my money.”

Number 2 is No I Can’t Hear You Now.  “When a flight is delayed, I can’t always hear what’s going on.  Plus I move to another area because they have more seats (see Number 7),” said Peterson.  “Airports and airlines need a better way, like social media or apps, to get information out to passengers.”

Number 1 is Power To The People.  We all can see the huddled masses on the cold floor near the trash cans plugged in, said Peterson.  Programs and apps suck the life out of travelers’ devices, he added.  “I see some airports have power poles, but it’s not enough.  Smart road warriors bring their own power strips and extension cords, but that’s an accident waiting to happen. We need more and we need it to be accessible.”

Tomorrow: my own observations on some of Randy Peterson’s comments.

Randy Peterson To Airports: Give The Travelers What They Want (Part 1)

On Friday, I got to attend a “virtual cocktail party” (the virtual lychee Martinis were divine) online webinar with frequent-flyer guru Randy Petersen.  The event, entitled “The Airport Experience:  Insight from Customers,” was hosted by New York-based Clear, which offers a shorter airport security checkpoint experience for travelers.  The shorter version of this post appeared yesterday on the APEX Editor’s blog.

Peterson took a page from David Letterman and did two top 10 lists:  “Don’t Change a Thing…What your Customers Like” and “Time to Rethink…This is When Customers Gripe.”  So part one of this post covers the good things airports are doing.  Come back tomorrow to see some of the not-so-good things airports are doing, according to Peterson. And on Thursday, I’ll offer my own thoughts on Peterson’s observations.

Number 10 is Top Chef.  Peterson praised airports for bringing a “Top Chef” mentality to concessions by bringing in restaurants like celebrity chef Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera at Chicago O’Hare.  “I love name brands and local flavors in airports. I never look at the price tag at Frontera. Frequent flyers like quality and are willing to pay for it,” he said. “I just learned that Blanco Tacos + Tequila is coming to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, and I will try and route through Phoenix more to get this food. Local brands catch my attention.”

Number 9 is Fill ‘er Up.  “I’m a busy road warrior who loves expediency and things that save me time, like Clear,” said Peterson.  “I love the fact that some airports have valet parking.  I may be running late and don’t want to catch a bus from the parking lot.  They also have extra services, like car washes and oil changes.”

“Chores like this take me away from the fun things I can do. I go on a trip, and when I return, my car is clean and oiled,” said Peterson.  “We love airports as entrepreneurs. It make it easier for us, and shows that they are looking at lives of frequent flyers.”

Number 8 is Check It Out. Peterson said he is a big fan of people watching at airports. “Many airports are making it easier to do, with better seating.  I love to sit in the rocking chairs at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and watch the world go by,” he said. “I sit and guess what people are doing.  He’s wearing flip flops – is he going to the Caribbean? There’s a little People magazine in all of us. “

Number 7 is Couch Potatoes.  “When there’s a delay, we like comfortable chairs and couches. Seeing that in an airport blows me away,” said Peterson.  “I can sink back in a chair with my iPad. That’s comfy and I feel more at home like that.”

Number 6 is Chicken Or Beef.  Airlines gave us that choice, said Peterson.  “It’s not much of a choice, but it is a choice.  If you look at ways to get through the airport, like Clear, it  lets you get though pressure points quicker.  We like having a choice.  I don’t mind paying a fee if there’s a faster way through. Faster is good.”

Number 5 is Like You? Peterson has 73 apps on his iPhone that he barely uses, and airports want to give him another one. Instead of building separate smartphone apps, Peterson urged airports to work with existing offerings including TripIt and GateGuru (my personal favorite).  Give them the information so we can have it all in one place. I know you want your own app, but support the leaders and know that your information is included.”

Number 4 is It’s Not All About Me. “I have a lot of people in my life who are involved in my travel, even at the airport.  I love airports that have cell phone waiting lots,” said Peterson.  “It was aggravating to pay for parking and wait.  Now we have a secure zone where we can wait.”

Number 3 is Public Displays of Affection. Peterson noted that he doesn’t go to art museums, but loves public art. “So it’s fun and interesting to have them in airports.  I love San Francisco Airport,” he said. “I never take the moving sidewalks there. I like to see the displays of interesting and educational things, like the sewing machine display.  I thank airports for enriching my life and making me feel smarter when I get home.”

Number 2 is Kids Fly Free.  Airport play areas are great for kids, said Peterson. “Kids are road warriors too, so they’re part of the experience, so they need a playground where they can yell and have fun,” he said.  Minneapolis-St. Paul and other airports are doing a great job of building kid zones, he added.

And Number 1 is The Real Mall of America.  “I love see `coming soon’ banners at the airport like you see at shopping malls.  Travelers are no longer just looking for souvenirs. I’m now shopping for myself and m family,” said Peterson.  “When I bring a Coach purse from Minneapolis-St. Paul for my wife, it’s not a souvenir. It makes me the guy who brought that purse home.”  Peterson admits that when he’s on a business trip, he has no time to shop downtown.  “But I can do that at the airport, which has become the real Mall of America.”

Tomorrow: Time to Rethink…This is When Customers Gripe.

Top Five Interesting Stories Of The Week

  1. All the true airline geeks (including me) were excited over a major aviation event this past weekend — the final steps to a complete merger of Continental Airlines and United Airlines.  In this phase, the airline now has a single reservation system, a single check-in and one frequent flyer program — MileagePlus. But there’s always some problems when you’re merging two systems, including “late flight departures and arrivals, missed connections, problems at check-in kiosks, long lines and extended wait times to reach reservations agents as United agents tried to master the new system,” reports the Wall Street Journal.
  2. I’m a fool for anything written about my favorite aircraft — the Boeing 747.  So I thoroughly enjoyed a blog post by my former Aviation Week colleague Guy Norris, who gave us a sneak peek of the inside of a VIP 747 delivered to a Middle East customer in the Things With Wings blog.
  3. Back in late 1999, I took a trip to Israel for the delivery of the first ATR-72 to Arkia Israel Airlines. I was in New York City for a family event, so I flew on TWA to Tel Aviv. I could do several blog posts about that particular flight, but one of the things I remember is the flight attendants rolling down the aisles selling TWA-branded items — and being quite aggressive about it. Which is what I thought about when I read this New York Times article on the new revenue sources airlines are now chasing, including insurance, branded items and TV commercials.
  4. With Terrafugia Inc, about to debut its flying car at the New York Auto show next month, I read this Lifehacker blog post on the first true flying car.  The AVE Mizar was a Ford Pinto merged with a Cessna Skymaster plane. The wings were detachable, and that was the plane’s downfall.
  5. Back in the spring of 2005 when I was working for Delta Air Lines, I had to go out to Salt Lake City for a business meeting. One of my co-workers took me to the home of a flight attendant who had turned his basement into a Delta/Pan Am museum, complete with a reconstructed first class cabin, uniforms, travel posters and a huge pile of memorabilia. One thing he had was the wine-in-a-can Delta served passengers in the 1970s. So I thoroughly enjoyed a  post from Mary Kirby of the APEX Editor’s blog on Delta’s selections of wine in a box.

With the big switchover this weekend, the Continental Airlines name is no more.  So I’ll end this post with a classic commercial from the 1970s that featured a young Farrah Fawcett in the “We Really Move Our Tails For You” tag line. Enjoy!

Top Five Interesting Stories Of The Week

It was a busy week, catching all the news from the Singapore Air Show and Heli-Expo.  We also saw President Obama release his FY 2013 budget and FINALLY sign the $63 billion Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill, which keeps the agency funded through 2015. So here’s what else went on.

  1. As American Airlines parent AMR Corp. continues its stay in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, its labor unions, which have a seat at the creditors table, are doing what they can to keep as many jobs as possible, despite the airline’s recent announcement of 13,000 job cuts.  As an alternative to those cuts, two of the carrier’s largest unions — the Transport Workers Union and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants — has said the company should consider offering lump sum buy-outs, reports Aviation Week.  TWU is proposing $75,000, with health insurance and other benefits retained for 9,000 employees facing the chopping blog. APFA is asking for a year’s salary and current health, travel and pension rights for members with more than 15 years’ seniority.
  2. Anyone who’s a regular reader of this blog or who follows me on Twitter (@AvQueenBenet) knows that I think allowing cell phones during flight is another circle of hell. Do you hear the chatter that starts as soon as a plane lands? Can you imagine hearing that on a DC-San Francisco flight? One provision under the newly passed FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 is that Congress is requiring the FAA to study the impact of cell phones for voice communications on aircraft where such service is currently permitted by foreign governments, reports Mary Kirby (@APEXMary) in her APEX Editor’s Blog. Here’s hoping that the study will continue to uphold the inflight ban on cell phones.
  3. Back when I was in college in the 1980s, I was always trying to find the cheapest way to fly from D.C. home to San Francisco. My savior was PeoplExpress, also fondly known as People’s Distress. They had $99 fares, you paid to check bags and for food/drinks onboard. You even paid your air fare onboard. It wasn’t a luxury ride, but it got you from point A to point B at a pretty reasonable price.  The airline shut down in February 1987 and it was folded into Continental Airlines. Fast forward 25 years later, and it may be coming back. Some of the folks from the original airline are proposing to bring back the low-cost carrier and headquarter it at Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport in Virginia, reports the Washington Post.  The carrier plans to initially serve destinations in Florida, New England, the Great Lakes, and Mid-Atlantic regions, then expand to other cities, such as Pittsburgh, Providence, West Palm Beach and Newark, where airline consolidation over the past few years has led to a reduction of non-stop air service.
  4. Like most frequent travelers, I’ve been watching with interest as the Transportation Security Administration continues to expand its PreCheck trusted traveler program. I covered the airport security beat for four years, which gave me a front-row seat to the private sector operated registered traveler program.  You can read my post on the APEX Editor’s Blog about how we got from a private RT program to an effort overseen and blessed by TSA.
  5. It’s Black History Month, and I’ve always had a particular fondness for those who were pioneers in the aviation/airline industry.  My brother from another mother — Greg Gross from the I’m Black and I Travel blog — shared the amazing story of Norma Merrick Sklarek, who died this year at the age of 85. Ms. Sklarek’s claim to fame was that she was the first black woman in America to be licensed as an architect. But her place in aviation history was secured as the leader of the team that designed Terminal 1 at LAX, which received the millions of visitors for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.  She also designed the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Not bad for a woman who began her career designing bathrooms for the New York City building department.

I was a busy bee last week, with an APEX Editor’s Blog post about JetBlue’s food choices at its flagship Terminal 5 at JFK Airport, two stories in Aviation International News’ Singapore Air Show publication (on Enterprise Florida and Canada’s Manitoba Department of Entrepreneurship, Training and Trade) and a stint as guest host on episode 185 of the Airplane Geeks podcast. And last — but certainly not least — I got to be a judge, along with Henry Harteveldt and Brett “Cranky Flier” Snyder in a 12th anniversary cake contest to celebrate JetBlue’s 12th anniversary, as retold on the carrier’s Blue Tales blog.

Top Five Interesting Stories Of The Week

OK, so I’m here in Baltimore stewing in my own bitterness because all my cool aviation friends are at one of two places — the Singapore Air Show or Heli-Expo 2012.  But the news still continues no matter where we are, so let’s get going with this week’s stories.

  1. Since I can’t be in Singapore, I’ll be following the action from Aviation International News’ (you may see a story or 2 from me) special microsite just for the show.  I’ll probably also look at FlightGlobal’s microsite  (love that design) and my former employer, Aviation Week.
  2. Before and after American Airlines officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, rumors were flying over whether the carrier would merge and if they did, who will it be with? And now, American’s unsecured creditors say they want to see the airline talk with Phoenix-based US Airways about a potential merger, reports Reuters.  of course, these creditors want to have some hope of recovering money after the carrier emerges from bankruptcy.  But American’s management seems to be firm about not merging. It will be interesting to see what happens.
  3. In 1997, I flew down to Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, where the Embraer ERJ-145 was built, to take delivery of an aircraft for Continental Express.  On the way home, we spent a day and a half in Martinique.  At the airport as we waited for our ride to the hotel, we saw passengers boarding a CorseAir Boeing 747 to France. Our customs agent asked us to guess how many seats the plane had. No one guessed more than 400. But it was 24 in business class and 558 in coach — all the way back to France. So I didn’t raise an eyebrow when I read that Philippines budget airline Cebu Pacific will cram 400 seats onto its Airbus A330s, which normally seat 300, reports the APEX Editor’s blog.
  4. Back in 2009, I flew AirTran Airways to and from Orlando to attend the National Business Aviation Association convention.  On my flight home, I decided to expense the $12.95 for Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi. I used it to post the last of my show news stories and catch up on email. But would I have paid for it myself? Probably not, and that’s the dilemma outlined in a story in ComputerWorld, entitled “Wi-Fi in flight has yet to soar.”  The article notes that only 7% of passengers pay for the service because they don’t want to shell out the money and many times, they don’t know a plane is Wi-Fi equipped.
  5. Regular readers know that Southwest Airlines is my carrier of choice, because it gets me from Point A to Point B safely, quickly and at a good price.  That good price includes being able to check two bags for free.  But those who can’t or won’t fly Southwest Air have come up with clever little ideas to avoid paying bag fees on other airlines. Some of the ideas outlined in the New York Times included: vacuum-seal bags in a carry-on; Scottevest clothing that holds everything from clothing to an iPad; and signing up for an airline-branded credit card that allows for one free bag to be checked.

I forgot to link to my Feb. 1 post in the APEX Editor’s blog on miniature airport hotels at London Heathrow and Hartsfield-Jackson airports. And look out for the latest episode of the Airplane Geeks, where I’ll be a guest host.