Tag Archives: frequent flyer

Randy Peterson To Airports: My Observations (Part 3)

So here we are at Part 3 of frequent-flyer Randy Peterson‘s thoughts on the good and bad in airports. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here.  I have been to more than my fair share of the world’s airports, and as I listened to Peterson, I found myself nodding in agreement with some of his observations and disagreeing with others.  So below, I offer my thoughts on five of the good and bad things about airports.

Don’t Change a Thing…What your Customers Like

I agree with Peterson on Number 10, Top Chef.  I love different concepts and local/regional brands that have popped up in airports.  One of my favorites is Vino Volo, which offers premium wines by the bottle and the glass. They also offer flights of wine with tasting notes.  Interestingly enough, I ate Torta Frontera food at Chicago O’Hare with Peterson and I’d gladly fly through O’Hare to eat it again.

I’m an iPhone freak who loves her apps. In Number 5, Peterson mentioned one of my favorite apps — GateGuru.  This s my go-to app when I need to find a retail outlet, restaurant or service. I paid $2.99 for the app, but it’s now free. You not only get directions to what you’re looking for, but you get folks like me (AviationQueen) who give reviews on the listed services.

Not only do I travel, but I’m always picking someone up from the airport, so I’m with Peterson on the convenience of cell phone lots, Number 4. My favorite is at Phoenix-Sky Harbor Airport. There’s plenty of space, you can do great plane spotting and the airport has billboards with phone numbers of all the airports so you can check on flight status.

I am a BIG fan of art in airports just like Peterson, so Number 3 appeals to me.  San Francisco (my original hometown airport) has the best art I’ve seen in airports.  I’m also a big fan of what I’ve seen in Phoenix, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Hartsfield-Jackson and Pittsburgh.

Shopping is fun — and a sport — for me. Back when I worked for Mesa Air Group in Phoenix, I used to fly through Pittsburgh regularly just for the shopping, as outlined in Number 1.  I love how airports have really stepped up their game in the shopping arena. Some of my favorites are Hartsfield-Jackson, Orlando, JetBlue’s JFK Airport Terminal 5 and Seattle-Tacoma.

Time to Rethink…This is When Customers Gripe

Now we get to the not-so-fun part — what airports need to work on.

In Number 10, Peterson bemoaned slow WiFi and pay WiFi (yes, that means you, BWI and Hartsfield-Jackson), and I agree with him 100%. We all like to surf the web, check email and upload/download content.  I appreciate the free WiFi, but it does me no good if it takes too long to download the latest picture of my beautiful child or open an attachment on my email.

I have the TSA app on my iPhone. One function on it is security checkpoint line wait times.  Good idea in concept, but when people don’t update it for days, it does no good, although I post my wait times faithfully. So like Peterson I’d love to see an app (Number 8) that gives more accurate wait times to cut anxiety.

Ah…airport floors. My behind has seen more of my fair share of airport floors (Number 7), and frankly, kids, I’m getting too old for it. I, like Peterson, would like to see more chairs in gate holding areas.

When I worked at Delta Air Lines, I got to be part of the team that opened the new Terminal A at Boston-Logan International Airport. One of my favorite parts was mentioned in Number 6 — the bathrooms.  The bathrooms in Terminal A were wide a spacious, and the stalls had more than enough room to bring in a purse and a rollerboard. Unfortunately, there are still too many facilities that can’t — or won’t — adjust accordingly.

And our Number 1 is the same — Power To The People. I’m usually the most popular girl in the airport. Why? I carry the Belkin Mini Surge Protector with three plugs and two USB ports. It is amazing how many friends I’ve made sharing my surge protector with people whose phone were mere bars away from death. Airports are doing better (thanks DFW and Boston Logan), but we need more plugs!!

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 Aviation Stories

Ah, we all lived to tell the tales of another week in the wild and wonderful world of aviation.  I had so many choices for this week’s top five it was hard to decide. So here goes!

  1. All of us true aviation geeks have been following the Boeing 787 Dreamliner since it was an idea in the head of company engineers.  The aircraft has had its problems coming to market, which is why we were all glad to see this story at AviationWeek.com by my colleague Leithen Francis: “ANA 787 Validation Flights Starting Soon.”
  2. Ah, summer. Time to hit the road and try and cash in some of those frequent flyer miles you’ve been hoarding all year.  But not so fast.  You may want to read this Wall Street Journal Middle Seat blog post ranking the airlines on frequent flyer seat availability.  SPOILER ALERT! No surprise, Southwest Airlines ranked number one for seats available (love you, Rapid Rewards!), while US Airways and Delta were at the bottom of the list.
  3. USAToday.com contributor David Grossman is filling in for our good friend Today In The Sky columnist Ben Mutzabaugh.  On Wednesday, he did an interesting post on cities chasing air service throw out subsidies to get it.  After writing about and working for a regional airline, the awful truth is when the money runs out, most times., so does the service, kids. Sad, but true.
  4. My airport soul sister Harriet Baskas (of the great Stuck At The Airport blog) has a fascinating article over at MSNBC.com on how Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport handled 10,000 stranded passengers after severe hail storms delayed hundreds of flights.  And I could have been among those stranded had I been on the delivery flight of American Airlines’ first Boeing 737-800,  as reported by our Twitter friend @AirlineReporter (aka David Paul Brown).  But if I was going to be stranded in any airport, I’d want it to be DFW, and I tell you why here.
  5. I’m not a big professional basketball fan (but love me some college hoops), but I have watched a few games in the playoffs.  I know that American Airlines has two arenas (in Dallas and Miami) bearing its name, and this article on CNBC.com explains just how much that’s worth to the Dallas-based carrier, especially if the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat face each other in the finals.

I must put in a quick plug for my day job.  Aviation Week has partnered with Airbus to create the cool Ultimate Guide to the Paris Air Show iPhone app. My colleague Rupa Haria blogs about it here.

On the media side, you can catch me in two interviews:  with Paula Williams of Your Marketing Co-pilot and with Dan Webb of the Airplane Geeks (I’m on first) for the Bits & Pieces podcast episode.

Speaking of the Geeks, I’ll be hanging out with them at the Become a Pilot Family Day and Fly-In June 18, 2011, 10 a.m. – 3p.m., at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center next to Washington Dulles International Airport.  Max, Rob, Dan, and David will join Milford and Charlie from FlightTime Radio to broadcast live from the museum.  If you’re in the area, please come out to see us.  You never know what kind of swag we might have to give away!

And last — but not least — Strange But True Aviation News is back after a week hiatus.  We’ve got someone trying to master his domain inflight, we see what happens when TSA holds a terrorist drill and forgets to tell a key party and more guns at airport security. Enjoy your long weekend!