When was the last time you got off a plane thinking, 'Wow, this is as good as it can get.'? Cramped seating, unpalatable food and high levels of anxiety are just a few issues we face while travelling economy in long-haul flights.
Recently, I came across certain airlines that are offering innovative flight experiences. This prompted me to recommend a few solutions whereby what we hate most about flying can be made more appealing. While you can't change the person sitting next to you, perhaps airlines can create an environment which equips you to make the most of that situation.
1. Arm Rest Villain:
Navigating your way into an economy seat is no easy feat and it doesn't end there. Once you are seated, you have to try not to spill over into the seat next to you or the person sitting in it. Besides hogging your arm rest, your neighbour might prevent you from getting any shut eye while he uses you as a pillow and snores away to glory.
This just leaves you with two options: gently nudge the neighbour's elbow in an attempt to reclaim your fifty percent share of the arm rest or wait until he gets up to use the lavatory and then look for the right opportunity to beat him at his game.
Currently, Air New Zealand offers their passengers the Economy Skycouch which is a trio of economy seats that can transform into a couch. This creates extra space for a couple to lie down or perhaps a parent with a child who wants to use it as a play area.
Perhaps airlines can introduce a 'Snooze Room' onboard. All those who can't maintain their posture while asleep, can pay for a twenty minute power nap in an isolated cubicle so that this facility is available to all passengers. The snooze room can also be your sanctuary from a tormenting neighbour.
2. Chatty Cathy:
Incessant chatter is a common airline dilemma. If an introduction is met by a quick opening of a magazine or an immediate grab for the headphones, it's safe to assume your neighbour is not in a social mood.
Unfortunately, travelers don't realize that an airplane journey might provide some people the sheer pleasure of alone time. In that case, you are left with no choice but to turn up the volume on your iPod so you can block out everything else in the background. This can either be deafening during the flight or reward you with glares from those who are forced to listen to an outpour of your tunes.
Introducing a viewing deck would enable people to witness amazing views of the earth and entertain themselves rather than their neighbours! It would also provide chronic talkers an opportunity to socialize with others who are looking for company.
The airline can also provide noise cancellation headphones so you no longer have to crank up the volume to overcome background noise created by fellow passengers and you can listen at lower levels, which leads to reduced ear fatigue.
3. The Kick Off:
How many times have you shut your eyes hoping just for an hour of tranquility and a massive jolt pierces right through the middle of your seat? On most occasions, it's the bored, restless and sleepless child seated behind you.
When faced with the challenge of controlling young enthusiasts in a confined space, too many parents just shrug their shoulders. As much as you want to strangle someone, you are simply left with the prerogative of either complaining to the parent or casting an icy stare from in between the seats, hoping it will scare the child as well as the parent!
Lately, there's been a lot of talk about 'Kid Free' quiet zones on board and how parents might feel about being singled out on this basis. Malaysian Airlines restricts families with children from sitting in the economy upper deck of its Airbus A380-800 which offers a physical separation from the rest of the plane. Meanwhile, Lufthansa 747-8 has placed sound-absorbing curtains and sound-deadening insulation beneath the carpet to block noise for its first class passengers.
In case of long-haul flights, airlines can take a step further and introduce a chargeable sound-proof room with plastic balls, slides and perhaps even a few seats children can kick in the back! Allocating a separate section where parents can sit with their children is not a bad idea as well if it has sound-absorbing curtains.
Nanny in the Clouds is a company that offers to help you locate a nanny for hire in the same flight you are taking but if all airlines provide this service in-house, parents may feel more comfortable when entrusting their child with an airline nanny who has more credibility.
4. Peace Raiders:
Tantrums at check in counters, outrageous security routines, grumpy flight attendants and frustration when your choice of food runs out just add to the stress one faces throughout a journey.
Considering the diverse scenarios each passenger might face, airlines can't possibly guarantee a hundred percent stress free flight but they can at least help you de-stress.
Emirates is the only airline which offers showers for first-class passengers aboard its fleet of A380 jets. To make things more soothing, it houses massage-enabled leather seats that convert to flatbeds. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class offers in-flight spa services which enable the passengers to reach their destination relaxed and refreshed.
In order to stay competitive, most airlines are implementing cabin modifications to keep up with rapidly changing demands of corporate travelers while economy class passengers take a backseat. If income is the focal point here, can't revenue be generated by charging economy passengers for a shower or spa service?
The least a deprived and immobile economy class passenger could be offered is free power points onboard to recharge electronic devices. This would de-stress him about having low battery issues on reaching his destination. At present, Etihad economy class seats are equipped with in-seat power sockets. Singapore Airlines, Qantas Airways and Emirates also offer this facility on their Airbus A380.
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