Sarah Shewey

CEO/Founder, Happily


This conversation is closed.

Rethink the human-centered airline experience. *A TEDActive Travel Project*

The TEDActive Travel Project will examine customer experience onboard the plane and beyond the terminal. We'll look at the challenges and opportunities, for both individual travelers and the airline industry, and produce a set of recommendations to enhance air travel.

At TEDActive2011 in Palm Springs, an amazing group of individuals came together and came up with some easy ways that anyone can change their airline experience. After a quick 36 hour period of time, they recommended that we make an effort to see travel as a social experience, to be an active part of the journey and not just a passenger going to a destination.

Please share your own ideas for a better air travel experience below or start a new conversation and tag them with TEDActiveFLY so we can join in!

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    Apr 20 2011: For passengers air travel begins and ends with human events: meetings, vacations, weddings, funerals. However, airlines that throughout the processes that lead us to our final destinations treat us no better than a herd of cattle. Although some cattle are treated more auspiciously than others (e.g. Cathay Pacific and Singapore Air.) Our US experiences remain anonymous, unremarkable, or worse - just plain bad. Our low expectations meet the airlines' low standards. Word of mouth these days is like yelling through a bullhorn in a packed stadium, there's a welcome public dialogue for complaints (and for accolades). However, from the moment travelers enter the airline customer lifecycle, we don't expect delightful experiences, and definitely not social experiences. Social = personal, which implies that I am treated as a human being. At the very least airlines should aspire to reach the second level of Maslow's hierarchy (most airlines don't get past the first level.)

    Generally service demands are placed on the passenger: we wait on phone lines, navigate inconsistent web tools, chat with online automatons, use airport kiosks that work some of the time, stand in lines that lead to a person who doesn't seem to mean it when they ask if they can help us, glower at fight attendants who sit idly by as we all die of dehydration, and sometimes even serve food that might pass for something that was dug up from Love Canal or near Chernobyl. I recall the infamous letter to Richard Branson regarding meal service on Virgin Atlantic a number of years ago - But Branson heard that one voice and changed the meal service even for coach passengers.
    VIrgin America won my loyalty as the only airline IMHO in the US market that raised my expectations and raised the bar on standards.

    Get the basics right, treat me as an individual, personalize my experience just a bit, and don't make me do your work for you, passengers have enough to worry about.
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      Apr 27 2011: Illene, I'm with you on this one. The entire experience of airline travel is absurd. The entire industry has flopped and in doing so, they've cut costs and refuse to make any promising change. Look, if they want to charge for bags and soda, fine, go for it. $25 for a bag and $2 for a soda is not the end of the world to me. I will just have to make sure I pack light. However, if I'm going to be charged for the smaller things like this, I want a better inflight experience, starting with the seats. Airplane seats are where I think the problem lies. We sit, cramped up, with our hands in our laps. There is no room to stretch, or move. Treat me like a human being. I don't need a full bed on my flight from JFK-LAX, but please let me be able to put my seat back more, so I can fall asleep. I'm 6 feet tall; let me have a little more leg room. There is a huge opportunity here for an airline to make radical changes, and in doing so, there could be some serious rewards.
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    May 8 2011: Agreeing on the social expect of travel experience, I would like suggest a simple thing that can easily be provided by the large airlines. It may not be very successful for short flights but for the long haul ones, it could be really good.

    If all the travelers on a flight were able to socially network in advance of the flight, create discussion topics and form small social groups based on their interests, that could help in creating a better environment during the flight. Using the entertainment systems, group engaging games and activities can be provided to continue the interaction even if people were seated apart. Airlines can also provide a facility to allocate seats nearby for a group members.

    I travel a lot and mostly international. I have thought about this idea many times and I would volunteer to participate in any further discussions on similar ideas.
    • May 11 2011: I this it is a great idea to give people the ability to meet other people with similar interests and get together with them. However, I think that people are already so frustrated by flying that it would be unlikely that they would go through any more steps before their flight. Even if some did meet up online, making things work so they did not interfere with all the people who did not go online to meet up might prove difficult.

      If this networking is to happen, I think it would be best to have it be implement first on the plane itself. With networking being available on more and more aircraft, I think it might be possible to meet people of similar interests while on the plane and engage in discussions. Taking this a step further, the airline could allow for people to change seats during the flight to sit next to people of similar interests (including the interest of being left alone in a quiet space). From their you could have board games (digital if need be) available for people to play with each other or other forms of social entertainment. Dealing with carry-ons might prove difficult, but I'm sure something could be arranged.

      What I'm saying is I believe social networking would be more successful when you're actually on the same plane sharing the same experience. Being stuck in a long aluminum cylinder thousands of feet in the air for several hours together creates a sense of camaraderie that I feel would be more likely to compel people to reach out to the people around them. Once people got accustomed to being able to meet others on the plane, they would be more likely to reach out before they got on.
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        May 13 2011: Great!
        and it could just be an app connected to the onboard server, without any need for Internet connections.
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    Apr 19 2011: Hi Sarah!

    Thank you for the opportunity to say this!!!!

    Things airlines should do:
    Eliminate the security training video and demo (or figure out a way to deliver it selectively)
    Diminish or eliminate the On board free shop commercials (in some airlines they do it several times and it’s really annoying)
    Diminish passenger announcements (in the middle of your movie) some are relevant, like seat belts, but many are unnecessary.
    Tell the truth about the time it will take for the plane to depart, if they have an idea (I’m sure most of the time they do) why say: one hour and then, one hour again, as if people would believe them.
    Offer for basic stuff like a VIP room access when the plane is delayed for more than 1 hour (instead of making you fight for it)
    Come when the stewardess light is on, and if the stewardess comes, she should bring what she commits.
    Offer plenty of water knowing that you can’t carry your own.
    Don’t sell you a connecting flight they know you will not make because of the airport controls.
    Develop a proper process to assist pregnant women (hard to be 6 month pregnant and have to put your 10Kilos bag up and down on the security check, etc)

    On the technology front:
    How many years it’s being and planes don’t go over ~900KMH?
    Why can’t I use my MP3 player during departure and landing? How is it than an MP3 player can yam the controls of the airplane?
    Why do I have to put my seat at 90 degrees (take off and landing) it only goes down to 95 in a good scenario.
    Internet access would be great.
    How about noise cancelling technology? It’s being around for a long time now.
    How about a humidifier?

    Hope this helps, when you fly a lot you get more sensitive about some things…



    PS let me think about the social side and get back to you :)
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      Apr 20 2011: I fly 2x a week (I know, big carbon footprint). Silence and speed would be major differentiators for me in my choice of flight.
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        May 3 2011: Hi Nik:

        totaly agree!

        flying is not a confortable/nice experience, the goal: is don't make it worst.

        may be when doing adds you want to highlight the positive, but if your target are frecuent flyers, i don't think that segment buys the confort aproach.


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      May 3 2011: JB, a lot of these sound like good suggestions, but many need to be in place.
      -Security training videos ARE annoying, but they are helpful, no matter how much you want to resist looking at them.
      -They do try to keep the amount of announcements to a minimum. I don't think I can remember ever being annoyed by these. They aren't allowed to just chatter over the loud speakers.
      -Not being able to use technology has to do with not interfering with pilot controls. While the odds of your MP3 player causing plane issues are 99.99% unlikely, I think we can live with turning off our players right before landing.
      -Seating is also for your safety. While I agree I would like to lean back while flying, there obviously is a liability for the airlines, which is why they make you sit upright.

      You have to remember that airlines are not an extremely profitable business. They are trying to cut costs, while charging for everything. Humidifiers, VIP services. Not going to happen. Advertising is also how they make some money, which helps keeps other costs down.

      I agree though:
      -Communicate delays to us, we have the right to know why we are delayed.
      -Come when the stewardess light is on.
      -Bring water, knowing that we can't bring it ourselves unless we buy it for $4 a bottle in the terminal.
      -Help pregnant women
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        May 4 2011: Hi Nick!

        fast comment onthe techology front: TV prices where going down year after year ad the flat TVs apeared, and average sales prices whent up, and the category was reborn and surrunded with exitment.
        I don't know t, but may be people will be willing to pay more for a better plane: faster, quieter, more humid, with wi-fi (those are just some ideas, I'm sure there are better things to add).


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          May 5 2011: They have to keep prices low in order to generate the amount of business they need to stay afloat the rough airline industry.
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        May 9 2011: I've been annoyed by announcements a few times. But actually not with the announcements per se, but with the fact that I couldn't hear them, understand them, or they were too loud in my earphones.

        Another problem: accents. As a foreigner in the US I had problem figuring out instructions some times even when they were audible. The English of international companies is sometimes very funy, but shouldn't be.
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          May 11 2011: Hi Andre!

          Great point about the announcements being much louder on the earphones.
          I think frequent flyers develop this tick of taking off the earphones when the first bing of the announcement comes.


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    Jon Yeo

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    Apr 18 2011: I think a MAJOR contributor to traveler experience is the attitude of the staff and the quality of the training. Nobody likes it when things go wrong, staff and passengers.

    Angry, indifferent and "Do I look like I care" attitudes don't help any. Particularly frustrating for both staff and passengers is staff inability to fix even the most minor of issues or being bogged down with bureaucracy.

    How many times have you asked a question and got more than one answer? My most frustrating experience is being told "You have to go to the other end of the terminal to get your luggage" only to be told I have to go all the way back because they didn't give me a form. Then return all the way back to hand in the form TO GO ALL THE WAY BACK AGAIN to pick up my luggage which was behind the door of my original request. I almost missed my transit flight.
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      Apr 19 2011: Jon, I completely agree. A great smile, a kind offer, a dissolved conflict, a calm demeanor, a funny and fresh version of safety instructions can all go a very long way to forgive cramped seating, flavorless food, narrow aisles, tunnel ( I can not even use the adjective closet-like as this space is massively smaller than any I have ever seen) bathrooms. LOPA: layout of passenger arrangement is currently a marketing calculation. What if instead the market calculation was determined by the quality of the experience an airline provided for its passengers?

      What if each flight became memorable for the creative entertainment encouraged in a specific part of the cabin? What if the time on the flight were viewed not as down time, but rather create-a-community time. Having a hundred strangers for 4 hours in one location is rare. In which ways could that space facilitate an experience that makes passengers desire to be a part of that happening over another travel experience that stores your body until it reaches its destination. Singers raise your voices, humorists a captive audience, and what kind of dancing in the aisles could be accomplished in that narrow aisle? AirTED talks anyone? How could the vibe be the thing that sets this flight well beyond the generic few hours of pretending you are sleeping, or reading your Ipad. How could each flight become an unduplicatable happening?

      I do remember a few flights when this happened by accident. What if an airline were known for this as a regular and incited experience? Which would you choose? Think Cirque du Soleil meets TEDx in the air.
      This would be a differentiating factor vanishing the hours in the air into I wish we had more time together.
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      Apr 27 2011: Attitude is a big one for me. I'm a firm believer in having a positive attitude while on the job. There are millions of people who are unhappy with their jobs, which is unfortunate, but that is no reason to be rude. It's important that whatever you do, you give 100% with a smile, and if not, give as much as you can, but still smile. Your attitude reflects heavily on others.
      • May 5 2011: "There are millions of people who are unhappy with their jobs, which is unfortunate, but that is no reason to be rude. "

        That seems like a great reason to be rude....
      • May 11 2011: I feel that attitude is, for most people, heavily dependent on their working environment. When a company is so focused on profit that they ignore the people who help them earn it, employees often feel like nothing more than a replaceable cog in the machine rather than people. Just like being treated like a number or moneybag hurts people's experience of flying, so too is the serving experience hurt by ignoring the humanity of employees.

        I think that an important part of improving the attitude of those working in the airline industry is making them feel like an important part of the company and of the experience of flying. I've flown with WestJet in Canada several times, and I've found the attitude of the employees to be much better than most airlines I've dealt with. I think this is because WestJet puts a priority on their employees by making them feel like an important part of the organization. This approach works anywhere. If your employees are happy, your customers will be too. You cannot expect to grow great crops with bad soil.

        I feel that this has to be the foundation of any changes in the flying experience. Just as we're all discussing ways to improve the experience of flying, I feel that this kind of discussion should be an integral part of the way airlines relate to their customers as well as their employees.

        Make people feel like they matter and they will help you.
  • May 14 2011: - Minimum employment quotas for members of the GLBT community (*qualification contingent, of course).

    - Reversing the trend of outsourcing aircraft maintenance abroad to, what are usually, developing countries with questionable safety standards.

    - Parachutes under each seat! =P
  • May 12 2011: Southwest Air seems to make the flying experience more fun. Aside from their policies and fares, there is frequent acknowledgement through cabin announcements that they know we are people. On a recent flight, while we were mindlessly shuffling to our seats, a flight attendant made the following announcement.

    "Those of you still trying to find an available space in the overhead bin for that armoire you packed in your carry-on should proceed to the back of the plane where we'll be happy to throw it out the rear door."

    The tone and delivery of this message was in perfect obsequious airline-speak but produced an amazing reaction of levity into a mindless activity. Needless to say more people paid attention to the rest of the flight's announcements.

    On another flight, the captain came on just as we were making our approach to land and said, "My house is right ... THERE!" and he gave the wing a slight dip to punctuate, as if to point at his house. It was the coolest thing I have ever seen a commercial pilot do.

    Forget low fares. Forget no baggage fees. Southwest knows I'm a human. Simple gestures. Simple humanity. I now love Southwest.

  • May 5 2011: After reading through comments it seems like the group desire is for larger seats at the expense of the consumer and steward folk who are more adept at hospitality work -- presumably -- also at the expense of the consumer?

    If you explain to the airlines that you would pay more money for these things I'm sure they would listen...

    Perhaps you could propose a special "elite" service like the new line of Greyhound buses. They are only available for select routes and have larger seats, better A/C, better heat, new TVs, free wifi and normal wall outlets at every seat. The airplane version would have larger seats, better paid (more qualified) staff, bigger TV screens, wider variety of food on a paid menu and delay announcements at the terminal and on-board?
  • May 3 2011: An example of non-human airline experience and about being human inspite of the odds:

    in the section "Can I help?"
  • May 1 2011: I think airlines should do away with the beverage and snack service. What other industry provides a similar service? Passengers should come with an expectation of being prepared with their own snacks.

    I think the biggest change the airlines could make is their communication. They should work to make travelers more informed of how the industry works. What situations cause flight delays? Why does a flight get oversold? How can a flight not have the appropriate staffing? If an airplane has a mechanical issue and needs service, what is the process of determining whether another plane is available or the flight will need to be canceled? If a flight does get canceled, what are the best options for that particular time? Is it early enough in the day that another flight will be available? Or is the likelihood of another flight being available improbable?

    How about sending real-time text messages to passengers already checked in on the status of a flight? This would give them the freedom to roam the airport until closer to the loading of the airplane.

    How about providing live entertainment in the terminals? Local singers, dancers, magicians, etc. could come in and perform. Make terminal seating areas like stadium seating with comfortable chairs and all the chairs could face the television or whatever entertainment is being offered.

    If I could have a satisfying experience during the times that I am at an airport but not in flight, it would make the customer experience on the flight irrelevant.
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      May 3 2011: Andy, I completely agree with a lot of this. Airlines should do away with beverage and snack service on shorter flights, but on flights around the world, they should keep it. However, if this happens, airports need to lower their prices.

      Communication is key! I always get frustrated and worked up over the lack of communication between the airlines and me. There are always delays and issues, and I understand that some of it (like plane issues) should be kept under wrap, but everything else should be announced.

      I don't know how effective text messaging would be. It works for a large part of the population that flies, but remember, there are people who aren't as tech savy.

      Comfortable chairs might be a nice addition as well as local talent, but passengers should have the option of not having to listen to it.
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    Apr 29 2011: Here's a fun anecdote ... a couple of years ago, Air France had a really cheesy jingle with a woman singer singing "Within the miles, away from the sea" like a mantra but with a strong French accent so it sounded like :

    "Weeseen ze miyuls, away frrrrom ze seeeee". Hysterical.
    Unfortunately it was played everywhere, on the phone systems, in the airport lounges and on the planes before taking off. On a flight with a friend, I didn't even realize it, but I started singing the song with a (fake) French accent, she started singing too, a couple of people chuckled and then joined in ... everyone ended up laughing and the pilot and the crew were practically on the floor they were laughing so hard. That was a fun flight.
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    Apr 27 2011: Is it possible for an airline to create a new and improved coach class, that offers more room and comfortability?
  • Apr 27 2011: I have travelled a lot with my kids from our home in the Netherlands to visit my family in the US. Before that I travelled a lot on business. I think that if pilots just came to the gate 10 mins or so before they need to board and aircraft and spent a moment greeting the passengers who are about to join their flight, it would go a long way to easing some of the anxieties and tensions among the folks who are entrusting their lives to the pilots skills. Making that human connection rather than just the disembodied voice would help passengers to feel more like they are all on a journey together and would help to break the ice and the quiet tension and I would suggest would help folks start to talk to one another more. Usually you just see the flight crew rushing thru the crowd and there is no eye contact, no greeting, no personal connection. A lot of pilots try and make up for this with their banter over the intercom, but it is ineffective and a small investment of their time would reap large rewards.
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    Apr 26 2011: It is not seamless enough, as there is too much chopping and changing around + too messy to be really social unless in a queue.

    When all the messy procedures are done + at gate, that is when we need the cafe - many of us have rushed around to get there and what I really need is a cup of good latte or herbal tea to soothe our soul just before flight, also a good toilet plus free water there + immediately after boarding.

    I am vegetarian and mostly the food in economy is a challenge to eat especially like on a flight from LA to Bangkok (17 hours) 3 meals are served. I would love to help airlines make better choices for their clients especially suitable options for Muslims, non-fish eaters etc and ME- I am not on a diet just a vego.

    We need wifi and a power point at every seat - I would rather watch a Ted Talk than a movie.

    On Air New Zealand the in flight safety instructions are done with staff with painted on clothing, which certainly gets our attention - everything should be entertaining and educational and then it will get our attention.

    I fly a lot on Air Asia/Thai/Singapore - I find their staff very helpful, friendly and cheerful - I like that ! Asian Airlines rock-we can learn from them.

    I'm a Kiwi who lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and when I need to go to Singapore I can fly but normally bus because it is seamless, I get on the bus in Kuala Lumpur city (near my home), then eat, sleep, use the computer (with plug), watch a movie, go to the loo + then 3 or 4 hours later at the Immigration l get off get stamped, get back on the bus, ride, get off again at Singapore Immigration and I am done and dropped at a conveniently place in town.

    Compared to a flight: taxi or bus/train to airport, check in, immigration, find gate, sit and wait, get on plane, fly, get off plane, walk to Immigration, find bag, exit - then get to city by taxi, train or bus.

    In Singapore the customs staff actually smile - how cool is that ??
  • Apr 24 2011: I think long flights or over-nighters should offer bunk beds -not seats.
    i try to find flights with low passenger turnout so I can lie across 3 seats and sleep.
    If china airlines or some other stumbles on this market they will quickly become the most used airline.
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      Apr 27 2011: I wish bunk beds were a possibility, but it may be too difficult with the existing design of an aircraft. However, I do agree that long flights should offer seating that can fold down into a makeshift bed. It's upsetting to me that sleeping comfortably on an aircraft is a luxury.
  • Apr 21 2011: All sorts of comments about a system that can't afford all sorts of convenience. The system has become a victim of it's very success. I can remember when "taking an airplane" was an occasion...a big deal! People got dressed up! The crew pampered you. Of course there were comparatively very few flights. Many posts express concern over CO2 emissions. A "typical" trans-atlantic wide-body loads 100 tons of fuel for the trip. I did the math, and that is the energy equivalent of burning 650 oak trees of 30cm. diameter. THAT'S FOR ONE FLIGHT! Some ask for more water, or humidification of the cabin. The water load needed for that will need a significant additional fuel load to carry it (the airplane, and everything in it gets into the air and stays there by burning fuel). Of course, the additional fuel is additional weight, requiring more additional fuel, and so on! Air travel will be the first major victim of the coming enormous costs of fuel, so probably we don't need to do anything. Personally, when I fly, the biggest nuisance is the huge amount of carry-on baggage, and the time it takes people to stow/retrieve it. While you sit comfortably in your seat, remember that there are 100s of Kg of other peoples junk just above your head.
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    Apr 21 2011: I have always felt that any type of public transportation is a social experience, and that is especially true when you travel internationally. I am amazed at the customs and behavior of the various people around me when we travel (not to mention the type of service we receive). When I have flown China Airlines in Asia, I was amazed to see that everyone disregarded the seatbelt lights and stood up as soon as the plane landed, before e had even finished taxiing. By the time we pulled up to the gate people were throwing elbows to get to the door first! Then there are some of the European airlines where lots of alcohol is served. My husband used to take the train between St. Petersburg and Moscow and he almost always ended up sharing homemade vodka with the people he met in his train car, despite his inability to even speak Russian (or they English). Or the airlines in and out of Africa (Air France and such) where people don't seem to own luggage (they carry everything in those poly-weave bags). You just never what you are going to experience if you keep an open mind!
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    Apr 20 2011: Silence ... Speed ... Safety ... and Service would be my mantra if I ran an airline.
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      Apr 21 2011: Have you ever flown on RyanAir? Its a budget airline in Europe, super cheap and they charge you for anything and everything (including your luggage so most people only carryon). Anyways, best flights I have ever had because the people who fly on it are serious travelers. EVERYONE literally got straight to their seats, sat down, buckled up and shut up so we could go go go. Pretty much meets your criteria!
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        Apr 27 2011: RyanAir is an interesting model. You really get what you pay for.
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        Apr 29 2011: I do get the RyanAir model. It certainly has it's place in the market, but it's really not what I envision. It can't really differentiate itself on any of the criteria I listed. It just purports to provide the same things as other airlines, but using menu-pricing to keep costs down.A truly revolutionary airline would be distinctly QuietER (noise cancellation, better insulation, fewer announcements, etc), FastER (Concorde speeds), Safer, and at a higher level of service... perhaps so high that people would feel justified in (GASP!) paying a bit more to fly this airline and even (EGADS!) tipping the staff if they really go above-and-beyond.I would think such an airline would actually charge more and turn a better profit for providing more ... the opposite of Ryan.
  • Apr 20 2011: Friends, for shure that zero emissions is one off the important tasks, but also the cow farms are great CO2 producer too. This is a matter of choice, human choices.
    Lets start to think not only the enviroment of travelling, but the experience. This is the target. Humans survived because they had a goal of surviving, and all the things we had produced in our industries around the centuries has to be with " surviving" and quality of life. Also travelling by Airplanes. Humans condition are about having this problems solved first, from the shoes we use to the tethbrush, music, clothes, light, everything are about life quality to survive. This condition now are pressing us to solve its consequences, cosequences of growing without order, without any idea of consequences. As I use to say in class, " God did´nt gave us an manual of How to Use the earth" , it simple gave us the opportunity of an earth experience.
    And Airplane invention are an human great invention, it doesn´t fall from trees, it came from our brains, our capacity of thinking, as everything we have from our houses an all stuff inside.
    But the biggest invention for shure is the education system of sharing knowledge that was improved by the "Enlightenment", from that for today, man has realized the most important and fast evolution of knowledge, or knownage if you wish.
    Airplane experience is bout going to somewhere faster then every invention, now with the opportunity to learn, to enjoy, have a pleasure of doing any thing, or nothing, sleeping.
    But among of all, respect with time of departure are the biggest goal, beacause people are looking for a transportation solution nothing more than this. WE dont go there to eat, dont go there to read, dont go there to talk or play. If I can say my second goal when travelling is to rest, confortable chair, low sound, less noises...
    From Brasil.
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    Apr 20 2011: One flight to the other side of the planet produces as much greenhouse gases as an average Australian produces in one year (similar to American). How about we rethink travel in terms of whether or not each trip is justifiable rather than making the journey itself more fun.
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      Apr 26 2011: Hi Chantelle :-)

      That is fine and a fair comment when your family all live in one country, but when my family live in New Zealand and my husband's family live in Japan; and we live in Malaysia - we do clock up the air miles.

      As soon as a 'beam me up Scotty' system comes in - I will be very happy ! Can someone invent this for me please?
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    Apr 19 2011: I think you hit on the heart of the matter when you said travel can be improved by seeing it as more of a social experience. This does not lend itself to much top down problem solving. Airports are always going to be a bit sterile and to their credit they really do have much more pressing issues to deal with than pampering flyers for the next 5 or so hours. That said where else but an airport can you randomly share a drink with 3 or for strangers all in transit from different parts of the world headed to different locations for all sorts of reasons. Despite airports best efforts to establish a "Its a Small World" feel I always manage to find a bit magic in flying that does not exit elsewhere. My advice I guess is not to worry so much about your destination, that is the job of the airlines, but spend that energy befriending your fellow traveler, even just for the day. Safe travels.
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    Apr 18 2011: I think the laptop WIFI experience can be much better. While I think most airplanes don't make sense to use the laptop, due to the space in the economy class, now with the current generation of pads, a reasonable WIFI experience can be explored. I am not talking about Internet/Web access exactly, but the fact a local network can put the folks in the cabin to enjoy new experiences, perhaps some level of socialization too. Image you log in the local network = THISAIRPLANE and then you have a few games and you won't even be able to know which person is playing with you, or perhaps you would.

    At least I think would be interesting to try out some experiments, for example, to allow the local participants to vote about the movies, to query/check the movies, to listen to music directly from their pads, to annotate things in the social, to order products or ask crew information, to follow the cabin data, and more.
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      Apr 27 2011: Marcio, I think Virgin America has begun to play with a local network. If I remember correctly, you can message and play games with people in other seats.
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    Apr 18 2011: Yes!

    But do not think that you can make air travel a better experience, this is not possible.
    Aviation is by far the biggest contributor of CO2 emissions in the world conting for Tons of CO2 emissions per year plus the other toxic waste.
    Plus: It is slow and dangerous.
    Plus: Overcrowdet AIr spaces and outstreached and stressed personal make it even more accident prone
    Plus: It is too expensive.
    Plus: Many people do not like flying.

    What we need is a Zero Emission Water based Society with organic food plenty and inexpensive.
    What we need is clean Air Water and Land.
    What we need is to regrow the Deserts of this world and make them habitable places again.
    What we need is to educate the poor and bring education and infrastructure to every one's home.
    What we need is to reduce CO2 emissions to absolute Zero.

    What we need is a global Hypersonic Zero Emission High Speed Rail and Infrastructure Network.
    A network of interconnecting Trains and Infrastructure which brings education transportation communication right into the home of every human being for the lowest costs.

    For the price of one Airbus A380 or Boeing Dramliner we can buy 300 Airstream Trains.
    And every Airstream Train is more capable faster safer then any Airplane and all Airstream Trains together create ZERO "0" CO2 emissions.
    This is how cheap and advanced this technology is.
    We need to end the need of Air Travel and replace them globally with a better faster safer smarter and cleaner System of transportation, the Airstream Train System.

    D.W. Major
    Zero Emission Transportation Ltd
    • May 10 2011: I'm sorry, but air travel is not dangerous nor slow. I can't think of a faster way to get from new york to london, can you? I think that by now it is a well known fact that though air travel accidents are well publicized, they are not frequent. Therefore, we, the public, perceive it as dangerous due to the availability heuristic. Conversely, I do not have the data to back it up, but I don't think it would be a far stretch of the imagination to say that, statistically, driving is the one of the most dangerous, if not the most dangerous activity, we engage in everyday.

      On the topic of increasing how fast planes fly: Planes currently fly just under the speed of sound so that they do not create a sonic boom. Sonic booms tend to not be enjoyable to the people on the ground. Hence the concords only route was trans-Atlantic. Currently sonic boom reducing technology is in the works, but as to an ETA of commercial feasibility I do not know.

      Modern video games excel at creating social experiences between total strangers. Anyone who hopes to create a social network on a plane should study their practices. For example, Bungie has created an excellent "party up" feature for their "Halo" franchise. After being matched with total strangers for a game, one has the opportunity to "party up" with others in the lobby if you had a positive gaming experience. Thus you get to play more games with people you had fun with, and the matchmaking system has to do less work.
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    Apr 15 2011: Was an honour being a part of the project. From what I've seen so far, it seems the power of TED conversations is in its ability to get really diverse perspectives, so as an open question... does anyone have a story of an amazing experience in-flight? Or what about a horror story?

    My own: once I was flying Air India, and upon powering up the plane, the engine on the left wing BURST INTO FLAMES. So, that sucked, and yeah, problems do arise. But the insult to injury was the pilot coming on the speaker... "It seems there will be a minor technical delay". Please don't lie to us - we're putting our lives in your hands! An engine on fire is NOT going to be a minor delay.

    Anyone else got something to share?
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      Apr 18 2011: LOL. Funny Jay. (I guess not at the time). Great video voice over.
    • Apr 28 2011: Hello:
      I am a fligth attendent in an European Company. I am not a pilot, but I think that when the pilot of you story said it was a minor technical issue it was because a plane can still take off and land only with an engine. Of course it is not recommended, but I think theey have another schale about what is really dangerous than a passenger.

      I have read a lot of comments about what should be done, and I am going to make it into practice in my working life, but some of the suffestions were not very reallistic. For instance, elliminating safety instructions is virtually impossible. Not only a plane is a dangerous place where we all should know what to do in case of emmergency (in my oppinion, even more information would be better) but also there are international regulations that every company need to respect.

      More space for the legs or even a little bed for each passenger means less passengers we can transport. That means we need to increasy A LOT the prices of the ticket. I am not economist but maybe more than 50 times the actual prices depending on how many passenger less we transport.

      Making group entertainment is not so easy, because a lot of passengers wnat to relax, while others want to chat, sing or dance, but there is not a lot of space, and it is almos impossible to find some place to make noise without bothering other passengers. And also partying in a plane ussualy calls to alcohol consuming and that leads to problems.

      A personalized natural smile is not always easy when we are dealing with 500 passengers at the same time. Of course, we make an effort, but what I wnat to say is that a plane is a small place with a lot of people, and the problems are usually magnified.

      I hope I have contributed a bit.

      Thank you for your suggestions
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        Apr 28 2011: Hi Helia, thanks for adding a new perspective to this conversation. I agree with you on multiple of these points.

        -Safety videos are necessary, and large steps have been made to make them more interesting (ie. Virgin America's cartoon).

        -Group entertainement is NOT an easy thing at all. We all want different things, and I think the airlines have done a good job to accomodate this with movies, personal entertainment systems, and Wi-fi internet access.

        However, I do believe steps need to be made in increasing the comfortability of passengers in coach. Charge me for my bag, for my soda, but PLEASE let me have a little more room to stretch out. I'm sure there is a way that this can happen.

        Also, it's important that airline employees keep a smile. I totally understand that it's not always easy, especially when they are being requested by 500 people, but a positive attitude really goes a long way.
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      Apr 29 2011: Hi Jay.
      I don't have any stories quite like that one, but i can imagine it must have been pretty disconcerting to experience the wing going up in flames. In contrast my most impressing flying experience was flying coach from Europe to japan and actually getting to know a flight attendant due to the fact that we both were in the process of moving to Japan, and could exchange tips and information. It really was a nice experience that ended up including a Japanese couple on the opposite row giving us some helpful advice as well. I really think that trying to be open to social interaction on a flight is the best thing you can do to improve your situation, after all, if you do get tired and need some "privacy" all you have to do is politely say so. Unfortunately, most travelers seem to be socialized into using the avoidance method to seclude themselves in public areas, instead of actually interacting and coming to terms with their surroundings.
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        Apr 29 2011: Raymond, I agree. Flights like the one you've mentioned help making flying enjoyable, especially over long distances. There is nothing better than meeting interesting people in similar situations.
    • May 5 2011: How would you word "the wing of the plane is on fire. but we can still land safely with our remaining engine and wing" without causing a panic?

      If you start with "there is a fire on..." you've already lost half of the passengers...

      If you start with "ladies and gentlemen. there is no cause for alarm but..." everyone is going to assume the worst.

      Downplaying the situation, or stating it in a way that caused the least panic, was probably the best solution, no?