What Can the New President Do for the Airline Industry?

Posted November 11, 2008 by Carl Unger

Presidentbarackobamaairplan With a new administration coming to the White House this January, many are wondering how the world will look under a new president. Will the economy recover? Will the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan be resolved? Will wind farms and solar panels start popping up all over the country?

Well, here at the BookingBuddy blog, we're curious to see how a new administration changes the travel landscape. Shortly after Barack Obama was elected last week, we gathered in an undisclosed location, ordered about 50 pizzas, a few cases of energy drinks, and put Airplane! on the DVD player. Our task: Draft a list of ways the President-elect could improve the travel industry. We pored through Department of Transportation reports, highly classified TSA documents, and thousands of anecdotal reports from travelers like you, looking for problems and finding answers. We emerged a few days later with a list of suggestions so wise that the printed words actually glowed with what can only be described as a shimmering light of hope.

Much to our dismay, however, we quickly learned that Salon.com had already published a list of its own, and while Salon's list isn't luminescent exactly, it is pretty darn good. So, back to the drawing board. We split a five-pound bag of M&Ms and a few gallons of Mountain Dew and this is what we came up with. Mr. President, you can thank us later.

1. Onboard seat upgrades for all. We like AirTran's idea for first-come-first-served business-class upgrades on the plane. Let's see more airlines adopt similar policies. Bonus points if you can convince airlines to give upgrades away for free (like, say, if you do a top-notch tap dance routine, you get the empty business-class seat).

2. More airlines realizing their food isn't really good enough to sell. United got the hint, will other airlines follow suit? Methinks a gentle nudge (or a sharp elbow to the ribs) from you may help clarify the picture, if you get my meaning. Alternately, good food for sale would be acceptable.

3. More free helicopter rides. Nothing says "executive" like landing on top of a skyscraper, and Continental is making the dream of a high-flying luxe lifestyle a reality for all. So even if you're just a bored hamburger-flipper (or an underpaid travel news blogger), you can fly like some of the richest folks in the world (except Bill Gates, who probably has some sort of teleportation device).

4. Better advertising. Spirit's amusing political play on words and United's surreal animations notwithstanding, this wasn't a great year for airline ads. Never mind that airfares are usually displayed without taxes and fees, which borders on outright deception by making them seem lower than they really are, but the ads just aren't that good. Southwest took a wrong turn and ended up in creepyville, and Spirit—well, Spirit just does its own thing, doesn't it?

5. Stop the a-la-carte revolution. Sure, it's good for business. Sure, most people don't seem to mind too much. But pretty soon you'll have to pay to buckle your seat belt! I don't want to point any fingers (and certainly not at American, US Airways, or United!) but a few airlines have been leading the charge. I think a stern talking-to would set them straight.

Well folks, there are the five ideas I can print. There were more ideas, trust me, but I mean it when I say these are the ones I can print. What ideas do you have? Any suggestions for our President-elect? Leave a comment below with your thoughts. I'm pretty sure he reads this blog regularly, so he'll see them. Thanks

(Photo: CNN.com)

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