Travel, Made Easier

Who Won the Book? The winner of  Monday’s give-away of The Right-Brain Business Plan is Barbara Storey! Congratulations, Barbara! Drop me an email and let me know your address and the book will be on its way.

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Travel a lot? Then you know the experience of being made into sausage–squeezed, pushed, moved along an assembly line, till you finally plop, encased in ennui, into your seat. It could be far easier. Some airports (Houston’s Bush, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Detroit) already look like shopping malls. But the mall makes us into sausage, too. Here are my suggestions:

1. Make the baggage X-ray ground-level. Most airport have people-image_security_linesmovers–flat escalators that move you through the airport straightaways faster than you can walk. Use the same technology to keep passengers from lifting their suitcases, laptop bags, and shoes. The technicians can either be in pits (like a racing car team), or the machines can be lowered. Attached bins keep your wet shoes from dripping on your scarf and coat lining.

2. Color-code your ticket to the terminal. Many airports don’t label the terminal–the signs have numbers corresponding to airlines, but at the last minute, they abandon the terminal numbering system and leave you looking for small door signs. If you are changing planes, you often don’t know what terminal you are in. Color-coded signage would be useful. Color-coding your ticket (particularly the ones on your phone) would make it a lot easier to move through the airport.

airport-lines3. Signs over the jetway door tell you what section is currently boarding. The announcements just don’t work in the din of an airport, and the silly names for the special passenger orders (“All platinum, gold, silver, titanium, aluminum and plastic cardholders are now encouraged to board”) are not informative, just confusing.

4. Place big, overhead signage close to baggage claim. The signs would show the city you left from, the flight number, and what carousel your luggage will be on. These signs should be overhead as you go down the escalator to baggage claim.

5. All exit doors are numbered for easy identification. If there is a North side and a South side (as there is in Phoenix) all North doors are even numbers, all South doors are odd numbers. These numbers would be color coded so you know what terminal you are leaving. That way, instructions for catching a taxi, hotel van, or rental car bus would be much easier to follow.

A%2B+Best+web+image-+Albany+Airport+Food+Court41-rectangle-z0-w750-h5506. Create an app that shows what food is available at each gate. The same app would show how far you are from your gate as you move through the airport.  Do I eat in Terminal C on my way to Terminal E? Will I find something diabetic-friendly at the gate I’m heading toward? Often I see a nice restaurant, but I have no idea how long it will take me to get to my gate. I don’t want to risk stopping for food if it means missing the plane. But when I get to my gate, the only food available is fried, salted carbs. Backtracking is too time consuming.

7. Make toilet stalls big enough to accommodate luggage. No one wants to leave luggage unattended, but the stalls in airports are smaller than stalls at theaters, where you have a purse, but no luggage. Getting your roll-around into the stall and fitting in yourself is often like a game of human Tetris.

What changes would make travel easier for you? Doesn’t have to be an airport. What would make your subway, metro, freeway experience better?

-Quinn McDonald travels a lot. She’s pretty sure airport designers do not.




14 thoughts on “Travel, Made Easier

  1. Oh, my gosh! I just saw this on FB – so excited! Thank you, Quinn! I’m taking this as another nudge from the universe that I need to get busy and start putting all my dreams into action! Awesome!! 🙂

  2. Hear, hear. I especially like that app idea. It’s really frustrating to walk all the way to the furthest corner of the airport only to find out that the flight got delayed two minutes ago and now all I have to eat is candy from vending machine. Yippee-ki-yay to that. I sure would like to know when I’m passing the last change to stock up before the desert.

    Some airports do have roomy restrooms. Helsinki for one, if I remember correctly, and Beijing, though Beijing airport is a different story altogether. It’s not an airport, it’s a different planet. I have never ever seen such shining toilets. I knew I should have taken a picture. But don’t expect that to last when you go to a public toilet in the city. Did you know there are 5 star toilets in Beijing parks? It’s true, I have seen several. Never seen a 1 star one. Or any other rating. Hmm.

    And all that colour-coding would make things so much less stressful. All airport bosses, I can come and help with the paint job and gluing. Anywhere.

    So many jobs, so many silly things to put right but so little time and only one pair of hands. Maybe we could start an agency “Call a Woman and We’ll Fix It (Even if you think there’s no room for improvement. You just ain’t aware of it – yet. You’ll thank us later).” Think about it. We would never be out of work again!

    Oh, wait. That job is already taken – by moms. 😉

    • So true–about moms. But seriously, I can’t believe that no one who built (or re-decorated) an airport never thought of this. When I was in China (granted, many years ago) the toilets were footprints in the cement. And you took the toilet paper (handed to you as you went in) and hoped you didn’t need more. I’m very glad things have changed.

      • I agree, it’s unbelievable that no-one in the business has thought about this. A bit scary, even. What else they have missed or overlooked? But that’s the nature of obvious and simple solutions: the closer you are, the more likely you are to miss them.

        About the Chinese toilets, they still have these stern ladies as toiled attendants in many public bathrooms that are in popular parks etc. They don’t deal the paper at the door anymore though, but they can give you a lecture on the proper use of the facilities if you make a mess. Hotels and high-end malls have attendants in their bathrooms, but they just smile and hand you paper towels or even warm cotton ones to dry your hands. What a country: from top-notch luxury to (barely) bare basics in ten steps down the street.

  3. Definitely start with No 7!!!

    As for those queues, you know the ones that fold back and back and back on themselves! I was in one once and quietly went “Baaaaa” and I hear a couple of other voices say the same. Kindred spirits feeling like sheep, maybe they were other Kiwis or Aussies enjoying the joke.

    • Public bathrooms are my biggest problem when I travel. When I still needed a handicapped stall, I always wondered why they were way at the far end, forcing the user to walk the whole length of the bathroom. The towels were never at that end, so the person had to grip a wet cane and clunk all the way back. And very few bathrooms have hooks or shelves for the stuff you carry at an airport. Yeah, it’s a big one.

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