Imagining the Perfect Airline

PHOTO: A flight attendant brings a passenger a drink on a private flight.Getty Images
A flight attendant brings a passenger a drink on a private flight.

Are you hefty? A passenger of unusual dimensions? Too uncomfortable to fly? Not on the perfect airline, you're not! You'd just plunk yourself down in the seat and let the "auto snug" go to work, perfectly adhering to all your curves.

No, this perfect airline doesn't exist -- yet. But I'm going to focus on what we hate about flying and how to change it to create the consummate carrier. Who knows? Maybe one of the airlines will run with this (I can dream, can't I?). Sure, some of these ideas will never fly but a few are practical changes that would be easy to implement if carriers really cared about passengers.

Do they care enough to offer bin valets?

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Bin Space

In case you didn't know this, it is not a flight attendant's job to sling your bag into the overhead bin (though some will offer, especially if you're a high-paying business traveler). Some airlines specifically prohibit this because of the possibility of crew injuries.

This is where vacuum-powered bin valets come in. Simply hold a carry-on near the bin opening and watch it get sucked in. Then, the bag hooks up to one of those gizmos that suck air out of storage bags (so they can magically hold 4,000 sweaters), and the bag shrinks to manageable size. On the perfect airline, you'll never worry about bin space again.

My alternative idea: free checked bags. Everywhere.


How about WiFi that actually works? Did you know something like less than 7 percent of people on planes actually use this fee-based connectivity? I know why, too; half the time the service stinks. OK, maybe that's harsh. But it's not great and it can be incredibly annoying. Fix it, please. More people will use it and we'll both win.

While you're at it, we need a more passenger-friendly location for power outlets. No one wants to be mistaken for a middle seat-molester as they blindly grope for a spot to plug in. But that's what it looks like. This is an easy fix, too.


Food has pretty much disappeared in coach but not on the perfect airline. Two thoughts: Remember the replicator on the old "Star Trek" show that created meals-on-demand? Quick, someone invent that.

Or let's get more out of those "celebrity chefs" the airlines are forever bragging about (United boasts about celebrity chef Bryan Caswell, the co-owner of Stella Sola, which features "Texas-Tuscan cuisine"). Let's have these creative types not only cook their innovative offerings (spaghetti tacos, perhaps?) but serve them to us personally.

At the very least, the perfect airline would have substantial snacks -- for free.


This is real simple: How about one of those little clipboards hanging inside, showing when the restroom was last cleaned? Years back, this never would have occurred to me, but with the quick turnaround of most planes these days, I think this would make us all happier (or sadder, depending on what it says on the clipboard!).

Cappuccino Machines

I would love to see one of these babies on an airplane. Wait, I did see one: There was a cappuccino machine on one of American's new Boeing 777s. And my cup of high-class joe was excellent.

Even the flight attendants were oohing and ahhing over the machine, telling me how easy it was to work. Suggestion: Let's put those baggage fees to work and buy a cappuccino machine for every plane. It would be mandatory on the perfect airline.

Bag Fees

Bag fees on the perfect airline? When pigs fly.

Pilot Chit-Chat

I have the greatest respect for airline pilots. Amazing skills, total professionalism, coolness in crises, nobody does it better. But I have to ask: What is it with these guys (and gals) and the Grand Canyon?!

Must every pilot point it out on every flight that goes anywhere near the thing? Yes, I know it's awesome, I know it's big, but I've seen it and I'm trying to sleep. It's as if there's an auto-dialogue switch inside every pilot's head that clicks on the moment the Arizona border comes into view, directing them to begin a monotone travelogue. I say, thanks but no thanks.

On the perfect airline, passengers would press a button labeled, "What's that, Captain?" and receive a private audio tour (turbulent weather permitting). There'd also be a button labeled, "I need a drink, fast" but I think our friends at Virgin America beat me to that.

Dings, Demystified

Speaking of audio, ever hear those onboard "dings?" Reminds me of a department store but I doubt any of those onboard audible signals mean, "Shoplifter in 3B." It would be nice if they'd include a decoding sheet in every seat-back, maybe even make up a couple of much-needed new dings for passenger use.

Be kind of nice to be able to sound three dings for, "Watch out, parents: R-rated movie on laptop in 27A" or maybe five dings for, "Quit serving the guy next to me, he has pressed his 'I need a drink' button 10 times already and is now totally wacked." Could come in handy.

I could go on and on but the maximum length of a scannable column in the Internet age simply won't do the perfect airline justice, so let me ask you: What do you want on an ideal flight?

The opinions expressed by Rick Seaney are his alone and not those of ABC News.