IATA expects the global airline industry in 2013 to lift itself further away from the red by netting $7.5 billion in full-year profits. Not a bad outlook for an industry that was suffering through high oil prices six years ago and a coming recession. How well have you fared flying during this time? Have you got healthier? Are you wiser and wealthier for having taken all those journeys? Have you increased your bottom line? In a fast paced always on-the-go world it is easy to lose sight of some of the things that really matter like health and well being.
In the not too recent past the International Air Transport Association (IATA) laid out some of its plans to help travel seamlessly and arrive comfortably in the future with one of its programs called StB – Simplifying the Business. As IATA’s plans continue to take shape I ask you the same question; What plans do you have as a frequent flier to help you arrive at your future destinations seamlessly comfortably and most importantly healthily?
A further reason to ask and answer this question now is that the IATA plan for the future of travel has heavy investment in technology at its core. This is a good thing in some instances and not such a good thing in others. It will use technology as a platform to streamline services, create efficiencies and make travel better from baggage handling to freight to the customer experience (GOOD). Many airlines are in the process of installing Wifi capability on their fleets. IATA is considering Near Field Communication (NFC) services for the always connected, always mobile flier (NOT SO GOOD). Technology’s reach is extending in such ways for you the flier that if you don’t actively plan how to manage its impact (positive or negative), you will find yourself fitting into IATA’s plan whether you like it or not. This major push to embed technology into an efficient and seamless flying experience is happening in ground airport systems and onboard the aircraft. It is championed by IATA and airlines alike.
While technology has been a major driver of global economic prosperity it also has an Achilles’ heel. When it works well it’s fine, but when it’s detrimental to human health it is devastating. As we move forward into 2013, as a frequent flier passing through airports more than most, what are you asking of the airlines and airport authorities who control these environments you spend so much time in?
It matters, it really does matter because as these environments become more alive with gadgetry to make travel better and safer, whether it be a new X- ray scanner or Wifi coverage, our interactions with them before boarding an oxygen deficient metal tube for hours on end is telling on our health. So the question is what are you asking of these operators, and if you are reluctant to do that what are you going to do yourself to make your stay in these environments habitable?
A couple of summers ago after the launch of a passenger charter to raise awareness of the poor standards US fliers endured I wrote an essay with a basic manifesto of what we should be able to expect from frequent flying. Email me if you want a copy. Not much has changed and the stresses of flying continue to mount. It is no longer enough for airlines and authorities to pacify its customers with annual surveys to test the water on these issues. Real thought needs to go into getting the frequent flying community engaged, no one ignores their most frequent customer and expects to do well.
There are many issues at stake and up for discussion moving forward, be it security, well being, facilities, technology and the use of personal data. More importantly and from my limited point of view what you are doing to make sure you arrive well is a priority for me. I hope to open a dialogue with you on this and more in the coming months of 2013 and if you don’t like the answers you get when you ask the questions of the aviation industry I hope we can explore new answers together.
Happy New Year