TRAVEL | Here at The City Lane we travel a lot, and for me personally, 2016 was the year I spent more time on airplanes than any other. A question that’s often asked of me is “do you get sick of flying”? and my response to that is a resounding no. I still get excited about every trip I take, I still love heading towards the airport, and there’s still that something so exciting about being on a plane that hasn’t diminished since my first flight.
It’s not all roses and happy days though. Travelling so frequently, there are certain things that you notice, things that simply shouldn’t be the way they are. There are also things that you wish existed – not issues with anything currently occurring, but things that would be nice to have. The folks at Cathay Pacific recently sent us some information about their new state-of-the-art A350-900, and it got me thinking about what the modern traveller is looking for in 2017.
Affordable In Flight WiFi
I like to be productive when I’m up in the air, to get a few hours of work in before settling in for a movie or to read a book. The lack of WiFi on most flights, or lack of affordable WiFi where a connection is offered, means that what I’m able to achieve while flying is diminished. So much of what I do with The City Lane requires an internet connection, and for the right price I’d definitely be willing to pay for the feature in flight. A good example is Cathay Pacific’s new Airbus A350-900, which started flying in Asia and Europe 2016 and launched on Melbourne/Brisbane to Hong Kong routes this year. For $10-$20 you can get WiFi ranging from a few hours up to the entire length of the flight.
Unified Security Check Rules
There’s a lot of inconsistency around the rules when taking your checked baggage and belongings through security and customs officials can, quite frankly, be rather rude about it, seemingly unaware that the rules are not consistent across jurisdictions. A perfect example is an iPad, or a Surface Pro. Do they come under the ‘take all laptops out of your bag rule’? Well depending on the country you’re in it’s either:
- They’re tablets, it’s all good.
- The iPod is a tablet and is fine, but the Surface Pro is a laptop and needs to go in a bucket.
- They’re both laptops, take them out and put them in a bucket.
- They’re both laptops, and need to go in separate buckets.
Another example is the use of mobile phones – it’s pretty well settled that mobile phones switched on with full functionality don’t have an effect on the plane’s instruments, but the rules around when they can and cannot be used, and what functionality can and cannot be enabled are inconsistent.
Also why, when flying to Australia, aren’t you allowed to bring liquids onto planes that you’ve purchased in the airport unless that airport has a second security screening zone at the gate? For those of you who don’t know about this gem of a rule, get this. If I’m in an airport, have passed through security, and am browsing the duty free shops, I can’t buy any liquids (read, alcohol) unless that airport has a second security check at the date, and the bottle has been brought to the gate in a special sealed bag by airport staff. We’re in the airport, we’ve already been through security. What’s the point?
If there’s a point to these rules, then they should be the same worldwide. We live in a globalised world, surely we can arrive at a global standard for this kind of thing.
Get Rid Of The Carry On Liquid Restrictions
I’m not going to dwell for to long on the pointlessness of this rule. Nobody is building a bomb out of liquid on a plane. Remember that guy who planned to do it on that flight all those years ago that resulted in the restrictions being put in place? Well it’s been proven that even if his plan did succeed, he would have failed. It’s simply not a practical reality that anyone could build a bomb on a plane in a way that would be prevented by these liquid restriction. And if this was a real risk, then why doesn’t the ban apply to carry on liquids for domestic flights? And why is anything less than 100ml allowed on? Surely the would be plotter could just take through a few sub-100ml containers?
It’s a pointless restriction that was borne out of fear, that makes no sense, and whose time has come.
Customs Officials, Take More Care
Due to the aforementioned liquid restrictions, whenever I bring alcohol back to Australia, I need to check it in. Usually I bring back bottles that can’t be found in Australia and am very careful to pack them as securely as possible. Unfortunately customs officials have the right to open pieces of checked luggage and rummage through the contents. I get that there are good reasons for customs officials to have this power, but all I ask is that if you’re going to search through my stuff, and you notice a bottle of something that’s been wrapped and secured, don’t just chuck it back in without the same level of protection.
Power/USB Outlets In Seats
A lot of progress has been made towards getting fully powered outlets in all seats on long haul airplanes, regardless of cabin class (for example the Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900), and the sooner this is standard the better. Not having to worry about running out of power while using your laptop or tablet, and getting off a plane after a long flight and having a full charged phone is a fantastic thing.
Restricted Seat Recline Functionality
Reclining, is it a right or a privilege? It’s the age-old question that’s plagued passengers ever since commercial flights offered the luxury. There are valid points to both sides of the argument, and to me it seems that the main issue is around lack of consideration for the person behind you. Yes you might want to relax, but do you need to recline your seat as soon as the plane takes off? Are you really oblivious to the fact that your seat needs to be put upright as meal service commences?
Something I’d like to see on planes to combat this is a sort of ‘master switch’ for the reclining function across the cabin, controlled by the senior cabin crew member. From takeoff until the plane is in the air and everyone is settled, those seats aren’t reclining. An announcement is made, and the seats can now be reclined. Meal time coming up? An announcement is made that meal service is about to start and all seats should be set upright, with a notification that they will be going up in five minutes if they aren’t already.
Improved Food Offering
Ever since episode three of “Heston’s Mission Impossible” in 2013, where Heston Blumenthal was given the challenge of improving British Airways’ in flight meal offering, airlines have been improving the quality of food that they serve in all cabins. The big change has been an understanding of just how important umami is in countering the bitterness found in food served at high altitudes. Tomatoes, aged cheeses, mushrooms, soy sauce, cured meats, and fruity wines are just a few examples of foods which are naturally high in umami.
There’s no doubt that the application of this knowledge has seen aircraft food menus improve across the board. It’s been most obvious when we’ve flown business class, as you’d expect, but the changes have also filtered through to the economy class meals. For example, Cathay Pacific’s recently introduced range of organic ‘natural’ wines, along with lighter, healthier options with a higher protein to carbohydrate ratio to help passengers stay full but not bloated.
Mobile Phone Call Functionality
The ability to send and receive calls using my mobile isn’t something that I’d use, as I enjoy the quiet time to get on with work or relax, and not be bothered by someone having a phone conversation next to me. I see how this could be a useful thing for people though, so perhaps there could be a small ‘chill out’ zone on long haul flights that’s relatively sound blocked from the rest of the cabin, where calls can be made?
An Enhanced Lounge Experience
When flying long haul, the importance of a quality lounge cannot be underestimated. Between The City Lane launching in Chicago, and the London team growing, I’ve spent a lot of time in airports. It’s no secret that the Cathay Pacific lounges at Hong Kong International Airport are amongst my favourite, and their recently revamped Pier Business Class Lounge is where I’ve spend a lot of time recovering from a flight, freshening up, and getting some work done. The advantages of spending over 20 hours flying and transiting, and still being able to get a full day’s work completed cannot be underestimated. A quality lounge with good connectivity and quiet zones is essential for someone like me who is easily distracted.