Unwanted Advice: How to Improve Airports and Airplanes

About 2 months ago, when Kim and I were wrapping up our European rail adventure (the European equivalent of the great American road trip), I wrote a post about how I loved traveling by air. When I re-read it the other day, it read like some lovelorn teenage girl writing in her diary about the Coreys.

My attitude on traveling by air has changed in the past couple of weeks. As you probably know, Kim and I recently accepted a job with BACKPACKER Magazine, which required us to head back to the U.S. a few days after we were hired. We left Vietnam on January 16, and over the next 10 days found ourselves on 9 different planes, covering 16 different time zones.


The beginning of the end of my love affair with flying

Now, I don’t want to bore you with 800 words on why traveling by air is no fun. Rather, I thought I would share with you some observations and suggestions to improve air travel and airports I made during a stretch when I was averaging nearly one flight a day:


When we flew through Tokyo, there was a place in the airport where you could pay to take a shower or get a room with a bed for a few hours. It was basically a bare-bones hotel – only it was located in the international terminal. Not only would a non-sink based freshening up feel nice, but I’m sure my seat-neighbors would appreciate me washing off 13 hours of recycled air as well. So let’s take a tip from Tokyo and turn all our airports a little Japanese.

Fresh Food (or the lack thereof)


If this can be made on the street in Vietnam, surely concourse 3 can handle it

I am pretty sure that there is an international law that mandates all food sold in airports be frozen, processed, or deep-fried. Fresh fruits and vegetables seem to be rarer than Bigfoot in airports. My suggestion is to replace all the Sbarro’s and Burger King’s with Vietnamese street vendors selling Pho. Just picture it: business people in their power suits squatting on their haunches eating noodle soup while trying to join their conference calls. It would provide everyone entertainment, and brings me to my next suggestion:

Fantasy People Watching

Airports are absolutely the best place to people watch. I am pretty sure I will be the Usain Bolt of my newly created IFPWL (the International Fantasy People Watching League). This is a “sport” that just by playing you win! I think scoring would look a little something like this:

Watching an argument on a cell phone: 1 point

Watching someone spill food on themselves: 3 points

Seeing someone enter the wrong restroom: 5 points (5 additional points if they actually use the restroom)

Observing toddler meltdowns: 7 points per toddler

Listening to someone complain to an airline employee about their flight being delayed: -2 points

Kicking that someone complaining to an airline employee in the shins and telling them to be patient like the rest of us: 12 points

Movie Theaters

Movie Collage

What sounds better: a stiff plastic chair or 90 minutes with your favorite hairy, bipedal beast?

Why has no one thought to put these in airports? What’s a better way to kill a long layover than by watching a movie? I know there are logistical concerns, but think of this: 4 theaters that sit up to 50 people, with starting times every half hour. A typical day could look something like this:

12:00 – Bigfoot: The Unforgettable Encounter

12:30 – Harry and the Hendersons

1:00 – Boggy Creek II: And The Legend Continues

1:30 – The Bloody Rage of Bigfoot


Now, this is the theatre of my dreams, so I’ll understand if you’re not too into Sasquatch movie marathons. But swap those out with second run rom-coms and bad action movies and I think it’s a recipe for success.



If the Flintstones can have a gym, why not O’Hare?

What’s a better way to get rid of that post-flight bloating and swelling than a good sweat? Wouldn’t $20 for a 90 minute workout be worth it after eating all that fried & pre-packaged food? Or, even better: instead of those electric carts that drive people to the gates, you could get a discount on your ticket and be a pulled-rickshaw driver for an hour to get those folks to the gate. It’s a win-win!

Kids/Family Zones on Planes

I love kids as much as the next guy, but that doesn’t mean I want to sit next to one during a 7 hour flight. Or have a kid sit behind me and give me impromptu back massages with their feet. I think that Kid/Family Zones would benefit everyone involved. The Kids/Family Zone chairs could be designed with cartoon characters, there could be kid-specific entertainment, and you could have games and window stickers in the seat back pockets. And it allows the rest of us to watch The Bloody Rage of Bigfoot without feeling guilty about giving nightmares to all the little ones.

Charging Stations

pedal chargers

The only way scientists have found to get nomophobes in shape

In the Antwerp Train Station, the only plugs that are available to people are pedal-chargers: stationary bikes that you pedal to charge your device. If these were put in airports, not only would this help out the environment, but you could partner with the airport gyms to power them. And you could get bonus points in your IFPWL league every time you see someone too busy staring at their phone walk right into the pedal chargers!

What are some of your suggestions to improve the airport/airplane experience?

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Author: Brian

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