Posts tagged “airlines”

Up in the air

Aka, a removable feast. Strong signs of cultural change as airline meals morph, evolve, and devolve. Compare my recent repast on United ($7 for the boxed snack set)

with the hot meal below, from a 1960s Braniff domestic flight.

It’s striking how much cultural norms and consumer expectations around hospitality in this context have changed – imagine handing that 1960s passenger the meal I got on my flight.

See more airline meals throughout the decades here.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • UX guy complains about being crap and UX guy from responds – UX guy reprints email and then attempts to address corporate culture issue; strong opinions follow but most compelling part is the insight from the UX guy himself (known as Mr. X)

    "But—and I guess here’s the thing I most wanted to get across—simply doing a home page redesign is a piece of cake. You want a redesign? I’ve got six of them in my archives. It only takes a few hours to put together a really good-looking one, as you demonstrated in your post. But doing the design isn’t the hard part, and I think that’s what a lot of outsiders don’t really get, probably because many of them actually do belong to small, just-get-it-done organizations. But those of us who work in enterprise-level situations realize the momentum even a simple redesign must overcome, and not many, I’ll bet, are jumping on this same bandwagon. They know what it’s like."

  • Health management goes for ethnic marketing/customization: Asians and diabetes – Rice is a carbohydrate that is particularly unhealthy in large quantities for people with diabetes. That's why doctors and other health care providers are increasingly trying to develop culturally sensitive ways to treat Asians with diabetes – programs that take into account Asian diets, exercise preferences and even personality traits. "Diabetes is primarily a self-managed disease, and you have to try multiple approaches with different patients. But many of those are not culturally appropriate for Asians."

A seat at the table

You may have already seen this proposed seat layout around the blogosphere. It appears today in USATODAY

PAIG and its design partner, Acumen, used experts from 12 major international carriers as a focus group in developing the seats. None of those 12 – which Bettell said he can’t identify because of non-disclosure agreements – has placed an order yet.

This raises an issue well articulated by Graham Marshall at the IDSA SHIFT event this past weekend…that in many business situations, the people being designed for aren’t just the end user, but include partners, and customers (where customers refers to the company who buys the product, such as Target, UPS, or United Airlines). Of course, as Graham made clear, it’s crucial to develop with and for all those groups. Here we’ve got a story about a company that ran (yuk) focus groups with the airlines only. Sure, those people have asses and backs, so they could try the seats out (assuming the focus group went full-out and had model seats that could be experienced) but they are not the ultimate user of the seats. It seems that doesn’t really matter at this stage of the process! You’ll sit in ’em and you’ll like ’em!

QA/validation not so important at United

A screenshot from the My Itineraries page at United. I’m trying to cancel a flight. Their FAQ suggests you can do it from their site, but I had all sorts of trouble on Friday and ended up sending them an email (nicely enabled from that part of the site, with automatic form filling with my ticket number and all that good stuff). It’s 5 days later and they haven’t canceled it or otherwise responded. So now I’m in limbo. Today I went back to check what itineraries they were showing for me. And here’s what I find – button and other interface text is replaced by labels in the code, probably variable names instead of their values.

Neither the bad service nor the poor attention to detail gives me a great feeling about United.

Air Canada Introduces $2 Inflatable Pillow

From Travel Agent Central

Air Canada will no longer offer customers free pillows. Instead, for a $2 charge, the carrier will offer customers a so-called ‘comfort zone’ kit that includes an inflatable plastic pillow and polyester blanket, according to media sources in Canada. Apparently, the kit is a pouch with pillow case, blanket and an instruction card on blowing up the pouch into a pillow.

I can’t help thinking of a prescient series of parody radio ads from the 70s somewhere in Southern Ontario (Hamilton? Toronto?) for Air Harold, where everything, including seatbelts, were extra.

This is such a messed up industry.

End of Free Pretzels

Pretzels are out on US Airways. Besides the bad press this constant nickel-and-diming is creating, there’s the usual corporate press release, where they remind us that they conducted customer research in support of their action

Amy Kudwa, a US Airways spokeswoman, said the airline decided to end the pretzel giveaway after meeting with the carrier’s focus groups.

Amazing this one didn’t include the standard “our consumers tell us that…” line. I’m amazed at how often this appears in press release-driven news stories.

Advertising in the air

Kind of horrifying follow-up to my recent experience with captive advertising on Contintental is in today’s WaPo

On a recent Alaska Airlines flight, passengers were told to remain buckled and seated for the last 30 minutes before landing at Reagan National Airport. It was a standard security measure for flights heading into restricted airspace over Washington.

It also turned a planeful of passengers into captive customers who were then pitched a Bank of America Visa card — with little chance of tuning it out. Over the intercom, a flight attendant encouraged passengers to sign up for the Bank of America credit card. Then other flight attendants went down the aisle handing out applications.

Marketing now follows potential customers into the skies. In the airline industry’s newest way to drum up revenue, carriers have become aggressive pitchmen for a range of products to passengers at 30,000 feet. The airlines say the ad revenue helps in these tough financial times. But some passengers liken the pitches to ads in a movie theater before the main feature.

“It’s worse than the idea of cell phones in flights,” said frequent flier Sylvia Caras of Santa Cruz, Calif.

Advertising in the air is nothing new. Most airlines run some commercials during their in-flight entertainment. And most in-flight magazines carry ads.

But until now, passengers could simply look away from the screen or turn the magazine page.

For Alexander Velaj, a Stamford, Conn., insurance agent, the latest trend in on-board salesmanship is another reason for “purchasing the Bose noise-canceling headphones.”

But Montgomery College English professor Chet Pryor said he accepts the in-flight product pitches as the trade-off for lower fares. “They’re simply something that must be endured,” he said.

Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Amanda Tobin said passengers had expressed an interest in learning more about applying for Visa credit cards and that the airline’s flight attendants share “basic” information.

(that last bit just kills me – I have a fantasy blog entry where I’d just take count of every ridiculous corporate behavior that is justified with that false marketingspeak about how their customers told them that they wanted this)

Auditory Experiences

Two experiences of note with audio

i) Continental Airlines shows ads on their flights, before they begin the in-flight programming. In other words, through the regular audio system, not the headphone systems. The ads are very very loud. Painfully loud. You’re strapped into your seat and you can’t get away. The screens drop down, the audio starts. You have nowhere else to look and even with my fingers in my ears I could hear every damn noise in the Verizon and Are We There Yet? ads. Blecchgh.


ii) Walking through Midtown Manhattan this morning, I saw the all-too-familiar emergency-vehicle-gridlock scenario. An ambulance or fire truck is rushing somewhere, sirens wailing, but there’s nowhere for them to go – the lanes in front of them are blocked, so they sound the air horn, over and over again, to very little avail. Only this time it was slightly different – the ambulance in question had a modified type of siren, akin to the “wheep-WHEEP” they sometimes use as a honk, but it was almost verbal in its wide range of fluctuations. There was a large “vocabulary” if you will, and it seemed to convey more urgency, rather than rote pressure. I’m sure there is a human-factors alarm attendance specialist who designed this stuff (or at least who has written about it somewhere), but I’d never heard of it or heard it. I’m sure that eventually people will become used to it and tune it out, but since it was new to me, it caught my attention.


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