Posts tagged “flight”

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

  • Lu's: A Pharmacy for Women is North America's first women-only pharmacy – In Vancouver's tough Downtown Eastside where many pharmacies feel risky because they focus on dispensing methadone to heroin addicts. The welcoming atmosphere of the new full-service pharmacy was designed in conjunction with the University of British Columbia's school of architecture.
  • Alaska Airlines to fly San Jose-Austin 'nerd bird' – The route which connects the two tech hubs has been dropped by American, the original Nerd Bird carrier, and then picked up by Alaska, starting September 2.
  • Would you like ketchup with your cake? – To commemorate its Canadian centennial and thank Canadians for 100 years of support, Heinz has created The Great Canadian Heinz Ketchup Cake — an ideal dessert for any celebration. It's red, perfectly spiced and delicious. Think carrot cake without all the work. "We all think of ketchup as the perfect complement to hotdogs, hamburgers and fries, but its unique taste makes ketchup an ideal flavour enhancer for many recipes, including desserts," explains Amy Snider. The professional home economist and culinary nutritionist works with Heinz. "Heinz Ketchup not only adds great flavour to the cake, but it also creates a wonderfully moist texture."

    (Thanks, Mom)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • American Airlines' 'Nerd-bird' flights between San Jose, CA and Austin, TX to end – The flights of mostly electrical engineers, computer programmers and other tech-savvy passengers have been run by American Airlines daily since 1992. Because the recession has cut sharply into business and other travel, American has announced it will discontinue its twice-a-day nonstop flights between the two tech centers as of Aug. 25.
  • Derivative (or, if you prefer, rip-off) book titles that capitalize on other successful books – Ultimately, the best locutions are those that credit quotidian, trivial objects with earthshaking influence, like “Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World,” by Mark Kurlansky. The more obvious the significance of the subject, the less successful the title. After all, where’s the element of surprise or wit in “A Man Without Equal: Jesus, the Man Who Changed the World”?

    Some of the more unlikely candidates endowed with superhuman powers by authors include “Tea: The Drink That Changed the World,” “Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World,” “Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World” and “Sugar: The Grass That Changed the World.”

    The tricky part is gauging just when the magic wears off. “Essentially it works until it doesn’t work,” Mr. Dolan said, “and you hope you’re on the right side of that line.”

Goin’ to Kansas City

We met some great folks during our two-day odyssey from San Francisco to Kansas City.


Right after I took the picture, a group of guys who work at the airport were talking to me about how I probably made the guy’s day by paying attention to him. They didn’t understand that I truly thought his look was awesome. I love that some people pay such close attention to their personal branding.

At the end of a long day of canceled flights and insanely long lines, I was reminded by this display at the Denver airport of the things that really matter.


It’s hard to believe I’ve lived so long in California without ever making a pilgrimage to the Tower of Pallets.


The Chateau Avalon in Kansas City: in the words of the fellow who built the place, the 64 suites are not rooms; they’re “experiences.”

It was hard to fully capture the grandeur of the Serengeti Room, where I stayed, but I will say that the rhino head made an excellent place to hang my clothes.


This will be good for my hotel soap collection

I’ll be on the road a fair amount over the next few weeks:
Colorado Springs
Kansas City
Richmond, VA

I’m not sure I’ve done so many trips back-to-back before. It’ll be an interesting challenge keeping my brain alert, my clothes clean, myself rested and healthily fed.

These trips also inaugurate a new collaborative relationship and I’m very excited about the other players and the work and seeing where it all goes!

Time, he’s waiting in the wings

Originally uploaded by Victor Lombardi, who criticizes the addition of arrival data to the NYC subways, because that info shifts the experience into a waiting experience. It’s funny, because I had just spent 40 minutes at the San Francisco airport waiting for an arriving passenger, where they had no signage whatsoever about the different flights. I found it incredibly frustrating and tedious, since I couldn’t stop watching and couldn’t plan what I should do for the next 5, 10, 20, etc. minutes. I was musing to myself that more information – LOTS more information – makes waiting more tolerable. In-flight maps give you more information, allowing you to participate vicariously in the flight you are on (rather than passively as a butt-in-a-seat). Add in the good-vibes of transparency and it’s obvious…

And then Challis blogged the story about the post office removing clocks which hit the blogosphere with a predictable critique — the post office is playing Big Brother by removing info that would make us less satisfied with the experience. Challis would probably agree with my call for transparency and participation, but what would Victor think about the post office? Do the clocks shift the waiting time to something less pleasant?

Clearly, it depends on the person, their frame of mind, and the location. Lots of context to consider. But the contrasting examples seemed provocative.

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.

What are you selling?

I’m impressed and concerned by these ads for air travel that show the boarding bridge, only. Sitting on board a plane pretty much sucks, so why show that part of your experience? Show what you get, instead, by sitting on a plane – you get to be someplace else. This idea is not new, of course, but the choice to show the physical equipment being used with the deliberate exception of the plane itself is striking. How challenging it would be to try and sell people on the riding-of-planes, rather than the arriving-at-destinations.

Bombay Sapphire, anyone?

Low-cost airline pilot ‘tried to fly drunk’

An Indian low-cost airline suspended a pilot after he was found drunk shortly before he was due to fly an aircraft with about 100 passengers on board, officials said on Wednesday.

The surprise Tuesday check at Mumbai airport — India’s busiest — threw up several minor violations of safety norms by airlines, including an instance of a pilot in another low-cost carrier trying to fly in a T-shirt because his only uniform had gone to the laundry.

“threw up several minor violations” is an interesting choice of words.

Bombay Sapphire, anyone?

AirTroductions – There’s Something in the Air

AirTroductions is something I don’t quite get. How can this possibly survive? You can try to meet a new person online based on your travel plans; then arrange to sit together. Maybe they should just call it or something. Let’s combine the hair-pulling ennui of a long flight with the tedium/fear blend of a blind date! It must be the Web 2.0!!!

JenS, 29, Female
USA, Oregon, Portland
I’m a twenty-something public relations professional who travels mostly for work, several times a year. I love my job, my two Chihuahuas, and living in Portland.

I’d like to meet:
I’m looking for fun people to sit next to on the plane. Sharing of books, magazines, and music is encouraged but not required. Sharing of drinks and laughs are a must.

I’m more comfortable with (Pick as many as you like to let people know more about you!):
The W Hotel, Las Vegas on the Strip , Paris at night, The Emergency Exit Row, First Class, Vodka Martini, Diet Soda

I’m searchable as:
both business and personal

I’d be very curious to hear from people who have tried this or would try this; my bias is very personal and I know there’s more stories out there than mine.

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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