5 Ways the Airline Industry Could Improve — According to Teens
Most aspects of air travel are out of our hands, at times leading to stressful situations for even the most seasoned travelers — for younger flyers, especially those traveling on their own, that level of stress is only amplified. Lucky for the airline industry, this 17-year-old globetrotter has a few suggestions that would make it easier and more enjoyable for everyone — especially teens. Here they are, listed below in no particular order.
1. Healthier Food — and More Exciting Beverage Options
Although you may not expect it, most teenagers really value a nice, healthy meal, especially considering how exhausting and disruptive traveling can be for one's body. I always try my best to eat fresh food while traveling, which can be difficult, though, due to the lack of hot meals and fresh food options that are available in coach. I usually find it easier to just buy food at the airport and carry it on since most airline food options in economy tend to fall somewhere between snacks and soggy sandwiches. Offering fresh salads or veggie platters would interest me much more. American Airlines, for instance, does a great job of offering a variety of healthy snacks, many of which are also gluten free or kosher.
Airlines should also consider stepping up the beverage game for the younger crowd. Fresh smoothies, juices and "mocktails" would not only be much more enticing than airlines' current drink options, but would also create a more inclusive environment for flyers under 21.
2. Cooler, More Interactive Entertainment
While in-flight entertainment systems are a great way to pass the time during a flight, there's so much more that could be done to improve them. Offering destination-based trivia and the ability to play games with and against other passengers in real time would be awesome additions. Partnering with streaming websites — like Netflix, Amazon or Spotify — and allowing users to log into their accounts from their IFE screens would make for a much better viewing experience on top of being a phone or laptop battery saver. JetBlue has excelled in the entertainment realm, offering several channels from Direct TV and SiriusXM Radio for a small fee on every single plane. Which brings me to my next point: many airlines have done a great job of updating their entertainment systems, but these new upgrades are still not available on every aircraft.
3. Small, Personalized Touches
Besides my effort to make friends with the flight attendants, I rarely feel like my flights are personal. Airlines could begin by having customers fill out a profile in which you can specify personal preferences, like favorite music or movie genre, destination or airplane snack. That information could then be used to create a different display on each passenger's IFE system, with their picks presented — such information could also be relayed to flight attendants when delivering food and beverages. It would also be cool to be able to change stationary desktop settings like the background, text size and brightness level (which you can't always do on every airline). With the introduction of these simple personal touches, passengers will feel a closer connection with the airline and their flying experience.
4. A Rewards Program for Frequent Flyers Under 18
I find it pretty uncommon for anyone my age to have airline elite status. This is probably because the requirements aren't attainable for a demographic that primarily goes to school and has a limited disposable income. If airlines created a separate, more attainable elite status for frequent flyers under 18, it would help validate teens as loyal customers and would encourage young people to reap the benefits of their spending from an earlier age.
5. Cash Acceptance — Or Pre-Ordering — for Meals and Special Amenities
As cringe-worthy as it may be for TPG readers, there are many travelers who do not use credit cards — not to mention the amount of young people who don't yet have checking accounts! Simply for the sake of convenience, airlines should allow passengers to pay in cash — this would also come in handy for those "Mom-forgot-to-transfer-me-money-and-now-I'm-starving-at-cruising-altitude-with-no-food" moments. Alternatively, airlines could offer a special pre-ordering service for in-flight food and amenities, which would allow customers to worry about one less thing before even leaving home.
Flying shouldn't be considered 'roughing it' for a few hours. Instead, airlines should consider taking a few steps to create a comfortable atmosphere for everyone, no matter how old they are. A bit of personalization and some extra levels of convenience would go a long way, especially for teen travelers.
What do you think airlines can do to make the flying experience better for teenagers? Share your ideas in the comments, below.