Browsing Tag: Amenities

An American Airlines MD-80.

An American Airlines MD-80.

I love the self-service kiosks at airports. I was one of the first people to use them when they came out and I am still a huge fan today.

One of the most annoying issues is printing out my boarding pass and then waiting for someone to come over and give me my bag-tag. Sometimes I can end up waiting longer for my tag than I took actually checking in. American Airlines is trying to change the game by allowing passengers to print off their own bag tags.

Already at 35 airports around the world, passengers can print off their own luggage tag, but that hasn’t been the case in the US. American is giving this a six month test in Austin, TX to see how it goes. Your ID still needs to be checked, and an agent needs to watch the conveyor belt to make sure only authorized bags make their way on board, but this should be able to speed up the check-in process.

Some passengers and airline employees are not happy. Passengers feel this is a step backward with customer service and employees are afraid about keeping their job. I think it boils down to the cost of a ticket. Airlines need to get creative to be competitive and if this is a way to speed things up and save a few dollars on a ticket, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it being used more in the future. Delta and Alaska Airlines have already shown some interest and I imagine that others are keeping a close eye on how this goes.

What do you think? Is this the future or a lame-duck idea?

To learn more about this program, check out the story I posted on AOL Travel News.

Image: John Rogers

This wonderful meal is what people in economy would get in the "good 'ol days," now you can still find it in first class

This wonderful meal is what people in economy would get in the "good 'ol days," now you can still find it in first class. Yes, that is a real glass I was able to use in a recent flight in Delta first class.

Ah flying is not what it used to be right? Remember when you were treated like royalty, didn’t have to pay extra fees, seats were bigger and you got a real meal? Where did those days go? Well those days are not entirely gone. You can still find all that still up in the front of the plane…in first class.

Most people like to blame the airline for all these changes.  They will accuse the airlines for cramming in as many seats as possible, taking away the free food and adding a bunch of fees all in the name of profit. But while airlines were doing all these things, the price of tickets have greatly dropped and safety has increased.

Recently I had the opportunity to fly first class on Delta Air Lines from Seattle to Atlanta and I forgot how nice it can be. I love flying, even in economy with my peanuts, but you can’t beat the experience flying in the front of the plane.

Although domestic first class seats are better than domestic economy seats, neither of them compare international first class seats. But again, you are going to pay (a lot) to get a first class seat on an international flight (we are talking up to $25,000.00). No matter where you are flying first class, it provides you with two things you won’t find in the back of the bus: space and service.

The benefits of flying first class starts at the airport. If you didn’t check-in online, most airlines will have a special first class line, which is quicker. Then, many airports have a quick security line allowing you to fly through all the fun TSA security. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has this option, but I forgot about this perk and was stuck waiting 25 minutes to get through security (even though there was only a line of 10 people — figure that one out). Once you make it through security, depending on the airline and airport, you will have access to the airlines lounge. Again, I missed this benefit at Seattle.

One benefit I did not miss out on was boarding first. While everyone else stands around the gate waiting to board, Delta has the Sky Priority lane, guaranteeing you won’t have any problems finding room for your carry-on bags.  Right after I boarded, I was asked if I want something to drink. Feel like an adult beverage? Enjoy… it is on the house. Since my flight left at 7am, I opted to not enjoy an alcoholic beverage and stuck to just juice (my flight home was a different story). The drinks, by the way, are served in real glasses.

After take off, the flight attendants came around to me and my first class buddies and handed out a hot towel. You won’t see that in economy…you can’t even pay for that back there.

Then comes the meal. A real meal. We are talking omlet, ham, potatoes, fruit and a bagel (see photo on the blog). I got mighty full after all that, I don’t think I have ever gotten full from even the meals you can buy in the back of the plane. After the meal was completed, it was not that long before a basket of snacks was offered. I wasn’t hungry yet, but I stored up, since it was a five hour flight.

During the flight, I had a lot of options to keep distracted on Delta’s in-flight entertainment. The system is not any different from the system in the back of the plane, but everything is free. I got through two movies, even though I wasn’t fully paying attention since I was on my laptop and on the GoGo In-Flight Wi-Fi. Unfortunatly the internet is not free in first class (I wonder if that will ever change), but it only cost $12.95 for the five hour flight. Since I had an extra 10″ of seat pitch than the folks in the back, it was easy to have my laptop open, watching my movies and still have room to breath.

The part of flying I do not like is the waiting to get off. I am sort of impatient and sitting there waiting for people to get their stuff and off the plane is just annoying. Well, sitting up front you don’t have to deal with that. Once the door is open, you are off and on your way.

With most airlines, sitting up front gets you VIP service, just like the way it used to be. However, it also costs the way it used to be as well. With all the additional fees and in-flight add-ons, flying first class has never been a better value. If you check bags, eat on the plane or watch movies, getting them all for free in first class can be a good value. Next time you want to experience flying like it used to be, make sure to get that first class ticket! If you haven’t been able to fly first class before, you might want to try it out sometime. Many airlines offer a cheap upgrade at the airport option, since it really does give a whole new experience to flying.

An American Airlines Boeing 757 and Airbus A300 line up for take off at Miami International Airport

An American Airlines Boeing 757 and Airbus A300 line up for take off at Miami International Airport

Airlines have to start getting pretty creative to come up with new fees to help increase their revenue. Even though I get frustrated to have to pay the fees myself, I at least understand why I am paying them. American has started charging a new fee and I am not sure if it is worth it.

Depending on the length of the flight, you can now pay anywhere from $19 to $39 to sit in the first few rows in economy and be one of the first ones to board. There is no question being one of the first to board to make sure you have room for your carry-ons and it is nice to get off the plane instead of waiting in the back for everyone else to. However, I am not sure if the added cost is worth it.

United has something similar called EconomyPlus, but at least when you pay more for those seats, you also get additional legroom.  With United, you can purchase the seats at the time of booking, but with American’s Express Seats, they can only be purchased from a kiosk starting 24hrs before a flight to 50 minutes before take off.

Virasb Vahidi, Chief Commercial Officer for American Airlines states, “Express Seats highlights American’s focus on offering customers what they value most.” I am not sure if passengers really value paying more to sit in the front the most. However, I haven’t done the research and spoke with a lot of American passengers about it, which I assume American has and they got positive feedback. The nice thing for American is there is no need to change the layouts of their aircraft to make this work, which means it will be cheap to test and cheap to pull the plug if it doesn’t work out.

Story found: Flight Wisdom Image: AV8NLVR