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What would You Airlines look like?

It’s easy to blame Al Queda on the invasive, uncomfortable cattle car feeling you get when traveling by air these days.

But the fault really lies with the airlines. Not to let Osama off the hook by any means, but airline travel was lousy BEFORE 9/11. It’s like being on a 300 passenger bus from Mexico City to Tijuana.

Think about it as if you owned the airline you commonly fly on. Even if you always fly First Class, would any aspect of the experience be different?

We’ve seen lots of new airlines start up in the last 10 years. Not many of them remain. If you had no baggage (pun intended) to deal with (ie: old contracts, old planes, old anything) and could start a new airline today with any equipment and people you wanted, what would you do?

One of the easiest things to do is to think of what really ticks you off about air travel.

Lessee…. lost baggage, lines lines lines, labyrinthine pricing, no leg room, lousy food (if there’s food at all), comfort levels below both buses and trains, crazy frequent flier ticket redemption rules, and….well, I suppose that’s enough for now.

Now think about what you would be willing to do without for a lower price.

Now think about what First Class passengers have that coach passengers don’t – and what a fair price is.

Me? I keep circling back to comfort, speed of on-ground service, and overall quality of service. I’d look at the cruise ship business and see what I could “steal” for my airline. Same with Disney.

And of course, I think back to an impressive 2003 article about the Delta Nervous System (DNS) in Baseline Magazine. Delta used the info gleaned from DNS to gut the Medallion program (for good reason in some cases), cut costs and increase efficiency all over the airline. Evidence of the DNS’ impact was everywhere. It’s a brilliant system. Problem is, it’s hard to see the passenger-centric changes outside of the monitors at each gate.

In a perfect DNS-driven world, you’d see well in advance that 12 passengers are on an early morning 737-800 from Salt Lake to San Jose, and that you’re going to lose $138k on it – but, the plane is needed in San Jose for the almost full flight to Chicago (much less the crew).

It’s a complex business.

Given the reality of fuel, crews, security etc, how do you make it better?

Squeeze more out of that database and real time info coming from the DNS. The answers are in there.

I’m guessing the DNS isn’t tied to Delta’s marketing and advertising engine, or to their business partners – but I hope I’m wrong.

Here’s why that might be helpful: If the DNS sees the Salt Lake-San Jose flight is almost empty, could it tell if another airline has a bunch of stranded or overbooked people trying to get to San Jose and notify those gate agents? Could it notify regular travelers on that route by email or SMS that some great seat/price combinations are available for last minute travel? TV? Could it put the seats on sale – automatically – on eBay, Priceline, etc? Plenty of other things come to mind – and I suspect there are many more riches buried in the DNS that would provide plenty of new, profitable ideas – and anything to get those seats filled.

Sure, there are 100 reasons why it might not work – and every one of them is solvable.

Now think about what the FAA, unions and the airports would actually allow you to do – and figure out a way to get your way.