Reinventing Air Travel

I have discovered the dawn of a brave new age of air travel, and I must share what I have learned.

It’s possible to un-jam a jammed airplane, and I just remembered how to do it.

I have never, ever witnessed before what I watched onboard Delta flight 725 the afternoon of August 6, 2012.

I was a bystander to an act of voluntary civility – not mandated this day by the fine people at Delta, but I hope/pray someone from the company noticed.

This collective effort resulted in the rapid emptying of an MD-90 jet, sans loud talkers on cell phones, aisle hogs, or mob rule. There was no crowding. There was no long wait. There was peace in the aircraft.

I leaned over to my seat mate – a seasoned road warrior – I said, “Are you seeing this?”

“It’s incredible,” he whispered. “Did they tell us to do it this way?”

“Was it printed on our boarding pass?” I’m agitated, quietly desperate for the answer. This investigation must be conducted with some rapidity, after all – the plane is draining people at a Usain Bolt-like speed.

No one was stressed. No one was half-standing, neck craned at a 45 degree angle under the reading lights. No one was blabbing on their mobile at the top of their lungs with the person who is picking them up. No one is dragging their bag out of the overhead, knocking heads like Whack-A-Moles.

No one was being a (sadly) typical global air traveler.

The airlines have experimented with countless ways to get us on and off their planes with efficiency. Some plans worked better than others, but none has ever been so sublime as to have it be adopted as industry best practice.

I saw a group of people today deploy a brilliant move. Surely there must have been a ringleader, I wondered. Someone had been counterintuitive, doing the exact opposite of being the first guy on the dance floor to get that party started. A coincidence? Random fate? No, it was much more than that. The beauty and simplicity of what happened August 6, 2012 was an act of selfless grace and sound science –  and whoever they are…they must be located, debriefed and hired as an airline consultant immediately.

This aviation pioneer is probably a great driver too, I suspect. She/ he has to know exactly why traffic jams occur to have been able to unwind this sardine can of humanity so effortlessly. She/he knew, and they shared what they knew with unspoken brilliance.

Here’s what happened at the gate on Delta 725:

No one got out of their seat.

Starting at first class and flowing like a wave toward my position in 30A, folks simply stayed put, shut their mouths, put down their fucking precious mobiles for 2 milliseconds and waited for the row in front of them to get their bag and get out.

Then and only then did they rise, grab their bag, and exit the aircraft.

The act of waiting created momentum, not inertia!

Traffic jams happen when too many cars fight for too little freeway.  The flow of auto traffic needs to look like a zipper for jams to be prevented  – each driver merging at about the same speed, taking turns. For those of you who use the Caldecott Tunnel in the Bay Area, you know. The 2 left lanes merge into the two right ones. Instead of slowing down a couple of miles earlier, and merging well before the road turns to two lanes, they rush to the front of the line, come to a complete stop, then cut people off squeezing in at the front.  If these drivers merged much earlier,  the “zipper” would guarantee smooth (albeit slower) traffic, but you would almost never have to come to a complete stop.

Here’s the coolest part – you can, with the help of only one or two other drivers, “singlehandedly” un-jam a traffic jam. I’ve done it many times, and have many witnesses.  I should sell the how-to manual and buy a Bentley with the proceeds. Perhaps a post on the subject this week will suffice.

I just saved the Republic of California a zillion dollars. You don’t have to build more freeway lanes; you need smarter drivers.

Since most people are making dinner/playing fantasy baseball/curling their hair/texting/pulling an espresso/putting on makeup/petting their lap dog instead of actually operating a motor vehicle, they don’t recognize this and adjust accordingly.

When we hear that “ding” telling us the plane has stopped at the gate, we reflexively want to get up as fast as we can so we don’t miss the golden opportunity to count the pores on the nose of the person next to us. Breathe that minty fresh breath of your fellow traveler while you wait for the jetway to inch out to your plane. Enjoy it. Savor it; it’s going to be a few minutes.

Someone on Delta 725 waited for just a few seconds, obviously causing copycat behavior that turned our otherwise surly deplaners into thoughtful, efficient human travelers.

The way to get off a plane quickly is to stay out of the aisle, put down your fucking precious mobile for 2 milliseconds, wait for the row ahead of you to clear out, and then it’s all about you, Chief.

This system will serve you well at baggage claim as well. If everyone stood back 3-5 feet from the carousel, your bag would with be with you exponentially quicker than if you act like a participant in a rugby scrum and stand right next to the turnstile, boxing out and slowing others.

We wait for our bags because of you, and I’m sure on many occasions, me as well.

I applaud our brilliant savvy traveler(s) and all the good people in front of me on Delta 725.

It was a real treat working with you.

Dear Delta; your thoughts?

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