Are Hassle Free Airlines Truly Possible?

airplane interior
jerdlngr, Flickr

A new airline in Memphis is looking to take the frustration out of flying, letting travelers skip airport security and show up at the airport just minutes before their flight takes off.

Southern Airways Express has been operational for four months and the carrier’s CEO believes it’s the answer to many passengers’ woes.

“You’re going to be able to walk from your car less than 50 yards in most cases to the aircraft without having to go through any TSA security hassles. You only have to get here 20 minutes before the plane departs,” CEO Stan Little told a local TV station.

Right now, the airline serves 10 regional domestic routes, but it’s planning to expand and may even add an international flight later this year.For passengers fed up with the nightmare that air travel has become, it all sounds too good to be true. Just the other day we told you about the disgraceful report card the TSA received following a government audit which found that a number of security screeners were sleeping, stealing and taking bribes on the job. The story prompted many readers to share their own tales of humiliation, frustration, or anger at having to deal with airport security.

The desire for a hassle-free airline is clearly strong, but can such a carrier truly take off in this day and age of global threats and terrorism fears? Southern Airways has managed to bypass TSA checks by flying in and out of smaller regional airports that don’t yet have strict security protocols, and any route expansions would likely involve destinations with similar secondary airports. Still, flying out of alternate hubs might be a small price to pay for travelers who have had enough of body scanners, bag searches and liquid restrictions.

What do you think? Can an airline like this be made to work?

Galley Gossip: Vegas Baby! (It’s not the same)

Due to short layovers, long work hours, multiple cities flown in a day, and the number of passengers aboard the aircraft, flight attendants can become very forgetful, particularly when it comes to you and something as simple as your drink order, even the one you just ordered.

“I’m sorry did you say orange juice?” I asked the man who had probably said just that, as half the cabin had already ordered exactly that. Orange juice.

Curtly the passenger nodded. I filled a plastic glass with ice, and that’s when I realized he may not even want ice, so I asked, “Ice or no ice?” even though I was fairly certain the answer would be no ice. Half the cabin had already requested no ice.

The passenger said something, his lips were moving, but I could not make out what it was he said, so I held up the gray plastic ice scoop and pretended to put ice into his clear plastic cup, and asked, “Ice? Ice?” just as I had done for several passengers before him.

Again the lips moved, yet I still could not figure out what he wanted, so I made a judgment call. I filled up the glass with orange juice. Just juice. No ice. Then I smiled and placed the glass on his tray table. He nodded, took a sip, and on to the next row I went.

Orange juice no ice. Tea. Tea with milk. Tea with milk and sugar. Strangely enough, these were the popular drink choices on my last flight. No, this was not a morning trip to Seattle. This was actually a flight, an evening flight, on a Saturday night of all nights, to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Flight attendants can usually guess what you’re drinking based on where you’re going. For example, Californians can’t get enough bottled water, sparkling water, and club soda, while Texans drink us out of Dr. Pepper, and our Senior Citizens enjoy tomato juice, so imagine my surprise when I constantly found myself running out of hot tea and OJ while serving a rather subdued crowd to Vegas last night. Not normal. Not at all. This was Vegas remember!

“You’re going to have so much fun!” said my hairdresser yesterday morning after I told her where I was flying later that evening.

“It’s a fun crowd, but a tough one. They keep you busy,” I laughed, and then I told her our layover was short, as in ten hours short, which is not enough time to have fun. The days of fun are long gone. I really miss those days. My how things have changed.

“I’m so jealous! I want to go with you!” said a woman with foils in her hair sitting beside me.

“Oh no you don’t. Our layover is really short,” I said again, and then I told her about the demanding Las Vegas crowd, the one that keeps you busy the entire flight.

Now I hadn’t flown to Vegas in over six months, but the last time I found myself behind the drink cart I couldn’t get out of the aisle. Nor could I keep the liquor drawer stocked. Yet strangely enough on my flight last night the beverage service not only went fairly smooth, it also went somewhat quick, which is a flight attendant dream. I think I may have sold one alcoholic beverage on the flight. That’s it. Not that there’s anything was wrong with that – just the opposite actually. But it was strange, very strange, running out of tea bags, not liquor, on a drama free flight.

Or is it strange, considering how weak the dollar is these days, I thought to myself, as I handed an 81 year-old Argentinian woman traveling with a group of eleven a stir stick.

Of course it was strange, at first, when all those well dressed passengers boarded the aircraft. “Hello. (Nice shoes.) How are you? (love the glasses.) Welcome aboard. (Beautiful blouse.)”

Can you say so long to the American traveling attire – tank tops, flip flops, and shorts, and hello …I like the way you’re dressed. Let me tell you, it is so nice when passengers actually wear clothes, nice clothes, on the airplane, especially when there aren’t any blankets on board anymore.

After filling up yet another pot of hot tea and serving a row of Germans, Jaime, my coworker on the other side of the cart, asked, “Is this what it’s like to fly international?

International passengers they were, an international service it was not. That’s what I thought to myself as I asked the Iranian gentleman near the front of the aircraft traveling with seven others, whose around the world trip was taking them from New York to Vegas to Los Angeles to Hawaii, “Would you care to purchase a snack?”

“Not free?” he asked, inspecting the turkey and cheese croissant sandwich wrapped in plastic.

Nor did it feel like an international flight, though they, the passengers, were international travelers from all corners of the globe, when I had to explain to the British man seated near the rear of the aircraft that yes, we really had run out of sandwiches on a five hour flight. “All we have left is a very large, but very good, chocolate chip cookie.”

“You mean to tell me this is the only food service you provide and you’ve already run out of food?” he asked.

I gulped. “Yes. I’m sorry,” I said, and that’s all I said, before moving on to the next row. I mean what else could I say?

Although sometimes it doesn’t look like it at first glance, this is a domestic flight within the US. Not a long haul international flight where most of your wants and needs are still being met after purchasing a higher priced fair.

After we had finished our service, Kim, the first class flight attendant, made her way to our cabin and said, “You are not going to believe what he said.” I don’t know why I automatically assumed Kim spoke of the popular actor from the 80’s wearing the SARS mask throughout the entire flight, but I was right to assume so. He rang his call light and wanted to discuss our security procedures on-board the airplane during flight. “He doesn’t approve of what we do. He thinks we should have something more advanced in place, especially in this day and age.”

“Like what?” I asked. Really, I wanted to know, what else could we do in this day and age of air travel?

There’s a saying, it takes money to make money. Therefore it takes money to put in place all those security measures you feel that are inadequate, and the amenities you still expect on-board the domestic flights, along with that extra flight attendant that is often needed to provide you with the service you’ve come to expect. Believe it or not, one extra flight attendant can make a huge difference in the type of service you receive, particularly when there are 166 passengers and only 2 flight attendants working the aisle in coach on a 757. Things have changed in the world of travel, that much is true, and it continues to change, whether we like it or not, for passengers and crew alike.