Worst Ideas in the History of Air Travel

With air travel becoming more and more of a chore, it seems the industry is constantly trying to find ways to make it a more enjoyable, cost-effective experience. Ever mindful the consumer is becoming disaffected by rising prices and heavy-handed security, airlines and airports are coming up with ideas to make air travel cheaper, streamlined or just more fun.

While the genius that decided that Pringles and Magnums should be sold in-flight deserves their own corner in the Airline Hall of Fame, not every idea is a good one. Here’s a look at the worst ideas in air travel since the owner of the Hindenburg said: “Let’s fill this balloon up with flammable gas and see how far it can fly…”

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A floating airport in London

What’s the big idea? An English architectural firm has proposed a floating airport in London’s Thames estuary with the buildings and runways tethered to the bottom of the seabed.

A bad idea because: Erm, not sure if you’ve noticed but when you put lots of heavy things on something that floats, it tends to sink. One website hailed the airport as looking like “a modern-day Atlantis” and we all know the only good thing to come out of that place was a 1970s Patrick Duffy TV show.

Family-only airlines

What’s the big idea? An American design firm has come up with the idea of a ‘families only’ airline called cAir Airlines. As a reaction to the stress involved in travelling with kids, the planes would have toys to rent, sectioned-off play areas and seats that would allow families to face each other.

A bad idea because: Travelling with a young kid can be a traumatic experience but you put up with the screams and tantrums because you, presumably, love your child unconditionally. But being on a plane full other people’s annoying kids? I’d rather travel on Air Scientology …

Paying for toilet trips

What’s the big idea? Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary floated (sorry, maybe that’s not the best word to use) the idea of pay-per-use toilets on his planes a couple of years ago to make even more money for his budget carrier. A coin slot in the toilet door would mean passengers, in his words, would “have to spend a pound a spend a penny.”

A bad idea because: Don’t underestimate people’s ability to hold it in (Ryanair’s travellers are already known as tight-arses anyway). I think a better idea would be to introduce incentives for people to lessen the weight of the plane by going to the toilet before take off. If you can ‘shed some weight’ between check-in and take-off and help the plane save fuel, you’d get a free pack of Pringles (hmmmm, Pringles…).

Standing only flights

What’s the big idea? Another crack-pot idea from Ryanair in 2010, £8 ‘standing tickets’ would allow the airline to pack more people onto a plane – the back 10 rows of seats converting into 15 rows of standers. Passengers would make substantial savings on tickets but would have to stand in what look like roller coaster safety harnesses for the duration of the flight.

A bad idea because: An airline regulator said so. Ryanair’s application to have test flights with standing seats was turned down this year, although O’Leary said, “ultimately it would happen”. Personally I think it’s a great idea, if only to eradicate the air-rage-inducing “person behind you pulling on the back of your headrest when they get up” move.

Self-service airports

What’s the big idea? Looking to enhance the increasingly popular automated experience, self-service airports would have a ‘curb to plane experience’ without ever encountering a member of airline staff. Passengers would check-in their own bags, scan their boarding passes and get onto the plane all on their lonesome, where, according to Air Alaska’s chief operating officer Ben Minicucci, “your first interaction could be with a flight attendant.”

A bad idea because: Tagging your own bags and finding your way to the gate? If you’ve ever watched anyone over the age of 60 struggle with the simple task of putting a barcode under a scanner at a self-service check-in desk, you’ll know what an absolutely terrible idea this is.

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