Friday, April 09, 2010

Low Stress Transport

(fm the BC thread "Fly the friendly skies")

My hypothesis is that the most stressful part of a flight is not when the plane is in the air. What causes stress? My suggestion is that frustration causes stress and you can only be frustrated when there is some alternative that you can perceive but not obtain. During actual flight you are essentially cut off from space and time which is not a stressful condition, unless carried to the extreme of long term solitary incarceration. In fact I suspect that access during flight to traveling maps does not relieve stress. Being in an indeterminate situation with no immediate expectation of change means that there is no possible frustration to feel. That reduces the stress level.

When the plane lands and people are waiting for it to pull into the gate the stress level goes way up. Why? The reason is that unlike during the preceding hours the passengers are now suffering from the knowledge that the gate is near but they can't get to it. At that point I think that constant information as to how long they have to wait and maybe video access to the line of waiting planes may help. The same applies to when the plane is waiting for take off.

But even more stressful than this is the wait people experience for checked luggage at the baggage claim carousel. You know that your property is behind that wall someplace. You have already managed to get off the plane and get to the claim area. In your mind your property is being plundered by strangers or shipped off to Cleveland. Many people refuse to check anything just to avoid the baggage claim area and get out of the airport a little faster. For security reasons we should want people carrying almost nothing into the plane cabin and checking everything below. All checked baggage is screened to ensure that a Lockerbie type bomb is not placed beneath the aircraft. Guns, knives and clubs are generally perfectly harmless and legal when in checked baggage.

What can be done to encourage people to check bags? Unfortunately the airlines are raising the fees on checked bags, which will have exactly the opposite effect of what we want. How many of us have seen the screaming passenger insisting that the bag the size of a Shetland pony can fit in the overhead and watched it getting stuffed in where it will first destroy your property and will then hold up the entire departure process for everyone while it is extracted in an aisle clogging display, at the worst possible time as described above, that only ends with the bag falling on someone's head? The first thing to do is shift the fee structure to charge for carry on bags. A sliding scale from $5 for a laptop or standard attache to $20 for the roll on or valpac™ should prove popular with the airlines and will be hated by the public but will improve the flying experience.

Even more beneficial for reducing stress and also likely to yield some security benefits would be a program to relieve the anxiety that people feel waiting for their bags at the carousel. My suggestion is to place closed circuit cameras all around the airport, especially in the baggage handling areas, with video displays in public areas, especially by the baggage claim. Obviously in some areas, such as where bags are opened for security inspection, no image should be taken and made available to the public because the privacy of people's possessions could be compromised. The imaging of unopened bags with no identification of the passenger, that could only happen by closely examining the tags unless someone choose to make their property especially distinctive, would not raise any privacy issues that I can see. Just knowing that they can look up and verify that bags are indeed being handled behind that wall will reduce stress and make people more patient and cooperative with airline personnel. In addition the knowledge that there are cameras and that not only the official security staff but hundreds of random people are able to glance up and observe their work should cut down staff pilferage.

One other thought came to me while riding the subway. People are paying to occupy a volume of space. Perhaps their ticket price should reflect the amount of space they actually occupy. This applies more to the subway, where one or two large people can occupy the space that the architects designed to accommodate five.

Charlie Martin,
(the PJM tech editor/webmaster)
Welcome, it's a tough crowd. You need your own blog, seriously. Every site like this has a tech board feedback blog.

Karen Yvonne,
(who noted Truman's defense of a free opposition)
Thank you. I think that most presidents since JFK have regretted the loss of personal freedom. Truman carried his own bags. Obama seems like a guy who wanted the job for the Imperial isolation and trappings.

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