You asked for feedback…here goes

Here’s a recent letter I sent to [US-based legacy carrier]. After my trip, I received an email asking for feedback about my recent trip. Rather than put my thoughts into a form letter, I sent my thoughts to an actual person.

Mr. X,

My recent experience at JFK on December 2010 warrants some advice on the [airline] terminal at JFK.

Let me just be clear. This is not a rant on service I received, and while I was delayed (expected), I did make it to my destination safely, and without incident. That is what is truly important.

This is just a note with suggestions on how to improve the terminal. JFK is a major airport in the world, and the first point of entry for many travelers into NYC, or even the United States. Let’s make it a little more welcoming, shall we?

Caveat: I know some of this is [airline]’s responsibility and some is JFK’s, as well as their vendors. I also know [airline] is redoing their terminal. Hopefully this advice comes in handy.

1 – Getting off the AirTrain
No signage and no personnel to direct travelers. The [airline] terminal I usually go through was closed for business and there is simply a pilot getting into an elevator, so I decided to follow him. Even though it looked like a dungeon (more on that later), I did get to the right place (after walking outside, inside, back outside, up an outdoor ramp and back inside.)

2 – Security line
Ridiculously long AND there was only two of the four lines open. Hello! Holiday weekend?
My suggestion: make the length of preparation (trays, length of table) into the X-Ray machine AND the gather your belongings parts (length of table) longer. This way, inexperienced flyers have time to de-robe before, and time to collect their belongings, before it gets jammed up, after.

3 – Dressing area after security
For those that can’t collect their belongings and put their shoes on fast enough, have an area where they can sit down and do so instead of jamming up the pick up area.

4 – Dingy terminal
Realize you are updating, but take note. It is one ugly terminal. Get a designer. Brand it [airline], make flying fun again and create it like you care about your passengers.

5 – Three planes out of one gate
I listen to directions and can read so when I get outside I know that I will be on the right plane. Perhaps adding some electronic signs, or enabling the gate agents to speak with better microphones will help. I felt sorry for them. Hundreds of customers eager to board swarm the gate for information that only one person can hear because there was no microphone, or garbled words were coming out of that microphone.

6 – Seating at the gate
If you have three planes leaving at the same time at the same gate, there are going to be a lot of bodies. Spread the gates out from other gates nearby, provide additional seating, do something to minimize the masses by the gate agent.

7 – Dogs out of the cage, walking around the terminal with no leash

Lawsuits and allergies abound. Do I have to mention it’s written in your contract of carriage that those traveling with pets must keep them zipped in their carry on bags?

8 – Seating at the restaurants near the gates
Who was this meant for? Gumby? The seats are nailed to the ground and made for a 6 foot toothpick. Very uncomfortable, and not very design friendly.

9 – Wendy’s (realize this is an airport vendor, and not [airline]’s responsibility)
Completely overpriced. And they ran out of ketchup. What?! There wasn’t even a snowstorm yet. Get some great chefs to partner with [airline] and some healthy, reasonable restaurants, and you can get travelers to sit and enjoy, rather than bombard the gate agents (see number five).

10 – Signage
I cannot stress this enough. English is my first language, and I am a frequent flyer. What about the people who are visiting JFK for the first time, what about those who don’t travel much and what about those visiting from other places, or just do not have a strong command of the language? I travel a bit, and abroad, to countries where I don’t speak the language, and the signage is universal, so it makes it possible for me to get around without too much trouble. Give our international travelers the same respect.

I have more ideas, if you want…..happy to discuss. Just email or call.


PS – I wanted to send this to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as well but their site is even more complex and confusing than their airport. Feel free to forward.

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