Chasing Status
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20 Ways the Airline Industry Needs to Improve

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Chasing Status
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UPGRADES NEEDED

Nearly every traveler who has been on an airplane has at least one or two airline horror stories to share. If not horror stories, a gripe or two about poor treatment by a particular airline, the cost of checking bags these days, or the incredibly shrinking seat sizes in economy class. Airlines, it seems, are becoming less popular with each passing year. And they're not doing themselves any favors by dragging passengers off planes or regularly overbooking flights. Cheapism reached out to seasoned travelers to identify some of the top ways consumers would like to see airlines improve.

Faster Internet Speed
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FASTER INTERNET SPEED

Brandon White flies 15,000 miles a month for his job as CEO of a San Francisco-based enterprise software company, and among his pet peeves is slow internet. "Internet speeds overall are terrible," says White. "I know it's possible to have fast internet in the air, but most airlines are not doing it."

Better Internet Reliability
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BETTER INTERNET RELIABILITY

While on the topic of internet, White says another area where the airlines could improve is internet reliability. "It's pretty regular that I experience the internet not working at all. This is across several airlines," he says. Perhaps it is time for airlines to up their internet game on every level.

Make Internet Free for Business Travelers
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MAKE INTERNET FREE FOR BUSINESS TRAVELERS

Okay, one last internet-related gripe. Yes, airlines need to make money. But if you've paid thousands for a business class ticket, shouldn't internet be free? "At least for business travelers, internet ​should be a baseline service," says White. "I know it can be segmented by status, and Southwest has free access for A List." Which begs the question, if Southwest can do it, why can't other airlines?

Ease Up on Excessive Penalty Fees
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EASE UP ON EXCESSIVE PENALTY FEES

Many times travelers need to make an unexpected change in travel plans and as a result are left holding a worthless ticket, because the change penalty is more than the value of the ticket, says Isar Meitis, president of Last Minute Travel. "Perhaps airlines should restructure their fees and charge a penalty that is percentage-based, instead of a pricey, flat dollar amount," says Meitis. The penalties and fees can vary widely from one airline to another.

Standardize Baggage Fees or Do Away with Them
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STANDARDIZE BAGGAGE FEES OR DO AWAY WITH THEM

Baggage fees are another common complaint among travelers, says Meitis. "The current structure varies across the industry and can be confusing and too complex," he says. White notes that if Southwest can run its business without charging annoying baggage fees, other airlines should be able to do so as well.

Offer a Refund on Domestic Taxes on Unused Tickets
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OFFER A REFUND ON DOMESTIC TAXES ON UNUSED TICKETS

When an airline ticket goes unused for whatever reason, why are the taxes not refundable, Meitis asks. "With cruise lines and some international airlines, the taxes are refundable in cases of non-use," Meitis says.

Unbundle Airfares
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UNBUNDLE AIRFARES

The price of an airline ticket used to included everything -- checking bags, seat assignments, meals, beverages, and more -- whether you needed them or not. Most legacy airlines continue that practice, says Andrew D'Amours, co-founder of Flytrippers. Low-cost carriers have begun unbundling fares, allowing fliers to pay for just the basic economy seat. D'Amours suggests other airlines should follow suit, "Not everyone wants the bare minimum, but many would prefer having the option. And at least it would be transparent, and you could choose the extras you want."

Improve Baggage Handling
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IMPROVE BAGGAGE HANDLING

Ever collect your luggage at the baggage carousel and find that it has numerous dents, a broken zipper, or worse? "Airlines need to take better care of luggage when handling it pre- and post-flight," says Jim Barry, co-owner of RentLuggage.com. "We have rented thousands of items to travelers and have seen numerous instances where airlines have destroyed our rentals through their abusive handling practices. This poor service is a practice that needs to stop."

Provide More Leg Room
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PROVIDE MORE LEG ROOM

Scott Wainner, CEO of Fareness, a travel app and website, says enough is enough with the constantly decreasing leg room. "Carriers have been working to even further reduce leg room," says Wainner. "And while they've walked back from this recently, there should be a Department of Transportation regulation on minimum space requirements to create a level playing field for all carriers."

Improve the Water Quality
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IMPROVE THE WATER QUALITY

The poor quality of water on a plane is something airlines could seriously improve. According to former flight attendant Heather Wilde, whose comments have been reported by numerous publications, the water lines on planes aren't ever cleaned. Ever. Even flight attendants won't drink the water on a plane. Nor will they drink coffee or tea on a flight. What's more, the EPA found that one in every eight planes failed the agency's water safety standards.

Step Up the On-Board Amenities in Economy
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STEP UP THE ON-BOARD AMENITIES IN ECONOMY

Virgin America leads the pack when it comes to this category, offering outstanding in-seat entertainment, on-demand ordering, and comfortable leather seats, even in economy, says Wainner. "Other carriers should follow Virgin's lead," he says.

Stop Overbooking Flights
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STOP OVERBOOKING FLIGHTS

With all the headlines and controversy this year regarding overbooked flights and angry customers, this one should be a no-brainer. "If you book a seat, you should have a seat," said Wainner. "The practice of overselling flights and then offering passengers money to not fly isn't exactly consumer-friendly."

Do Away With the New Basic Economy Class
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DO AWAY WITH THE NEW BASIC ECONOMY CLASS

Some travelers enjoy the new basic economy fares from budget airlines, which allow travelers to pay a rock-bottom price for a no-frills seat, which typically includes going without such niceties as being able to select your seat assignment when booking. Others, however, are less than impressed. "A seat in economy should be a seat in economy, with the ability to select your seat when you're booking and to bring the two carry-ons that you're used to bringing without restrictions imposed by the new Basic Economy class," said Wainner.

Improve Cleanliness
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IMPROVE CLEANLINESS

Yet another secret revealed by a flight attendant -- tray tables are among the least-hygienic surfaces on the entire plane. After all, some people change babies' diapers on them. And if you think those tables are thoroughly cleaned between flights, think again. Not every tray table gets a good wipe down. And even when they do, the same cloth is often being used throughout the whole plane. Bottom line? Airlines really need to get their act together when it comes to providing a clean environment.

Be More Flexible with Changes and Cancellations
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BE MORE FLEXIBLE WITH CHANGES AND CANCELLATIONS

Some travelers would like to see airlines to make a distinction between changes made months ahead of a flight and those made just a few days in advance of departure. "If a flight was booked eight weeks out and canceled just three days after it was booked, this should be allowed with a small change fee of $25, even on non-refundable tickets," suggests Wainner. "This is a lot different than a flight that is departing in two days. But the airlines currently don't distinguish between the two."

Create A Happy Medium Between First Class and Economy
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CREATE A HAPPY MEDIUM BETWEEN FIRST CLASS AND ECONOMY

Why is first class so outrageously expensive and out of reach for average travelers? And why must economy be drastically worse than first class? Consider the minuscule seats, the lack of legroom, the food, and being charged for entertainment and having a limited selection at that. As a favor to middle-class travelers everywhere, airlines should create an offering better than the cattle car that is now economy and price it at least somewhat reasonably.

Better Food ... Yes, We're Going There
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BETTER FOOD ... YES, WE'RE GOING THERE

We all have peeled back the lids on our airline meals with trepidation, wondering just how awful the contents will be. Travelers far and wide are quick to point out that the food on nearly all airlines could stand some serious improvement, and that's putting it politely. And enough already with reserving the freshest food for first class and serving economy passengers unrecognizable, processed offerings that sometimes can barely be described as edible.

One More Word on Food -- Scrap the Preservatives Please
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ONE MORE WORD ON FOOD -- SCRAP THE PRESERVATIVES PLEASE

Next time you're eating airplane food, read the ingredients. Often airlines are serving food items with tons of preservatives. With all the money they're taking in for change fees and checked baggage, the airlines could certainly spare a few dollars to hire a nutritionist who can develop a healthier food program.

Improve the Air Quality
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IMPROVE THE AIR QUALITY

It turns out, even the air quality is better in first class on some airlines. Lufthansa installed humidifiers in the first-class cabins on its A380 planes. Don't economy customers deserve similar high quality air? It seems the airlines could provide this nice touch for all travelers, since everyone deserves decent air quality, no matter how much they paid for their ticket. It is, after all, low cabin humidity that often causes travelers to pick up a bug when flying.

Show How Full a Flight Is During the Booking Process
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SHOW HOW FULL A FLIGHT IS DURING THE BOOKING PROCESS

Wouldn't it be nice if you could see how full a flight is when you're searching to book a flight online? If you had a choice between a jam-packed flight, with only scattered middle seats remaining and a largely empty flight with plenty of window and aisle options -- which would you choose? For a more pleasant in-flight experience, consistently providing this information would go a long way. Unfortunately, sometimes seating information is provided during booking, while many other times, it isn't.