PART TWO OF “SLEEPING WITH STRANGERS”
Travel feeds curiosity, and curious people travel. That’s one reason I love hostels: inquisitive people are all around me. It’s easy to feel right at home.
It was on an overnight flight earlier this year to an HI hostel in Toledo Spain that I first mused about how air travel may already be influencing society in a deeper way: through early no smoking restrictions and unisex lavatories, and the wide promotion of classes of service. That led to my earlier blog post, Sleeping with Strangers, which created wider conversation in the hostel travel community.
Now let’s take that line of thinking a bit further. How might today’s emerging trends in air travel inadvertently help to shape our future?
At Zipcar: When I flew AerLingus recently, I was given the chance to bid for an airline upgrade through an auction, rather than pay a fixed price. It’s one of a growing number of airlines that is promoting the idea. Of course, Priceline and other third party booking engines have made a lucrative business out of bidding, but airlines, hotels and rental car companies have generally shied away from getting directly involved. With consumers and technology primed, let’s get ready for the spread of bidding to an unimaginable range of direct retail travel services and beyond — from AerLingus to Zipcar.
With new friends: With United’s MileagePlus program I earn and use points for air travel, but I’m increasingly offered attractive lifestyle discounts for dining, entertainment and vacations. With so many other frequent travelers like me, it’s not much of a jump for my air carrier to begin creating social experiences that bring passengers together – and not just in dull frequent flyer lounges. The power of “social” has been part of our hostels for years, and is now being discovered by hotel brands. Why shouldn’t airlines be next!
With Big Brother: TSA PreCheck saves me time with expedited screening and shorter, faster lines. Even 10 minutes saved can be the difference between making and missing a flight. But soon, to continue receiving it, I will need to agree to a background check, personal interview and fingerprinting by the government; TSA reports about 600,000 Americans already have done it. I can’t help but wonder if the choices by today’s “trusted travelers” are unconsciously easing our psyche for similar identity requirements eventually to be placed on non-traveling Americans.
What makes air travel so potentially influential? To my mind, it’s all about the number of people who rely on airlines to get from one place to another. And for those in the front of the plane, the disproportionate influence they potentially command in shaping opinions on the ground.
Of course with inquisitive people filling airplane seats, and a global society in the midst of amazing transformation, one never knows where we all will eventually end up. And to my mind, that’s why it’s important for us think and talk about it.