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Let’s Not Waste an Opportunity to Carry-On after IATA Carry-On Controversy

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I spent a bit of time this month writing about IATA’s proposed ‘Cabin OK’ program: introducing it, clearing up misconceptions, and, finally, reporting on its demise, er, “pause.”

This is the second of two posts today, which review the Cabin OK aftermath. I promise to let the matter drop after that.

IATA Cabin OK Bag, IATA Flickr
IATA Cabin OK Bag, IATA Flickr

I must say I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a general uproar brought about by a single proposal by IATA, or airlines in general.

Now that the hullabaloo has all but subsided, I’d like to highlight the positive side of all of this–power to the people–and some opportunities to get really riled up, which we should not let pass us by.

Now, Let’s Really Make Some Change

This ‘Cabin OK’ melee proves that, when there’s enough negative press, and passengers and politicians get boisterous, airlines will back off from bad ideas.

In that ‘Cabin OK’ reaction, there are opportunities we should not miss.

Below are four suggestions of the next airline policies we could all kick up a fuss about. They are topics I’ve covered before, and which make air travel bad for many, but there hasn’t been the same scale of mass reaction which might prompt airlines to rethink these sometimes quite dismal policies.

Won’t you join me in raising all kinds of heck about these issues too?

1) Children on board need proper seating and proper protection from impactA lap child is not secure during turbulence, or in an accident. Airlines carry children’s life-saving equipment for aircraft ditching (far less likely than either of the previous two) but aren’t obligated to have special seat belts or seats, and many don’t even know the rules on what seats parents are allowed to bring onboard, according to the regulations. It’s an embarrassment and it’s gone on for far too long. Maybe you don’t have a child–I don’t–but this should still matter to you. No child should be at any greater risk when flying than an adult. It’s just plain wrong.

2) Persons with mobility limitations and disabilities should also get special consideration. I’ve written about this on Flight Chic, and in several of the publications kind enough to carry my work. In a special article for Aircraft Interiors International Magazine, I even featured feedback from industry designers and aircraft interiors manufacturers who agree, and have solutions ready to deploy. In fact, with the ageing population, airlines have everything to gain by adopting design strategies that address the needs of persons with restricted mobility, and disabled passengers. Out of common human decency, airlines should want to make travel easier for persons with physical or cognitive limitations, but they can also profit by doing so. Some airlines provide accommodations for disabled passengers, and there are rules on the books which require airlines to do so, but most barely comply to the letter. It’s shameful.

3) Let’s not forget the importance of adequate flight tracking. Thankfully, there are very few aircraft accidents–even fewer incidents of aircraft going missing without a trace, as in the case of MH370, but aircraft tracking is possible and should be part of a modern society. We should never risk another MH370, when losing an aircraft is avoidable. It benefits airlines to know if something is wrong on one of their planes. It definitely benefits the families of those lost. There are many technologies introduced to track aircraft, but no tracking is required. Based on recent comments from Tony Tyler of IATA and Stephan Spohr of Lufthansa, made the same IATA General Meeting where the problematic ‘Cabin OK’ program was announced, the industry is floundering and buying time on tracking.

That airlines want to avoid burdensome data costs is understandable, when you consider airlines’ thin profit margins. But viable solutions exist that don’t break the bank. Maybe the industry will solve all of this on its own, but we should keep up the pressure–otherwise the timeline airlines have set to agree on standards for aircraft tracking might slip. Even with the ICAO proposal, this is all voluntary compliance for now. There should be minimum, universal compliance requirements.

4) And let’s fight to preserve passenger rights. There are some confusing passenger rights rules around the world, and some requirements that put excessive and unfair economic burdens on airlines. But IATA’s “market forces” proposal veers close to a reversal of any rules which could cost airlines money. Again, airlines don’t make much, and I’m not picking on IATA. The organization accomplishes many good things too, but it is an airline-run group, representing the best interests of airlines. We should not lose sight of that fact as we review its proposed policies.

Journalists have covered these topics long before me, and since, but none of us have made a mission of covering these with radioactive ‘Cabin OK’-level fervour. We can research and expose the repercussions of these Flight Check-FAILs in depth, or just convert them into catchy, click-inducing, sound-bites–as we did with carry-on luggage. Either way, let’s put them on our editorial calendars.

Passengers: please feel free to kick up a helluva fuss. Politicians: dust off your soap-boxes. 

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