5 Stealth Ways to Make Air Travel More Fun

This article was published by Chester Elton on LinkedIn.

I have flown millions of miles on several airlines, which means some weeks I spend more time in the air than on the ground.

While most of the time I find decent service on my flights, there have been a few trips where ground or flight crews seemed eager to live up to the old airline motto: “We’re not happy until you’re not happy.”

Recently I sat down with my friend Ron Kaufman, who lives in Singapore and may be one of the few people who travels more than me. We brainstormed a few stealth ways to improve your air travel experience. Try these on your next trip and see if they help.

1. Look for innovations.

Here’s a secret most savvy marketers know: Airports have one of the largest concentrations of high net-worth individuals anywhere. So it makes sense that smart brands use airports to launch their latest ideas. When you get to the airport, keep your eyes peeled for who’s advertising, who’s offering up their new wares.

In London Ron found a hot dog cart selling laptop computers. In Abu Dhabi there’s a vending machine that dispenses gold bars. In Los Angeles I found a place that sells homemade quinoa pepper soup. In New York a candy vendor was selling buckets of peanut butter—yes buckets—and they were moving!

Take a photo of whatever surprises you and share it on social media with friends or colleagues. Finding something new is a like discovering a prize, and it can make the journey less of a chore and more of a scavenger hunt.

2. Be delightful at check-in.

If you check-in with airline customer service at the counter, have your ID ready, start with a genuine smile, and greet the rep using their name. Ask a simple question: “How’s your day going?” or “How did you get the midnight shift?” When the counter people are treated like real human beings they are much more likely to give you a little bit of extra care, make a recommendation on a better seat, suggest a good place for breakfast, or explain how long it will take to get to your gate.

3. Cheer up the crew.

Serving you drinks and keeping you safe in a bumpy cramped metal tube for five hours—for not much money—is a pretty tough job. So naturally we’ve probably all encountered a cabin crew who were so impolite that you wondered who kicked them in the backside on their way to work.

You can help change this for everyone’s benefit. Climb on board with the sole intention to make your cabin crew smile. Look at their nametags right away. Say “Good morning (name).” I’ve seen people bring the flight attendants donuts to make their day, at the very least you can say something nice like, “Thanks for taking us to Toledo today.” A moment of eye contact, a warm smile, and a few kind words will make you stand out from every other bleary-eyed passenger on the flight. You may not get free champagne, but you won’t get a scolding or the hairy-eyeball either.

Kaufman, author of Uplifting Service, carries small “Keep It Up” cards and hands them out to great service providers he meets at curbside, check-in, security, gate, or on board the plane. You can get and use a free digital version at www.UpYourService.com/compliment

4. Talk to your neighbor.

On most flights you are going to sit two inches away from another human being for hours and hours. Where else in your life would you be stuck that close to someone for that long and ignore them? It’s actually normal behavior to introduce yourself and ask if they are going home or heading out, for work or for fun. Inevitably I meet some of the most interesting people on flights. Not long ago I sat by an engineer who was building charging stations for the Tesla electric car. The trip blew by as with great passion he described his work. On another flight I sat next to a Canadian man who was on his way to Israel to play in a senior ice hockey tournament. Who knew they played hockey in Israel?

The point is, everyone has a story. It makes the journey much more interesting if you find those stories. Who knows, you might just make a new friend.

5. Turn travel anger into travel appreciation

Finally we recommend traveling with an attitude of gratitude and a willingness to find the bright side in every awkward, annoying, or frustrating moment. Travel offers plenty of inconveniences—weather or equipment delays that no one tells you about until the last moment; long lines of angry, sometimes smelly people; crying babies or toddlers who kick your seat back; the list goes on. When these problems occur—and they will—catch them with a “There you are!” as if you have been looking for those delays all day and you won a prize.

And we suggest we all change our attitudes to understand that most inconveniences actually are blessings in disguise. Yes, the flight is delayed but the mechanics found that problem with the engine before you were in the air! Yes, that baby is crying behind you but isn’t that better than one that is airsick next to you, or in your lap! Yes, you are getting a TSA search, but you didn’t pack your bomb, so hey, it’s all good!

It’s air travel, so yes you will encounter your fair share of surly service providers, pent-up passengers, and irritating inconveniences. But never forget, you are doing what people for thousands of years have dreamed about—you are flying across the country or between continents in a matter of hours. It is pretty amazing when you stop to think about it! You might not be able to change everything about your trips, but you can change the way you respond to what happens along the way. And that can change everything.

These are a few tips form me and my good friend Ron Kaufman. I’d love to hear what you do to make air travel more fun, or at least a little less annoying.