American Airlines: “Come Naked, Board Instantly!”

Everyone reading this can feel it, that gnawing sense that we are about to reach the end of some real or perceptual rope. When American Airlines starts begging customers to travel light, it’s clear the bean counters have been at the helm for too long. Efficiency is one thing, traveling naked is another can of PR worms.

Airlines of the future - Courtesy Florida Memory

Airlines of the future – Courtesy Florida Memory

Okay, maybe you think the recent American Airlines incentive for passengers to board early if they leave their luggage at home is a wholly positive move. But then, maybe you don’t like peanuts or pillows during long flights, or mints on your hotel room pillows either. This LA Times story tells us all about the airline’s testing and implementation of a program to let you board early if you bring only carry on luggage, but what does the effort really say about the friendly skies?

Aircraft refueling

Courtesy SDASM Archives

Look, is it just me or have business people lost their minds? Since the recession hit the world companies are forever gauging their performance not by profits and real revenue, but by juggling the numbers and announcing “reduced loss” as some kind of victory. And no industry is more pronounced at this madness than the airline business. This CBS report is almost a convincing proof that something is going good for American air carriers; “Airline losses narrow to $552 million”, is that desperate or what?

Back to our point for today, passengers soon shedding their clothing for the sake of time and fuel. Has anyone considered that air travel in huge, fuel gobbling aluminum tubes is going to be a luxury at some point? Any physics professor out there knows the yin yang of the universe, fact is resources are thinning and politicians ain’t helping matters any.

Future Air Transportation and the Environment Ilan Kroo

Aircraft paths US – Courtesy  Future Air Transportation and the Environment – Ilan Kroo

Apparently not. This PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) report (PDF) entitled “Building trust in the air: Is airline corporate sustainability reporting taking off?” is like reading the news that airlines only lost half a billion. PWC virtually applauds world airlines for, get this, “talking about sustainability!” While it’s commendable for airline executives and boards of directors to “talk” about the airlines of the future, wouldn’t some realistic goals be more appropriate? Read this Stanford report (PDF) to see the real hurdles more clearly.

Now get this, PWC’s report looks like the cornerstone of what may become the Academy Awards ceremonies for accountants who know how to report things better. And I thought my friend and Internet guru Brian Solis could come up with some terms, these people have stuff called the Cathay Pacific stakeholder materiality matrix to pat themselves on the back for. Holy Cow! In point of law “materiality” means something that is “significantly relevant” to a case. Now there’s some high dollar PR if I ever read it, lawyers must be involved in solving for carbon emissions and resource allocation here! Whoopie!

One solution - Courtesy Aeros Craft

One solution – Courtesy Aeros Craft

Truth be told, the goal of all these boards of directors is not to sustain anything, but to grow faster than their competitors. This is madness. And in light of this, the bean counters have been set to free range over everything. Profit, as a stockholder pacifier, is being squeezed out in the hopes Delta or Lufthansa, or even Ryanair will falter – thereby opening up another “space” to sell jet fuel and peanuts for cash. What happens when the fuel is gone, what happens when passengers are naked? I’m anxious to hear that argument.

Virtually every report you’ll read online details an airline and transportation industry geared to “protract” the current schema for flight travel, but none addresses the core reality – we have to slow down to sustain. Remember your physics lessons and think outside the box the corporations have you trapped in (see Aeros above).

In the video below from Aeros you’ll denote their latest technologies call for a one third reduction in fuel consumption. If you read the report from Stanford above in PDF form, you’ll see a three to one ratio is recommended there for passenger carriers to sustain.


  1. Phil Butler says

    :) What color hair do you have Tim? What flavor of ice cream? Do you rise early, or are you a late sleeper? Do you wear a Rolex? Timex? Take Taxis? What if the Taxi driver insisted on their route, instead of the shortest one? Maybe the gas saving route is off a cliff next? All I’m saying.


  2. Tim says

    As a frequent flyer I only ever travel with carry-on. In the words of the immortal JJ Cale, “traveling light…it’s the only way to fly.” I mean seriously, how much do you really need to take? I carry 3 days worth of clothing (and wear one day so that’s four) and travel with a dual sim phone, an iPod, tablet and ultrathin laptop and a briefcase with my work papers. My life on the “road” is so much easier if I travel “naked”, the airline staff love me and I never lose my luggage. Too many people carry half the world on their back when they travel, I learnt a long time ago it’s a bad idea. Travel naked and save some carbon credits.

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