Last week I was away for 8 days, and I spent about 9 hours in airports and 6.5 hours flying.
Flying itself is no problem. Commercial air travel is fast and miles safer than driving, statistically speaking of course ;)
It's the airport experience that could use some work. Here are a few outlandish ideas:
Standardize baggage fees.
Every airline is different. It used to be you could say "media discount" and the employee would enter a secret code into the mainframe and voila, only $25 per extra bag. But when mainframes went away so too did secret codes.
Provide better seating in waiting areas.
And accommodate the fact that people generally do not like sitting next to strangers. I would suggest seat-seat-space-seat-table-repeat. This provides for couples or friends sitting together, lone travelers and a place to put a carry-on bag so as to not take up another empty seat.
Mini movie theaters.
Long layover, pay $5 to rent and watch a dvd. Provide an LCD monitor showing departing flight and gate changes.
Free wifi for all.
Some airports have it many don't. And those that have it sometimes make it difficult to find the correct signal. Name the free public wifi "XYZ Free Public WiFi" with XYZ being the airport code. I have read of a conspiracy that "free public wifi" is sometimes used by hackers looking to exploit your laptop. Not sure this is true.
Cheaper bottled beverages.
Since we have lost the ability to take drinks through security the price of bottled water seems to have increased. Sure they give you a 4oz drink on the plane, but not always on short or bumpy flights. I would pay $1.25 for a 16oz bottle of water, but $2.50 or $3.25 is pushing it.
Mandatory Body scanners.
Recently I went through the body scanner and was amazed that it identified a plastic comb in my back pocket. I say send everyone through. Don't make it a choice. No body scan...no fly. No pat downs for elderly or wheelchair confined people.
Expedite security lines.
More bins and longer conveyer belts. And wash those bins from time to time - yuck.
Provide a way for experienced travelers to be in their own line.
They tried this with Blue in the early 21st Century, but that seems to have fizzled out. How about adding $5 to the price of a plane ticket to get into a faster line. I think Southwest might do this.
Somehow provide enclosed smoking areas outside away from the doors.
At some airports you walk outside baggage claim into a cloud of smoke. Add that to humidity or exhaust fumes and it is a poor way to welcome people to a new city.
More tables and chairs near gates.
Many people purchase food then eat near the gate. Waiting area seats are squishy and angled. Drinks spill. Grease drips. Onions and pickles and nacho cheese drip. Ketchup packets splurt. Yogurt cups go sploosh. Then someone in dress pants sits on the same seats! Yuck.
Clean the bathrooms.
See descriptive words in above paragraph. Also, be consistent with hands-free devices. Hands-free sink is good. But touching the wet lever to dispense a paper towel is gross.
Everything at an airport is time sensitive. Yet it is often difficult to find the time of day. I would put up a big clock at every gate, in the security area and in various other high traffic areas.
Deplane the same way you board.
Most airlines board by zone or seat rows. We should exit the plane in the same manner. In most cases, as soon as the plane comes to a standstill, people are up out of their seats, even at the back of the plane, and then blocking the aisles for 5 minutes. Unload the plane 10 rows at a time.
Airplane Food - get rid of the salty snacks
Salty snacks make you thirsty. An airplane is a bad place to be thirsty. Most of the snacks currently served are high glycemic index foods which in fact make you hungry. Being hungry on a plane is a bad thing. Rather than chips and cookies, how about offering apples, grapes, bananas or perhaps some less salty whole wheat crackers, or mini yogurt cups. Or lobster. Everyone likes lobster!
Some or all of the above will help make the airport experience...a better experience.