Bruce Nussbaum and Seth Godin have got me thinking about some ways to "fix" air travel. As a boy reading about medieval history, I used to wonder what it was like to have bandits on the roads. Now we know. The ultimate solution would be to "fix" the root causes of the hatred which drive people to blow each other up, but short of that, how might we improve the current situation?
I agree with Seth that we can do — and will have to do — a lot without getting on airplanes. The state of world affairs is going to sell a lot of Halo systems and iSight cameras alike. My friend Anthony Pigliacampo runs his cool startup company on Skype. The tools are already there, and they’re going to get pushed hard. Expect lots of innovation in this space.
But what about the airplanes? What happens when we have to move atoms and not bits? I just brainstormed with my buddies Ryan and Omar for three (3!) minutes and it’s clear that opportunities abound (just to be clear, and to preserve the reputations of the two gentlemen, some of these ideas (the stupid ones) are mine and mine alone) :
- Brand Differentiation: can an American airline step up and provide a substantially higher level of security than what government agencies can provide? How much would you (or your company or your insurance agency) pay to reduce your flight risk? What a great way to differentiate a brand.
- Process Improvement: there’s a human threat on a plane, and there’s a threat from the stuff we haul on board. Why not separate the two? Fly bags on a second airliner. What if FedEx picked up your bag the day of your flight and delivered it to your final destination? Lease a laptop from Apple and automatically have one available at your final destination with all your data synched up? I’ve had bags transported for me between hotels in Japan and it’s cool.
- Asset Improvement: what’s the civilian airliner equivalent of an A-10 Warthog? Could a catastrophic incident be contained to merely dangerous?
- Business Model Innovation: what’s the low-end disruptive business model which utilizes small jets to ferry smaller groups of business travelers to all the places they currently go? Reduce the size of the target.
And so on and so forth. The current situation is unacceptable, some good thinking and some guts could make it better.