Travel Industry, I Need More Power!

As my iPhone morphs with every new iOS release into something more closely resembling a tricorder from “Star Trek” than a cell phone, I can’t shake the voice of Captain Kirk ringing in my ears:

“Scotty, I need more power!”

If you’re a smartphone owner, you know my plight. Because of the myriad ways I use the device—calling, emailing, surfing, posting, Facebooking, tweeting, mapping, gaming, listening, watching, and searching—I’m apt to run out of juice before my day is done. In the office, this usually isn’t a big deal, because there’s always a working outlet to feed my mobile appetite for electricity.

When I step out of the office as a frequent flyer, however, it’s a whole other story. In airports across the world, electricity is the great mobile equalizer—it doesn’t matter whether you’re first, business or economy class, at some point you’re going to be crawling around a terminal floor looking for the one remaining, unused outlet that works. Let me state on my behalf as well as that of the millions of other frequent flyers out there, crawling around on the floor is not a perk. It’s a sign that something’s amiss.

For a time, I was optimistic that my airport floor-crawling days were over. First, Samsung began sponsoring some four-outlet charging stations in airports around the country. Now that’s smart, brand-relevant marketing at work! The problem, of course, is Samsung’s stations are so few and far between that they generate lines similar to 1970s-era gas stations. If you are lucky enough to score an open outlet, you spend your next hour fending off the unwanted advances of the tired, red-eyed masses “who just need a little juice” to revive their dying smartphones.

Of course, there are some airlines and airports that understand their passengers’ need to have to charge their mobile devices while waiting in the terminal and in-flight. Virgin’s various nameplates have been ahead of the curve as has JetBlue in offering in-flight USB ports. I was pleased as punch a couple years back when Continental (soon-to-be United) began offering some flights with standard outlets throughout the cabin. And on a recent trip to Chicago via MDW, I was very impressed with not only the number of in-terminal outlets Southwest offered, but also that they were conveniently located next to comfy leather chairs, barstools, and tables.

Despite these advances, the problem still remains—airports and airlines are offering too few options for mobile device-charging both in-terminal and in-flight. Considering that many airlines now allow you to scan mobile boarding passes, this situation is more than one of mere convenience—it is a fundamental customer service problem that marketers within those organizations need to work to help address.

Why marketers? Because guess where the cranky mobile-enabled masses turn when they haven’t gotten their electricity fix? They turn straight to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, where their complaints snowball into opportunities for others to bash your brand. Smart marketers would be wise to walk each of their terminals and take a long, cross-country flight or two in order to fully appreciate the frustration that is finding somewhere to charge your iPhone or Droid or iPad. Those same marketers would be smarter still if they’d push their organizations to:

  • Fully “electrify” their terminals and airplanes so that every seat has a power outlet so that no customer has to grovel for a charge.
  • Increase the number of sponsored outlet stations as a stop-gap until their terminals and planes are fully wired.

I will acknowledge up front that I’m probably being hopelessly naïve about the costs associated with either of these endeavors. However, I’m hard-pressed to believe that there aren’t other brands like Samsung that wouldn’t jump at the chance to get in front of frequent flyers in need of an energy fix. I, for one, would certainly look favorably upon the brand, airport, and airline that upgraded their electrical grid to better meet my needs as a mobile traveler.

Who knows, I might even tweet about it from my tricorder.

Tags: mobile, travel
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2 comments about "Travel Industry, I Need More Power! ".
  1. Mark Kolier from moddern marketing , October 31, 2011 at 10:05 a.m.
    Nice post Jeffrey. As I sit in the lounge awaiting a flight to Shanghai my hopes and desires are right in line with your subject. I like the idea of sponosored outlets. Certainly leaves the user with a good feeling about the sponsoring company. Provided the outlets work well of course.
  2. Katie Bisbee from DonorsChoose.org , November 14, 2011 at 1:31 p.m.
    This article is hilarious. And unfortunately spot on.