If you happen to know any airline owners who want to increase the number of customers and make lots of money for their company, I have two great ideas for you to pass along.
Idea No. 1: Their airline should provide masks to passengers--not gas masks or Halloween masks--but those masks that you may occasionally see Asians wearing when they travel. They are serious masks that state very clearly that the wearers either have something they don't want to spread or they don't want to get infected with whatever other passengers are spewing out when they blow their noses, sneeze, cough or sniffle.
It's a very brave traveler who would dare to put on a germ-barrier mask when he or she boards a plane. Anyone who has a cold and doesn't want to spread it; or anyone who doesn't want to get a cold from someone who already has one, would feel very self-conscious being the only human being on the plane wearing one of those masks you can purchase cheaply at any drugstore.
Imagine the look of utter panic on the face of the passenger sitting next to you as you turn to them and give out a muffled "Hi, how ya doing?" through that fibrous white Darth Vader shield covering your nose and mouth.
But if flight attendants would distribute masks (just as they do headsets) to passengers, it would not be awkward at all to don that little face cover that will make you feel confident, happy and healthy until you land at your destination.
Idea No. 2. Now that the airlines have made travel almost intolerable due to their efforts to save money, it might behoove them to provide free Wi-Fi on every flight that is more than two or three hours long. I think we can agree that most flights these days are tedious, uncomfortable and fairly miserable--especially in coach--and sometimes movies alone just don't ease the pain.
Since competing airline prices are basically the same, I would bet that the first major airline offering free Wi-Fi is the airline that travelers will choose over all others.
And here's a tip for you Mr./Ms. airline CEO: We all know you will make up for those extra costs, anyway, by charging a few dollars more for the flight. But if you advertise in big letters, "FREE Wi-Fi AND FREE FACE MASKS," customers will flock to you like the swallows of Capistrano and never even bother doing the math.
This opinion column is written by Charles Laquidara, who has lived on Maui for over 11 years. He worked at WBCN radio in Boston for 30 years as the morning-drive host of a show called "The Big Mattress" and is occasionally heard on Mana'o Radio here on-island. Email firstname.lastname@example.org