The Perfect (Airline) Cup Size

Written by Pat's Papers | Monday, 26 July 2010 11:22 AM


Through a combination of scheduling, price and the destinations I’m visiting this summer, I’m spending a lot of time on Delta flights over the next few weeks. That means I’m flush with observations, both big and small, including one that was served up to me just this morning. Delta, it seems, has stumbled upon the perfect cup size. I’m not talking about the flight attendants. I’m talking about the size of the plastic cups they use when they pour you a drink. Delta’s are noticeably bigger than the ones used by most of the airlines. I’d estimate they’re about 10 oz. And I’ve decided that this critical innovation is the perfect airline drink quantity. Here’s why:

In a post-peanuts world, beverage service is arguably the most exciting thing that happens during a flight. After spending several intense minutes tracking the flight attendants as they make their way down the aisles, disappointment is inevitable as you watch them shovel 15 ice cubes into a cup that looks better suited for the dentist’s office. And when you’ve siphoned the three sips of liquid out, another conundrum awaits: either you spend the rest of the flight parched or ask for a refill.

But a refill request usually results in the entire can being handed over and that’s far from optimal. Why? Because the chances that you’ll have to get up and pee are doubled but of course now there’s twice as much garbage on your tray table, which makes a graceful exit nearly impossible. So, I tip my hat to Delta for leading the way in plastic cup innovations.  I would suggest applying some of that inventiveness towards other things, like for example, the check-in process.

Why is it that every morning at the JFK and LaGuardia check-in counters seems like the first day Delta’s been in business? Are they surprised it’s busy? Did half the staff call in sick? Are they in the back sipping leisurely from those 10-oz cups? It’s a situation that causes unnecessary stress for everyone involved. People who arrived on time end up barely making flights and arguments ensue over how long they’ve actually been there longer than the “minimum check-in” time—both situations that make it difficult to see the plastic cup as half full.

While I’m ranting: is it even possible to design an airport for more walking than Atlanta’s? From the time I returned my rental car until when I got to the gate I feel like I walked a mile, traveled on two trains and did about 1000 feet of escalators.

All was not bad with my weekend travel. Flights were on time and it was the first time I’d used the “first bag free” benefit that comes with my Delta/American Express credit card.  (My wife Dawn works for AmEx, so I have above average knowledge about the various benefits of their credit card products.)  I still don’t think airlines should charge for the first bag because it just creates a cabin full of baggage that should be under the plane. But if it must be this way, this worked well. The check-in kiosk seemed to know that I was entitled to that benefit and immediately waived the $25 first bag fee for me and anyone traveling with me.

I’ll finish my post by commenting on another one of Delta’s innovations, one that I’m not quite sure how I feel about. Delta has been really aggressive about wiring planes for inflight Wi-Fi service through GoGo. I sort of hate it, because it takes away from peaceful time to NOT be online. But I then sometimes I love it, because I post blog entries like this from 37,000 feet, while sipping the perfect amount of cranapple juice.

 

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