Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting




Lost Convenience…

A few weeks ago, I was on my way home to Seattle from visiting a client in the Bay Area. As I was relaxing on the airplane at the end of a busy day, I began to think about how my day had gone and how I had spent my time. Although the client was pleased with the outcome of the meeting, I had had to let them know that I would need to leave by 3:30pm in order to allow enough time to comfortably make my flight that was scheduled for 6:30pm. How did I arrive at that estimate? Well, it would take me about an hour to drive from the client’s offices in Mountain View to the San Francisco airport. Then it would take about a half-hour to check in the rental car and take the elevated train to the terminal. Then it could take at least another half-hour to check in and get through security. That would allow me roughly a half-hour safety margin for unexpected delays. The plane would board a half-hour before departure from the gate. Then there would be another 15 minutes of taxing for takeoff and finally I would spend the next one hour and 45 minutes actually in the process of traveling to Seattle.

Thinking about how much more of my day had been spent in travel compared to the actual time that the airplane was making progress toward Seattle caused me to reminisce about when I first started flying about 45 years ago. On one of my first business trips, the taxi I was supposed to take to the San Francisco airport from Redwood City was late. By the time he arrived at my home there was less than 35 minutes before the scheduled take-off time. It was mid-afternoon on a workday but we were able to make the drive to the airport in about 25 minutes. I ran into the terminal and made my flight with about 3 minutes to spare. For some of my colleagues, it was typical for them to get to the airport no more than 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time and walk onto the airplane with only a few minutes to spare. (And for you nostalgia buffs the photo accompanying this column is from about 40 years ago. Can you guess which airplane that was?)

When we arrived at our destinations, it was common to find the rental cars parked right outside the terminal – an arrangement that today can only be found at the smallest of airports. Forty years ago, I would have been able to spend two additional hours with my client instead of in the process of getting to the airport and getting to my flight.

What is interesting is that there is no one reason for this; multiple forces have conspired to create this situation. The first is, of course, the increase in highway traffic that has introduced more delays and more uncertainty in getting from our starting points to the airport. Once we arrive, we find that the major airports have gotten bigger and bigger and ever more complex. Rental cars have been relegated to facilities that are often several miles from the terminal and/or that require waiting for some kind of shuttle conveyance to take us to the terminal. There does not seem to be any kind of solution being suggested for these additional delays. Instead it seems to be getting worse as airports “improve” their facilities. And once we had to add layer upon layer of security the check in process took on additional and unpredictable delays. A small shining light of improvement has been the introduction of the TSA Pre-Check process. That has been a real blessing to those of us traveling on a regular basis. Finally, as airplanes have become more crowded, the boarding times have had to be extended so that arriving close to departure time becomes a highly risky proposition. Missing a flight may mean that the next available one is the following day – especially during peak travel times.

So what are we to conclude from my forty plus years of air travel? Today airplanes fly at the same speed that they did in 1970. The interiors are less comfortable than they were then. The amenities such as food and service are either gone altogether or have been reduced to what surely must be an irreducible minimum. Passengers seem to have responded to all this by dressing more and more casually – and I am saying this as politely as I can. Perhaps one significant benefit has been a reduction in airfares that has made it possible for more people to visit friends and relatives.

Given these trends of the past 40 years, can we even begin to speculate what we might see 40 years from now? Will we see even more loss of convenience? I don’t remember anyone 40 years ago predicting that our travel would evolve to what we have today. Technology was supposed to bring us more convenience and make our lives better. Instead we have introduced complexity and inconvenience that has slowed our travels and made them more stressful.

As we approach the Christmas Season, many of us will be traveling to see friends and family. Will we find our travels joyful or full of stress -- or perhaps some combination of the two? And what can we plan on for the years ahead? Technology does not seem to be helping us solve these problems. Perhaps we will need to come up with a new approach such as “horizontal elevators” – what some people call “trains”. That is a surprisingly efficient way of travel for intermediate distances. Perhaps the Christmas movie Polar Express has something to teach us.

Should you have any thoughts on this column or others you may contact me directly from this site or by phone at 425-898-9117. With sincere wishes for a Happy and Joyous – and stress free – Holiday Season.



19916 NE 30th Ct. Sammamish, WA 98074 Call 425.898.9117

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