As you sat crammed in the middle seat on your last flight with a hefty, snoring man using your shoulder as a pillow, you probably thought, This sucks. And you wouldn’t be alone. The airline industry does not have many fans in the United States. In Gallup’s annual survey of 25 major industries in the U.S., airlines came in 19th—just ahead of lawyers and just behind bankers. Dislike for airlines seems to stem primarily from people paying a lot of money and not getting much for it beyond an uncomfortable ride in a big metal tube.
But what if there were an airline that devised plans to address most travelers’ common problems? That was the question that the Teague Creative Agency started with as they developed the concept for Poppi Airlines. First they took on the problem of carry-on bags. Based on my experience, the single worst part of an airplane trip is after you land and you have to sit, poised, cat-like, waiting to hear that ding that means you can immediately jump up and try to pull your bag out of the overhead bin before everyone else clogs up the aisle. Poppi deals with that problem in two ways. First they get rid of almost all carry-on bags entirely. The planes don’t have bins big enough to hold anything bigger than a laptop case, so through an improved version of the gate check that you have to do when you board in zone 9 and all the overhead space is gone, Poppi simply puts most carry-ons under the plane. The other idea is a new class called “Click Class” for regular business travelers. While there might not be any storage up above, in Click Class, baggage would snap into a compartment built into your seat, so you can grab after landing and just stroll away.
Next Poppi wanted to deal with the stigma around getting stuck in the middle seat. While there are ideas out there to actually improve the construction of the seat itself, it’s still tough to convince people it’s a good thing to be flanked on both sides during a seven-hour flight to Paris. So to make people feel a little better about that, Poppi taps into one of the things we all love the most: Free stuff. Middle seats would be sponsored by different companies and come with freebies, like this concept for free Uniqlo clothing for whoever gets stuck in the center.
But for anyone who still doesn’t want to sit in the middle, they can try to swap their seat using a social app where people can post requests for a change of seat for the rest of the passengers to see. Poppi has a few other excellent ideas, like an in-flight vending machine (JetBlue does this already and it works wonderfully) and hotel luggage delivery. They’re all pretty common sense ideas and most don’t even seem expensive to implement. The trick is just getting anyone to listen. Sarah Matheny from Teague told us, "When you start getting into implementation, small things—and a lot of them—need to be resolved, and each one of those small things represents an opportunity to return to conventional thinking, to the way things are already done." See, that's why no one likes the airlines.