Tightly scheduled airline hub operations combined with the current cut-back in available flights, air-traffic-control-system stresses and increased gate-house congestion due to larger passenger loads have led to longer and more stressful waits at airports around the world. As a result, there appears to be a rising level of frustration on the part of the passengers and a sort of resigned acceptance by the flight crews.
Flight deck and cabin crews in the recent past had access to crew lounges at almost all the airports their airline served. Due to expense cut-backs, many airlines no longer have a crew lounge area below the gate houses in their operations areas.
Many air carriers depend upon contract labour to service their aircraft at smaller airports and the days of an airline operations office even existing are largely a thing of the past.
This means that the flight crew is forced to spend most of their sometimes hours-long ground delays mixing with the public in public areas. The difficulty for crew members doesn't really involve any kind of elitism. The quality of their rest during delays can impact later on safety, especially during days that can stretch into 15 hours or more on duty.
FROM DELAY TO DISAPPOINTMENT
The seats around the gatehouse make up the first place that waiting passengers can try to sit and relax. At many airports these areas weren't designed to accommodate hundreds of restless people for hours as they await a delayed flight or try to catch a short nap before a late departure. Most gate house areas are crowded with cranky passengers, even crankier children and a plethora of carry-on luggage, strollers and other travel detritus.
Most airport passenger areas now feature a great number of television screens with the volume turned up. These video screens either repeatedly hype their particular airline or play the news over and over. Passengers simply can't find a quiet place to endure their airport confinement unless they pay for access to an airline club.
For a large yearly fee, or a much smaller daily fee, passengers can opt to join or at least visit their airline's club. Most airlines require that you have a ticket for that airline in order to sit in their club and many of the same problems you face in the gatehouse are identical in the airline club lounge.
For example, many of the airline club lounges are place on the non-secure side of the airport passenger area. This means that in order to keep your carry-on luggage in your sight and under your control you must lug it with you, just like the passengers in the gatehouse who aren't paying US$50 for a one-day club pass.
I understand the need for airlines to operate their own prestigious passenger clubs but I don't think they or the airports they operate at understand the incredible marketing and public relations opportunity they are missing.
An airline or airport that managed to upgrade their gatehouse passenger waiting areas would certainly get more return business from their now well-rested and enthusiastic customers. The few inches necessary to change a cramped, hard chair into a more spacious comfortable one can't be that prohibitive in cost.
Access to 'quiet areas' where passengers are protected from loud noise like departure and gate change announcements would be a godsend to families travelling with children.
If airports have enough free space to establish shopping malls in their buildings perhaps it is possible to treat their customers, the passengers, to a little rest and relaxation.