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I know I've ranted about this before, but it really drives me to distraction. I'm sitting here at DFW airport, waiting for my (delayed) flight back to San Antonio, and the gate area is just amazing. Tons of comfortable chairs, designed so people aren't crammed up against each other; a double big-screen TV; flight information boards within easy view; plenty of restaurants and shops; and a quick, efficient rail system to take you from terminal to terminal. There's wireless access, although here you have to pay for it (the increasing presence of free wireless at airports is something that should be encouraged). In short, everything a traveler might need even if he's facing long delays.

Except for one thing.

No fucking goddamn electrical outlets.

This drives me insane. Surely the people who operate airports know that at any given time, half of the people waiting for flights are using laptops, cell phones, and/or PDAs that, free wireless access or no free wireless access, are fucking useless if their batteries are drained from a long flight, or a delay in the airport. Beyond that, electrical outlets are cheap, easy to install, and low-tech. They're also vitally fucking necessary for anyone who plans on, say, working on the plane, and who doesn't want to run out of juice halfway through the trip. And yet just about every goddamn airport I've been to in the last several years -- and that's a lot of goddamn airports, folks -- either have NO electrical outlets anywhere near the seating areas (which is the case here), or have maybe ONE outlet in the baseboard of a support pillar which obliges you to sit on the hard-ass floor and give yourself back spasms if you want to get any work done.

It's absolutely ridiculous. This is not a hard problem to solve. I don't think much of LAX, but at least they have towers of outlets throughout the seating areas so that you can plug in whatever you need to plug in while your waiting for the fucking flight to get there. GAAAAAH.


Dec. 29th, 2008 03:42 am (UTC)
I just assume they don't CONSIDER it a problem, any more than they consider it a problem that they don't provide free food or soda or other things they'd have to pay for. They weren't required to pay for electricity for travelers 10 years ago, so why should they want the extra cost now, especially given the struggle to keep costs down?

In Midway, at least, it seems like those big comfy cushy chairs have electrical outlets in the arms, but they've only put a few of those chairs in at each gate, because they take up nearly twice as much space as the normal ones. While I wouldn't mind free outlets and electricity, I'd rather have enough seats for everyone than enough seats and outlets for half of everyone.
Dec. 29th, 2008 03:58 am (UTC)
Well, true enough as far as it goes, but: first off, the cost of powering the laptops of even tens of thousands of people for a couple of hours would be a negligible cost to the airport, given the degree of power they generate. It's perfectly possible to provide all those outlets without sacrificing seating space (as LAX illustrates). And market research (I know, I know) has shown that what people really want from airports -- especially business travelers -- is convenience and service. So the right analogy, it seems to me, isn't airports providing food and drink for free; no one expects them to do that. It would be as if there were only one restaurant for every fifteen gates, and they were all located ten blocks from the terminal.

Dec. 29th, 2008 02:28 pm (UTC)
Are the towers at LAX sponsored by someone? The ones at various places I have been (most recently Newark-- possibly the least customer-friendly airport on the planet otherwise). This is a cost-effective way to provide outlets.

I wonder how much free wireless for an airport costs. It seems like it would be worth the investment for the amount of crowd control it provides. Way better than the ever-recycling CNN screens in most places.
Dec. 29th, 2008 06:33 am (UTC)
The outlets are there for one thing and that's to plug the vacuum cleaner into, pal. Otherwise there probably wouldn't even be one on the pillar.
Dec. 29th, 2008 07:14 am (UTC)
My 100-minute ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo last week had "Business Workstations", little library-style cubbies with outlets for laptops and whatnot. If you needed more space than a grade-schooler's desk, the outlets were few, far-between, and located above eye-level. Good thing I brought a goddamned extension cord.
Dec. 29th, 2008 04:09 pm (UTC)
This really irritates the shit out of me too. Although, there is some mild entertainment value in watching two traveling salesmen fight over who should use an outlet.

In my experience there are two primary reasons for this dearth of electrical outlets, and both of them are naturally about money.

First, most airports were actually built, or last remodeled more than 10 years ago and many haven't seen any significant remodeling other than security since the 80s. The margin on air travel profits has narrowed significantly recently. Installing additional electrical circuits can be surprisingly expensive. It's not just a matter of running new conduit and pulling new cable, although that can be surprisingly expensive as well. Many, if not all, commercial properties tend to run right at the limit of electrical capacity. Transformers are very expensive, so they tend to plan for a maximum power load that is below peak usage and hope that no one ever decides to use all the circuits at once. Because it's expensive to install, and generates no additional revenue, adding additional electrical outlets is almost always very low on the list. In essence, people who manage airports really don't give a shit about how convenient the airport is. I suspect this isn't news to anyone.

The second reason is directly related to the first. A number of domestic airports are experimenting with pay for charge stations, where you can pop in dolla bills and pay for juice to charge your cell phone, cell phone, MP3 player, etc. These experiments are more often than not conducted by subcontractors who lease the kiosk space, pay for electrical upgrades, and assume all the financial risks while the airport earns lease revenue and you get screwed out of something that you expect to get for free. Like when they stopped installing and servicing water fountains in favor of charging you $8 for a bottle of water.

The internet has responded to this affront with the Airport Power Locator wiki. http://airpower.pbwiki.com/ Admittedly, it doesn't do you a damned lick of good if your laptop is already dead and you can't access the internet, but it's better than nothing.
Dec. 29th, 2008 09:02 pm (UTC)
They know it, they're just taking a long time to decide whether or not to charge (heh heh) for the extra juice. I read an article oh a while back about how it's the big issue in terminal design.

Samsung sponsors the chargers at LAX, and it didn't look like there's a fee. (I just noticed one today on my way out.) So I guess they cover it for the marketing opportunity? Or something.
Jan. 3rd, 2009 06:22 pm (UTC)
I am generally horrified by all things Southwest Airlines, but their concourse in Denver is freakishly well-appointed in terms of workspace and charging stations (some even had USB chargers).


flavored with age
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Leonard Pierce is a freelance writer wandering around Texas with no sleep or sense of direction. If you give him money he will write something for you. If you are nice to him he may come to your house and get drunk.

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