A Curious Lack of Error Proofing in the Air
About a week ago, I was flying and the passenger next to me knocked his water over right into my lap. Argh!
I sent a Tweet posing a “contest with no prize” (as I didn't want to stifle creativity with an “if-then” reward as Daniel Pink's book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.)
The tweet posed this challenge: “How to error proof so the guy next to you on the plane doesn't spill his water in your lap? Ideas? Yeah, I got wet.”
I got some creative replies:
But the sippy cup and lid comments made me think (and tweet):
@superfactory Why does Starbucks give you a lid for the car but airlines are too cheap to give lids?
I remember a time when airlines used to offer a lid for a styrofoam coffee cup, like the one pictured below. Now they no longer do. Oh, plastic lid, how do I miss thee?
I can only assume this is mindless cost-cutting. The lids cost about 5 cents each. If every fast food restaurant and Starbucks can afford the hit to their profit margin to give you a lid, why not the airlines? If it's unsafe to have a hot drink without a lid in your car, how is it safe to have a hot coffee without a lid in an airplane that often has turbulence? I'm surprised we don't hear of lawsuits resulting from hot coffee spills in flight.
Airlines seem to be one of the industries that focuses way too much on cutting costs (a.k.a. being cheap) instead of trying to offer better value and a better experience to passengers. I'll take that back, Southwest (not charging for bags) and JetBlue (offering more value — TV). Do Southwest and JetBlue offer lids if you ask?
Lean isn't about being cheap or mindlessly cutting costs. Eliminating waste is a far different concept than cutting costs. There's lots of waste in aviation – I wish they had addressed that before cutting costs. Accountants love cutting costs — removing the olive from each first class salad saved American Airlines $40,000 in 1987. It's been a pattern of cut, cut, cut and passengers are miserable (as are the airline employees), while the airlines are still struggling financially. Maybe cost-cutting is the path to financial success?
As the Wikipedia page for Dr. W. Edwards Deming says (a lazy cost-cutting way for me to find a reference):
… when people and organizations focus primarily on costs, costs tend to rise and quality declines over time.
Maybe I will buy a sleeve of lids that fit the airline cups — for coffee and for water! Am I allowed to bring those through security?
Yes, I know — how “green” is that? The lids could be recycled or they can be made out of that weird corn/plastic material (you know the “green” forks that bend and snap easily, but they're environmentally friendly!).