You’re Doing It Wrong: Air Travel

Don't worry. Our expert is here to help.
By JACQUELINE HOUTON  |  November 16, 2012


This week marks one of the busiest for travel — which for many of us means nervously clutching three-ounce shampoos as we queue up at security for government-sanctioned groping, followed by equally pleasant sardine-style seating and SkyMall reading. At least we now have something neat to see before boarding: "Getting There: Design for Travel in the Modern Age," a just-opened exhibit that explores how design shapes our trips, from seats to signage to silverware. On view for a year at Logan's Terminal E, it's co-presented by Design Museum Boston, a decentralized network of exhibits celebrating smart design. Cofounder and director Sam Aquillano is pretty well-travelled himself; we tapped him for some tips.

ON OUR JET-SETTING PAST: "We have to be careful not look at the 1950s and '60s air-travel experience through rose-colored eye masks (I couldn't resist) — just think about people smoking cigarettes on planes. But it's not called the Golden Age for nothing. . . . Travelers dressed up; they socialized with other passengers in in-air lounges. They collectively realized that what they were doing — flying — was an exciting experience."

ON BUILDING BETTER AIRPORTS: "My favorite piece is a 1958 animated video created by Charles and Ray Eames for their friend Eero Saarinen, titled 'The Expanding Airport.' Most airports are horribly designed. If you were designing a structure for giant organisms with 200-foot wingspans, you would design airports the way they are today — spread-out, long expanses and large gaps between gates. Saarinen was trying to design an airport at the human scale. The idea was simple: instead of making planes go to terminals, make terminals go to planes. Passengers would enter through the main airport 'hub' into a detachable, mobile lounge that was comfortable, luxurious, and relaxing."

ON SQUEEZING PASSENGERS ON PLANES: "Progressive airlines and designers are responding to this economic reality in interesting ways. IDEO, a leading design firm operating in Cambridge, worked with New Zealand Airlines to redefine in-flight 'personal space' to be a bit more flexible and offer different configurations for traveling alone, with a partner, or even with a family."

ON PACKING: "I cringe when I see people in the airport dragging what seems like everything they own. I equate flying to urban backpacking — I try to be as efficient as possible. . . . My favorite gear for traveling: my iPad and Bose QuietComfort headphones."

ON FLYING PHILOSOPHICALLY: "Travel, like most things in life, is all what you make it out to be. If you're geared up for a giant bus ride in the sky, then by all means throw on some sweatpants and settle into your perceived cocoon. If you're excited to go to new places with new people, focus on the journey as an important part of your trip, say hello to your neighbor, and hell . . . be nice!"

Learn more about Design Museum Boston — and its November 28 bash at MassArt — at

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  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Eero Saarinen, Ray Eames, Air Travel,  More more >
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