How an Airport Coat Check Could Make My Trip Better, Too

I remember (from my Chicago days) the wonderful feeling of getting off a plane in a tropical destination, having departed just hours earlier from sub-zero temperatures. Except for one thing: It’s a drag to lug a winter coat in paradise. This week Harriet Baskas wrote a post on her Stuck at the Airport blog that caught my attention. A new service in JetBlue’s T5 at JFK offers a coat check kiosk—CoatChex–where you can check your coat and retrieve it days ($2 per) or weeks ($10 per) later.

I particularly love the ID concept for these kiosks: Just type in your phone number and initials, then pose for a photo with your coat before checking. No rumpled tickets or sticky keys to fish out from the bottom of your bag when you return.

We live in a sharing economy, now, though, so why not push this one step further and take a note from the playbook of FlightCar, which rents out your car when you’re gone. Because it’s also a drag to arrive in a cold city from a moderate climate (like the one I live in now) hauling a coat you use just a couple of times a year. Why not rent one of the coats in the kiosk? I’m only partly serious. But if someone can find a way to make money on this, make mine a size 8, Patagonia, any color available.

My Favorite Seat Innovation

Airplane seat design is finally getting some out-of-the-box thinking. I don’t mean flatter lie-flat seats; I mean completely re-imagining coach seats so they are more passenger-friendly, versatile and light-weight. Unfortunately, much of this is speculative thinking, and whether any of these designs will ever come to market remains to be seen. Airlines—the seat customers, ultimately—carefully monitor an important metric: butts in seats. The more seats, the more butts. So airlines eye the bottom line when considering seat innovation, and most of that is about capacity.

Nevertheless, a couple of the designs I’m excited about: the “Morph” seat is constructed of material like the iconic Aeron Chair and can expand or shrink depending on need (next up: buy 1.5 tickets); and this entry in the James Dyson Award competition, the “AirGo” seat, includes a personal overhead bin right above the seat, even the window seat (wouldn’t that be convenient?).

By far the best innovation, though, is JetBlue’s seemingly small but hugely valuable gesture: a seat that includes a cup holder. I’ve wondered for years why this has not been done. I often refrain from buying a coffee before boarding an early morning flight precisely because it will mean putting the drink on the floor before performing the gymnastics of trying to swing my bag above my head. (Doable, but risky and a little icky.) Also, during the flight, I am cramped enough without being forced to keep the tray table down just to hold a beverage. What a luxury to stretch out (I use that term very loosely) with a book or for a mid-beverage nap, with that Diet Coke safely tucked into a holder. JetBlue’s inflight product was indeed in need of a refresh, and this is a particularly welcome innovation.  Thanks, JetBlue.