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Wait Watching

What's the next best thing to in-flight movies? Out-of-flight movies!

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The rewarding experience of waiting long hours during flight delays has just gotten better. Last week, Hopkins International announced a partnership with InMotion Pictures. For the pleasantly overpriced fee of $10 a day, travelers can now rent a portable DVD player and a movie, catch a flick, and even drop it off at another airport.

The service provides a healthy option to the traditional downtime experience, which involves bitching about delays with fellow passengers at a pleasantly overpriced airport bar.

Give Hopkins credit for trying to better the air travel experience. "It's been wildly successful," says Port Control Director Reuben Sheperd. "It's just constant traffic."

Then again, The Edge finds it disturbing that so many businesses are basing their profitability on a simple proposition: that airline service sucks and shall continue said suckage well into the future. First came the bars and restaurants on airport concourses. Then came bookstores, music shops, and clothing boutiques. (Gee, Skippy, I'm so glad they put this airport in the mall!) Now comes the aviation version of Blockbuster.

For good reason. During the first six months of 2001, Hopkins saw 4,737 flights delayed, according to the FAA; 689 were canceled altogether. "Right now, delays are a huge problem," Sheperd concedes.

Nor does it help that airlines -- motto: "I'm Sorry, Sir, We Already Have Your Money; We Don't Give a %$#& About Your Problems" -- practice a customer service model first pioneered by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. "To be honest, I think it got to a point where it couldn't get a whole lot worse," says Sheperd.

But the director sees a new day coming. Competition, he says, is forcing airlines to care more about their customers -- or at least do better at pretending to care. You may still see a half-hour weather delay mysteriously turn into a canceled flight, but "people who work for the airlines are making an effort to be more welcoming and friendly as they come aboard."

And InMotion Pictures executive David Kight says his business isn't predicated on the industry's distress. It's targeted toward the weary business traveler who just wants to relax. Besides, he says, InMotion's fees are actually "cheaper than pay-per-view" at some hotels. Which is the good thing about American commerce: Someone's always ripping off his customers more than you are.

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