Because travel sucks ... now more than ever.

A Money Leak

Mon, 2008/12/29 - 19:40 by aargh

Over the years I've seen my share of oddities in and around flying machines. I'm also proud to say I haven't experienced anything earth-shattering: neither a crash, nor aborted takeoff, nor mile-high hijinks.

What I had never expected to see, however, was an empty seat in AA's business class. Much less half a cabin of empty seats, and on a long-haul flight, which I saw last week.

Say what you will about the food, the service, or the ancient aircraft, but I have always known AA to go out of their way to fill the premium cabins. That's because they charge for the privilege. While some airlines let you taste high-altitude luxury when there's an empty seat and they like your smile (*cough* United), AA typically demands some mix of miles and money for the boost.

So you see my angle here: it's about the money.

Now AA is quite adept at getting your cash. Like most mainstream large airlines, it employs a fare buckets scheme ("perishable asset revenue management" for those in the know) and a pricing model one can only label Mandelbrotian. Wall Street quants quake in fear...

But 2008 sent the industry scraping for pennies, which is why AA had to create newer and more exciting ways to bite into your credit cards: fuel surcharges, baggage surcharges, and la carte food. Rumour has it pay toilets are in the works.

Juxtapose this against empty lounge chairs in business and you imagine squeezing blood from a turnip into a leaky bucket. It's inefficient and narrow-sighted, which is how polite business people say it's stupid.

American, please take a note from the car rental and hotel industries: fill the expensive cabins. Fill it, fill it, try to convince people to double up if you have to. Upon checkin, offer me the more expensive seat if there's one available. Even if it's at a discount to the existing upgrade price, it's still extra money out of my pocket and into yours.

More importantly, it would give me an option to escape the tossers in coach who pretend they're in business class. Like the person who, on my flight last week, attempted to colonise the entire coach cabin's overhead bins so he wouldn't have to check bags.

(Really, did no one catch him as he tried to board with three large carry-ons?)

So please, the next time you see this person, please manage to lose his bags. Do it for me, and for everyone else who got less than their ticket's worth. Do it to convince him, next time, to pay for a business-class seat.

Your kind passenger,