At one point a long time ago, traveling by plane was an expensive choice that most ordinary people didn’t have the means to try. Then the infrastructure matured, fuel was relatively cheap and for a while the industry became a commodity with an availability level somewhere around cable TV.
I’ve been wondering for a while when prices will start to reflect the skyrocketing cost of highly refined aviation fuel. Thus it wasn’t much of a surprise to hear this morning that the per-bag price increases are all part of a much larger plan. The airlines know that most of us will be priced out of plane travel soon enough. When plane tickets reflect the real cost of flying today a ton of customers will cancel their trips, which will leave the airline pushing around huge number of empty seats. They don’t want that, so instead they’ll nickel-and-dime us with an increasing number of small irritants like per-bag charges and overweight passenger fees until demand lets them reduce the number of airplanes flying around.
It’s not a bad plan as plans go, it’s hardly evil, just smart long-term business planning. The price of gas has a new floor that is nowhere near where it was when American could profitably fly you from New York to LA for $500. So keep in mind that the next time you grouse about paying an extra $75 for wearing open-toed sandals (or whatever Dogbert’s airline consulting firm thinks up next), if you still get on the plane, then in their opinion you’re not frustrated enough.
It’ll be a great couple of years to be a flight attendant.