Saturday, August 1, 2009

What's the Price?

I’ve had a request to comment on airline “price gouging.”

Asking an airline pilot about ticket pri
ces is like asking a petroleum geologist about gasoline prices. We don’t know. (I'm both.) My concern is the product. The pricing of that product is far above my head. It’s as much a mystery to me as it is to you. My best advice is plan ahead and buy the ticket as early as possible.

I can only look at the worth of the product. Two hundred years ago it took you six months to a year to traverse the continent, and the chances were slim of your making it without freezing, starving or getting your hair lifted. That is, if you could afford the journey. You needed a wagon, mules, supplies and probably a guide.

One hundred years ago it took you a week. You rode at 50 mph, inhaled coal soot with every breath, didn’t shower, and slept little. That is, if you could afford it. They bitched about train ticket prices back then, too.

Seventy-five years ago it took you two to four days, depending on th
e weather. You were now finally airborne, but 30 hours of hearing 36 cylinders pounding away at two three-bladed propellers drove you to the limits of your sanity, and you probably used your life savings to pay that ticket. And you probably knew someone who tried to take a trip like that and ended up in a smoking crater.

Fifty years ago it finally started feeling co
mfortable. You had two jet engines on each side of you purring along while you trekked across the USA, and they even served you a meal. But the ticket price! Forget it. You couldn’t have afforded that flight.

So now, here we are, almost done with the first decade of the 21st century. You cross the continent in four ho
urs. You watch a movie. Have a drink. If you’re up front you get a meal. If you’re in back you bring a sack lunch. You don’t know anybody who ever died doing this, and can’t remember the last time a plane this size went down, at least in the good old USA. You’re probably fuming that the flight is 15 minutes late, but you don’t know that was caused by a shortage of baggage loaders. Someone had their job sacrificed because you insisted your ticket be as cheap as possible.

The real question is, what's the value of your life? Because that's what's at stake when airline professionals start you toward your destination.

BTW: this didn't cost me anything.


Flying Kites Mom said...

Thank you for a great posting!! You bring perspective to passengers sometimes unreal expectations. I always give a nod (in person, if possible) to the occupants of seats 0A and 0B. Even if not seen, not forgotten! LHSPF

Capt. Schmoe said...

The double edged sword of deregulation. We no longer get dressed up to go on an airplane ride, but at least we can afford to fly. Sometimes we forget the other end of the equation, there is a human cost.

There is a point when even pilots who really love to fly won't do it for starvation wages.

Thanks for the post.