Cheap Plane Tickets Are Not As Good As You Might Think.

Let’s say your favorite restaurant has started offering food at a discounted price, but you have to pay extra if you need napkins, forks, or a seat. Most of us would probably hesitate to give them our business, but these fluctuations are not reflected in the cost of air tickets. We keep paying for lousy, naked flights. And this is not good.

The aviation industry calls this business model “downsizing”. You can travel from Los Angeles to New York at an attractively low price of $ 250, but you only get a reservation. If you want an “upgrade” like seat selection, baggage or even a boarding pass, you pay extra.

On the one hand, this model makes travel more accessible, which is really good. Over the past couple of years, I have booked several flights home to Texas on Spirit Airlines . And I recently booked a flight to Iceland on WOW Air. I might not have gone on these trips if the air tickets weren’t very cheap.

On the other hand, customers can’t stop complaining about the terrible discount airlines and I have to admit that after traveling with WOW, I may have done away with regular flights. That’s why.

You will pay anyway

You may have heard of the boot theory of socioeconomic injustice. It is based on a character from the novel by Terry Pratchett, but sounds painfully true:

“Really good leather shoes cost fifty dollars. But a pair of inexpensive shoes that would last for one or two seasons and then leaked as hell when the cardboard came out cost about ten dollars … The point is, good shoes have lasted for years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that, ten years later, would still have his legs, while a poor man who could only afford cheap boots would spend a hundred dollars on boots at the same time and that’s it. would have had wet feet.

In other words: buy cheap, buy twice . It happened with WOW air. My friend and I arrived at the airport a few hours earlier, wandered around and headed back to the gate 25 minutes before departure, as the ticket said the gate would close 15 minutes before departure. But when we arrived, I heard a clap. “The gate is closed. There’s nothing we can do, ”the gate agents barked before dropping our bag and asking us to“ go online and find out ”when we asked what to do. We bought another ticket, which was even more expensive than the original. In total, we spent significantly more than on a package fare with a larger airline. And our feet were still, so to speak, wet.

A friend had a similar experience with Spirit. His flight was delayed by several hours, and to get to my wedding, he had to book the flight with a completely different airline, paying even more than he should have originally. Both Spirit and WOW have a strict no-refund policy. To be honest, these are just two examples. Also, despite what was written on the WOW ticket, we should have been at the gate even earlier. However, it is not only about these strange incidents. You often pay more even if everything goes smoothly.

Aside from this anecdotal evidence, research shows that splitting results in higher prices when you compare apples to apples. A study published in the Journal of Economics & Management found that when airlines introduce baggage charges through splitting, customers are actually paying more for the same (our emphasis):

The data also suggests that the average fare falls less than the baggage charge itself, so the total cost of the trip rises for passengers who choose to check in their baggage … the 25th percentile fare is reduced by about $ 7 when the charge is introduced baggage transportation. , an amount equal to approximately half to one third of the commission. As a result , the overall cost of the trip appears to increase for the average leisure traveler by at least half of the travel luggage charge when that passenger checks the bag . However, passengers who do not screen their baggage receive lower fares.

In other words, airlines like to pretend they’re offering you flexibility, but it’s actually just a clever way to increase your overall bottom line. It’s easy to say, “There is no big one. I’ll just buy a plane with bare bones and deal with it. ” However, at some point, you get tired of stressing and complaining about pennies. You pay an extra fee to sit in a comfortable seat, order a snack, or bring a large bag. As a result, you pay almost the same or more for the same level of comfort. Okay, maybe you don’t, but somebody else does, because it works.

The division is not good for the aviation industry

This new, split model only exists because it benefits the airlines. However, contrary to popular belief, airlines are not that profitable. And this is really not a new problem.

Especially after the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 , major airlines like United started to get into trouble. Cheap competition has arisen. The big carriers had to keep up with low prices, but in the end they couldn’t keep up (especially when combined with rising fuel prices). Since 2002, Delta, United and American have filed for bankruptcy.

“What’s the difference?” you might be interested. “Fuck these big bad companies. I need cheap flights. ” Well, at first I said so.

But here’s the thing. At some point, companies do their best to stay in business, which means two things: higher prices or lower costs. Major airlines have done both.

To stay in business, they had to raise prices again. But customers hate the rise in tariffs, so they came up with a “split” to get around that. In defending this practice, travel site Cranky Flier explains it this way:

But because people are especially sensitive to higher fares, airlines have had to do more to continue to maintain a reliable network. So they created an alternative pricing structure that allowed people to choose the amenities they want beyond a base seat somewhere on the plane.

In other words, the “downscaling” model is a clever way to raise prices without distracting customers. This is what airlines have done to make more money, but there is another side: saving money. To keep up with the competition and stay in business, airlines are cutting labor costs. Aviation Week explains how airline workers end up suffering :

United Airlines is a prime example of this. The airline ditched its $ 9.8 billion in pension obligations in 2005; one of the biggest defaults in US history … And in 2013, Denver International Airport was the scene of protests from United employees when the airline announced wage cuts and health benefits … A company spokesman said in an email that the cuts were difficult but necessary to run a “more efficient and financially sustainable business.

But it’s not only that. With an emphasis on quantity over quality, flights are now overcrowded. It sucks to feel like a sardine, of course, but it sucks for industrial workers too. In this post on Skift.com, industry analyst Addison Shonland explains that airlines make more money with more capacity using the same crew. This way they get more profit for their money. But the sardine makes people moody. The crew now has to deal with even more complaints from even more passengers. In this piece, the Airliners Association argued that competition with low-cost carriers made the pilot’s career “a little less attractive.”

The separation encourages more people to fly, and that should be good. However, it comes at a cost, and the industry’s decline as a whole sucks for a lot of people, including consumers.

Sharing lowers service as a whole

When I boarded my WOW flight, a fellow traveler told his son that they were lucky with front row seats. “We’re flying first class on a third-class airline,” he laughed, realizing the contradiction. It’s like ordering a premium sandwich at McDonald’s: slightly better than the Big Mac, but overall it sucks.

The problem isn’t just the seats; it covers airlines. For example, as we struggle to squeeze more passengers onto cheap flights, overall seats get smaller to make room . Slate explains :

Airplane seats, once 18 or 18 ½ “wide, now span as little as 17 or even 16 ½” on some of the narrowest airliners. Legroom declined on all wearables in a similar way – down to 30 inches from 32 to 36 in the mid-1980s.

I love how Skift says : airlines are selling you pain. They make your experience as uncomfortable as possible, so you’ll pay more.

By increasing the density of the economy class, airlines “can increase their capacity without increasing their fleet.” Of course, as they cut the coaching section, they are forcing many to pay more in order to have at least a little comfort. ” It is a key element of the incremental sales strategy that airlines are using today to increase revenue, supported by segregated pricing strategies that offer pain relief.

And with some carriers, you won’t even buy relief. For example, Spirit is the worst airline to arrive on time; only 73.8% of its flights arrive on time. You cannot pay extra to make them work fast. And when the WOW gate agents yelled at me and my friend, we were even afraid to go up to the table to ask what options we have. Later we laughed at this, but we could not pay to not be scolded like children. In other words, you cannot buy yourself a way to improve overall service.

Analysts believe that the biggest problem is that there is no middle ground. You are either spending crazy money on a first class ticket, or you are dealing with the services that airlines now offer. Most of us cannot afford the expensive seats in First Class, so we stick to the latter and start to really resent it .

I still see the argument that separation is great because it makes travel more accessible, and I even agree with it to some extent. One of the airline’s executives told Slate, “The best service we can give them is to keep fares low.” Spirit’s executives were also pretty open about their goal of being cheap, not good.

It is true that more and more people are flying with discounts and disaggregated fares. However, this is not as simple and rosy as marketing efforts might seem. Plus, it doesn’t always benefit the little guy. With hidden fees and dire policies, consumers have to read the fine print and research the airline, but these “hidden in small print” details detract from the whole “travel more accessible” argument. After we paid an extra $ 350 for one way tickets, $ 150 for a hotel room, and $ 100 for rebooking transport, a friend of mine made a good point:

“At least we can afford it. A lot of people would just have to cancel the trip and go home. “

More serious issues aside, if you’re going to buy cheap tickets anyway, at least be aware of your risks. Explore the following:

  • Airline refund policy
  • Other customers have problems with the airline
  • What does the airline offer if they are late
  • How much more are you likely to pay in fees

It’s also good to have a backup plan. For example, when I flew Spirit, I always set aside a few hours in my schedule in case they were late. It’s funny, but this is the price you pay as a buyer, and perhaps the industry as a whole is paying a higher price. Most low-cost passengers know what they are getting into when they book, and that doesn’t mean these fares aren’t great – they are. However, there is always a catch.

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