Scott Hardie | May 19, 2024
It saddens and frustrates me to see the big, dumb pain that we so often inflict on ourselves as a society by being short-sighted and foolish (ahem), but one of the most common examples that I encounter has to be the decline of the flying experience.

I first observed the cause nearly twenty years ago as a junior web developer, when my boss pulled open Kayak in his browser to find cheap fares for a flight he had to take. We in the room were all blown away that a website could aggregate flight data like that, showing you the cheapest options without you having to to every airline's individual website. It was like wanting pizza and having one form to input your toppings and getting side-by-side prices from Domino's and Pizza Hut and Papa John's. Of course you'd choose the cheapest option! Now flight aggregators are everywhere.

But even though the underlying tech is impressive (especially given the ancient systems in use), there's a danger to that kind of thinking that should be obvious. Businesses have only two ways to increase their revenue: Bring in more money or spend less money. If customers race to the bottom on price and you cannot raise your fares by even a single dollar without losing customers to your competitor, then your only option is to streamline operations, which is slowly going to grind away at the customer experience. Seats and aisles are going to get more cramped. Creature comforts that soothe us like in-flight food, drinks, and media are going to get reduced and eliminated. If you must still offer perks like overhead bins, you're going to charge extra fees for them.

If people feel strongly enough about saving a buck and are truly willing to accept these trade-offs, so be it. But I really don't believe that, given how often people complain, complain, complain about the miserable in-flight experience these days. "They can't keep cramming us in like sardines!" "How come I have to pay to put my entire suitcase in the overhead bin now?" Well gee, what did you think was going to happen when you started using low price as your only criterion for selecting a flight? Do you also expect a luxury shopping experience at a dollar store? I wish that people would realize their own collective responsibility for the problem and shut up about it, or better yet, stop favoring cheap flights so that flying can be pleasant again.

I'll mention as a disclaimer that I don't fly any more. I haven't been on a plane since my honeymoon a decade ago, and I'm in a privileged position to be able to afford pricier tickets if I was going to fly, which not everyone is. I'm also not willing to let airlines off the hook for the truly worst abuses of their position. But I also don't think I'm wrong about my overall point, expecting people to connect the dots between what they demand and what they get.

What do you think?

Samir Mehta | May 20, 2024
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Erik Bates | May 20, 2024
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Steve West | May 20, 2024
The few flights I've taken lately have been limited to only single carriers servicing the areas.

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