An article in yesterday’s New York Post referenced a research report conducted by Airfare Watchdog.com. Now before I go further in describing the report’s findings, I feel it fair to add that Airfare Watchdog.com is not some government agency or non-profit that is tracking airfares for empirical reasons or to monitor injustice in the world of airline pricing. Rather, it is a cleverly named OTA. But hey, they have passengers and asked 1,000 of them some questions and then turned the answers into a research report that got noticed by CarryingOn and probably many others, so good for them.
Putting the source of the research aside for the moment, I thought it would be fun to conjure up what would happen if airlines actually starting selling this service. If as suggested in the survey, 1 in 6 travelers would be willing to pay more to exit the plane faster (10% said they would pay $10, 3% would pay $20, and another 3% an unspecified amount), the US Airlines would generate over $790Million annually in ancillary revenue. That’s a lot of dough and almost as much as the US Government will save under ObamaCare in one year (I’m sure some of you can sense the skepticism in that analogy, but I couldn’t help myself having just celebrated our country’s Independence Day).
But before the industry starts debating whether this new GOF Fare (Get Off First, because we do love our acronyms) can be sold in the GDS’s, let’s consider a few things. Having often wondered how I would fare in the fictitious Olympic event “Airport Steeplechase” as I dodged, weaved, and sprinted from Gate B27 to Gate E3 to make a connection, I asked myself if I would have paid an extra $10 bucks to get a head start. Given I’ve missed my fair share of connections, and been put through the “reaccomodation” process, a process by the way, that I liken to being paroled from prison, I would pay the $10.
Now before you say “no way I would pay”, reflect a bit on your worst missed connection and the likely reaccomodation process you encountered….
”Sir, you will have to wait your turn, all these other people in front of you also need our help”, which was followed by,
“Sir, we are working as fast as we can…you will simply have to wait your turn”, only eventually to hear an hour later,
“Sir, I’m sorry but the only thing we have for you is a connection tomorrow morning, and no, there are no hotel rooms available in the area”.
So you would probably pay the $10 too, but before our airline friends start salivating at the prospects of all that new revenue, they might want to consider the practical aspects as well. In previous posts we’ve talked about the boarding process and how complicated and unruly it has become, but in the case of getting on a plane at least you have referees (in the form of gate agents), a bigger playing field (the boarding area), and some easily identified rules (your boarding pass for one), that help control the process somewhat.
Now envision yourself onboard a packed 757 and having paid the $10 to get sprung from jail (aka the middle seat in Row 38) faster. Now think about an announcement that goes something like this, “ladies and gentleman, certain individuals onboard have paid for the privilege or exiting first, so I would like the rest of you to sit in your seats while they do that.” I envision everything from looks of confusion, to stares of hatred, followed by a host of people who didn’t listen, barely understand English, or choose to ignore the announcement, getting up and into their overhead retrieval routine, thus impeding your sprint to the exit. And what if you don’t end up getting off first after having paid for the privilege? Is your money refunded? Is there an arbitrator that rules on such things (“sir, you might not have been first per se, but you were in the first “wave” to exit, so technically we complied with the rules of carriage as outlined by IATA, ARC, the DOJ, EU, and Kevin Mitchell”). I can just see the mayhem in the aisles, the Tweets on Twitter, and the status changes on Facebook to something like “still in line”, or “just ripped off by the airlines”.
As a result, to save the airlines and everyone else a lot of trouble, CarryingOn is going to recommend a quick death to this idea, because if you really want to get out of a plane before everyone else you can do it today and it works just fine. After all, it’s not called First class for nothing 🙂.