We have become an ever-increasingly price sensitive society. Americans can name their price for hotels, smartphones let us scan a barcode to find an item cheaper at a different store, and fifteen minutes can save us fifteen percent or more on car insurance. There are websites dedicated to scouring the internet to find the lowest price on just about anything, including airfare. The adage “you get what you pay for” is as true now, if not more so, than it’s ever been. What you pay for is what you get when it comes to airline ticket prices too.
For a long time an airline ticket, much like a ticket for a cruise, was an all-inclusive pass. Your fare bought you time in a comfortable airport, it paid for the fuel used to make the trip, snacks, a blanket and pillow, two checked bags, a carry-on, and your seat. Trouble was, many people didn’t take two checked bags, eat a snack, or use that comfy, cozy blanket and pillow. No one complained, but they still paid the same fare.
Right around 2000 or so, travel search websites started popping up on the Internet. This led to price wars among the airlines. People could search for and book the cheapest flight possible, and if they weren’t too picky about when they traveled, they could save even more money. In order to keep up, airlines began dropping their prices. Then, in 2001, the airlines began to experience even greater pressure to decrease fares in order to get people back in the air. Americans were afraid of the safest mode of transportation, statistically speaking.
One of the first things to go, in order to decrease ticket prices even further, was in-flight meal service. Soon, a passenger would be able to purchase a “snack box”. It wasn’t long before airlines began charging for drinks, pillows, blankets and, ultimately, luggage. All of these “extra” fees were added but, somehow, ticket prices seemed to come down. In fact, Vision Airlines recently had a special on all of their routes for $49 each way. Just today, JetBlue announced a $43 round-trip fare between Burbank, CA and Las Vegas for Valentine’s Day.
People didn’t seem to mind paying for these services before, even if they weren’t using them, but now that airline travel seems to be a la carte, it seems unfathomable to have to pay extra for the 100 pounds of luggage stowed in the cargo hold; which, by the way, increases the fuel consumption of the plane and therefore the cost of the trip for the airline. There are still some “included” extras on certain airlines but there is now also the option to upgrade to higher quality products for a fee.
Now, back to getting what you pay for… it’s easy to see that the phrase is truer, at least in the airline industry, than it’s ever been. There will always be grumbles from some people over the extra money paid to bring the golf clubs on that trip to Florida. And people will most likely be less than excited about paying for an in-flight meal; but they should all keep in mind the increased quality of the products that their money is buying and be thankful that they’re no longer paying for things that they don’t need or use. Of course you get what you pay for, but now you have to pay for what you get. Isn’t this the way that it should have been all along?