There are two kinds of passengers on airplanes: the people who recline their seats and those sitting behind them. As a tall person, my legroom vanishes when the passenger in front of me reclines. I usually kick the seat until it rocks and hopefully they get the message that they’ve just eliminated about 67% of my personal space. If my kids are with me, I’ll pay them to jump around, scream, and throw food so the person can’t get a decent nap and gives up.
Just kidding. I’m not a jerk so I don’t do those things. But it is a personal peeve of mine when people don’t think about others around them. I understand the need to get some relaxation and rest on a long and uncomfortable flight, but take a look behind you and even ask if it’s okay to recline first. If someone asks me, I’ll tell them a partial recline is just fine, but the full recline puts them directly in my lap.
Public domain from Pixabay
British Airways Locks Its Seats
Needless to say, I am a big fan of British Airways’ recent announcement that they’ll be locking seats in place on some of their airplanes. They’ll fix the seat position in “mid recline”, which is considered a comfortable spot that does not take up much additional space.
Legroom on an airplane. Source: Creative Commons via Flickr by Caribb.
In fact, a big motivation for this change is to enable the airline to pack in more seats. If your business is flying tin cans through the air and trying to earn as much per flight as possible, the game is to pack in as many fare-paying passengers as you can without making them angry.
Recliners may be upset they can’t recline, but if the seats are fixed, they’ll ignore the issue soon enough. Meanwhile, people like me are happy. And the airline might squeeze the galley by a few inches (because no one likes their food anyway) and jam in another row of seats – cha-ching!
British Airways is a trendsetter and I hope this catches on with its competitors. Of course, locked seats are not a BA invention. The idea comes from budget carriers, who have been doing this for years to boost the number of sardines they can pack in their flying tin cans.
Sardines. Image from New York Daily News.
What Other Good Ideas do Budget Airlines Have?
But why stop there, British Airways? There are some amazing ideas being piloted and proven by budget carriers. While you are adopting one of their innovations, why not consider their other bright ideas as well?
Let’s look at Frontier Airlines (“Low Fares Done Right”), which operates flights to and from many North American cities. Since I took one of their flights a few months ago, I seem to be on the e-mail list.
This week, I got an e-mail advertising $24 flights. Intrigued, I clicked the link and input my closest airport (which actually is not that close to me, but it’s the only place nearby that Frontier serves). From there, there was one $24 flight: to Las Vegas.
Vegas? Call the babysitter and pack our bags, honey! Wait, was this too good to be true?
I clicked on the button to begin the booking process, just to see if the $24 was for real. No surprise: It wasn’t. There’s always a catch.
And with Frontier Airlines, there must be at least six catches. British Airways and other big carriers, are you listening? I’m about to share with you the industry’s best innovations. This intelligence was not easy to obtain.
Budget Airline Innovations
Innovation # 1: The $24 price was only available for the next two months. That’s reasonable and I had expected it. This is the off-season.
Innovation # 2: The fine print says this fare is available only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Noted.
Innovation # 3: To get the deal, you have to join Frontier Airlines’ deals club. It’s not a free frequent flier program; it’s a deals club. Cost: $49.99/year. I’d skip that unless I flew this airline frequently and knew I could spread out that cost over more flights.
For just this one flight, without paying the club membership, the single ticket price just increased from the unobtainable $24 to $34. $34 now.
Innovation # 4: And that’s the one-way price. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but if you want to get home, you have to book another flight and pay for that one also. Cost: another $48.
Hey, British Airways, these people are brilliant. Pay close attention. They told me it was $24 and they’ve already got me on the hook for $82. But it’s Vegas, baby! Do you think they take extra advantage of people who are eager to go lose their money gambling?
So, $82. But that’s not the full story. Once you input your information and book the ticket, you have an opportunity to select your seats on the plane. (And I must include the disclaimer that I did not proceed with the Vegas booking -- I don’t really want to go there anyway). The rest of this intelligence is based upon the last Frontier flight I took, a couple of months ago, to another city in the western United States, and I assume the cost structure is similar now.
Innovation # 5: It costs another $6-$25 to select your seat, depending on when and where you book it. The last time I flew Frontier, there were four of us flying and the cheap seats were gone. Want to take your chances? Don’t pick any seats and try your luck at the airport. Got kids and a significant other? You might want to sit together. If so, you’d better book the seats.
It’s highway robbery; I think we ended up paying $8 per seat last time to select the seats. $8 x 4 people for that flight. And that’s one way. You need to select your seats for the return trip also, so double that price.
Innovation # 6: It costs money to bring bags. Yes, that’s not unusual, even for the larger airlines. They charge a fee for checked luggage these days. So if you’re going for a short weekend trip, you pack light and take only a carry-on bag, right?
Wrong! Frontier charges you for carry-ons also! The current price is $45-60 for carry-on bags, the lower price being available if you pay the charge from home in advance, but you pay more at the airport. For checked luggage, it’s $30-60. So if you think you’re saving money by packing light and bringing a carry-on, think again. Checked luggage can be more expensive.
Screenshots from flyfrontier.com
So let’s go with $82 for the round-trip ticket to Las Vegas, plus $12 for selecting your seats on both flights, plus $30 for a carry-on bag. And that’s if you plan ahead and pay from home in advance.
Final price tag and it may not include taxes: $124. What happened to $24? It increased by $100!!!
The first time I tried to book a flight on Frontier, I was so upset at all the fees that I gave up and closed the browser window. They almost screened me out. Later, Frontier had the only appropriate departure time for my trip, so I had to go back and choose it. But not only did they nickel and dime me on the fees at every step.
They also ran a very lean operation on the flight itself. As a budget carrier, forget any meals or snacks. I’m sure you’ve seen people paying for alcohol on planes before? On budget carriers, you also to pay for orange juice or cola also (and those are nearly the only choices). They seemed flustered when I asked for water and someone had to walk to the front of the plane to find me some.
Pay attention, British Airways and other big carriers. These budget guys and gals have it all figured out. The ones in other parts of the world (notably in Europe with its long experience with budget flights) are even more advanced than good ol’ Frontier. If you really want to make money transporting people, you pack them into your tin can, you make a stop at every town resembling an airport along the way, and you charge them for everything. More importantly, you tire them out with the process so the only people on your planes are very accepting and compliant folks. You’ve already assured that the angry and disagreeable people are on your competitors’ flights.
Consider charging your passengers to use the restroom also. Gotta go? Get out your platinum card. Too bad someone locked the seats; people would have paid to recline also.
Image source: thinkblue.com
Top image: Public domain from Pixabay.