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Why airlines go out of their way to make flying miserable

Published Dec 29th, 2014 11:50AM EST
Why Is Flying So Expensive
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Airlines may not be as hated as cable companies… but they’re pretty close. Anyone who has flown on a major airline in the past 15 years or more can tell you why: Airlines not only love cramming passengers into tiny seats but they also love nickel-and-diming them for baggage fees and other annoyances. Writing in The New Yorker, Tim Wu has written a comprehensive look at exactly why flying is such a miserable experience and why we shouldn’t expect it to get better anytime soon.

FROM A HAPPIER TIME: JetBlue to start offering free in-flight Wi-Fi

Wu starts off by noting that JetBlue, which has long been one of the few major airlines out there to resist shamelessly gouging its customers, finally caved to investor pressure this year and vowed to start making customers pay up for baggage fees and in-flight Wi-Fi access. Wu notes that the company had been getting trashed by Wall Street analysts for being too “customer focussed,” and if we know anything about Wall Street, it’s that it hates it when companies deliver good value to customers because it means there’s less money left over for shareholders.

What this means is that JetBlue passengers should expect to get hit with all of the wonderful fees that United and Delta fliers regularly encounter.

“For the past decade it is fees that have been the fastest-growing source of income for the main airlines, having increased by twelve hundred per cent since 2007,” Wu explains. “The fee model comes with systematic costs that are not immediately obvious. Here’s the thing: in order for fees to work, there needs be something worth paying to avoid. That necessitates, at some level, a strategy that can be described as ‘calculated misery.’ Basic service, without fees, must be sufficiently degraded in order to make people want to pay to escape it. And that’s where the suffering begins.”

Wu’s whole article is very worth reading and can be found at the source link below.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.