Because getting there is not fun.

First-Class Math

Tue, 2009/03/17 - 12:05 by aargh

In a recent rant, I noted having seen several empty first-class seats on my flight. Having flown several times since then, I am comfortable saying this has become a trend.

Blame the downturn if you will, as there are certainly fewer business travellers and even fewer willing to pay full fee for a seat in front. Me, I find fault with AA's lack of business sense as they haven't been more aggressive in pushing people into those seats (for a fee, bien sur) at check-in time.

In his latest The Middle Seat column, Scott McCartney notes that American Airlines isn't the only company losing at this game.

For the most part I agree with the article so I won't recap it here.

What really caught my eye was the airlines' excuse for not offering last-minute discount upgrades: they fear angering those who paid full-price for a premium seat.


Airlines are hardly shy about their fare buckets schemes, which help explain why you and your seatmate paid different fares. They were equally not-quite-shy about implementing the Saturday-Night-Stay rule, which reminded business travellers that they were paying more simply because they had the means to do so. Airlines also had no problem charging fees for checked luggage even when it was demonstrated the fees weren't covering luggage any more.

To top it off, remember that some portion of the premium cabins paid for a coach seat and applied cash and/or miles ahead of time for a boost.

Given all that, who could possibly be angry (at least, angrier than usual) that the guy in the next seat paid less?

We know full well that getting an air fare is a less-glamorous Vegas scene: we place our bets according to how much we're willing to lose. Someone who pays full fare for a premium seat knows that, under some circumstances, the guy one seat over paid a tenth the price for a coach seat and used points to upgrade. Someone who tries to upgrade knows they may be outclassed at the last minute and end up back in steerage.

In the end -- whether they are truly "happy" or not -- we accept that we got the best situation we were willing to guarantee.

Econ 101 works again.

Speaking of economics, someone please give the airlines a lesson. It seems they're missing out.

The Middle Seat: "It's Never Been Easier to Leave Coach Behind"