If you’ve booked an airline ticket recently, then you already know about its bizarre, counterintuitive rules. A round-trip ticket costs less than a one-way ticket. Change fees can be higher than the fare. Your miles don’t even belong to you.
Travel agent Al Hess immortalized this absurdity in the classic If airlines sold paint essay more than two decades ago, and it continues to inspire others.
One of them is reader Bill Knecht, who imagines what would happen if airlines ran a restaurant.
One Friday evening, a couple arrives at a restaurant for dinner. They go up to the host at the front.
Man: “Hello, we are the Carters and we have a 7 p.m. reservation.”
Host: “Hello. Welcome to United Delta American Restaurant. We are running a little behind tonight, so we anticipate that we can seat you around 9 p.m.”
Man: “What? A two-hour delay? Why?”
Host: “No one seems to know. These things happen. If you like, have a seat over there in the waiting area and we’ll call you when your table is ready.”
Man: “I can’t believe this. We should just leave and find somewhere else, but at this hour on Friday that could take forever. OK, we’ll wait.”
Host: “Very good, sir. Please follow me.” He leads the couple to a loud, crowded room with uncomfortable chairs. Half the people are talking loudly on their cell phones. Noisy children are running around everywhere. In the corner there are vending machines selling soft drinks and snacks.
Finally, about 9:15 the host comes in and says their table is ready. He leads the couple into another crowded, noisy room and directs them to a small wooden picnic table that already has six people sitting at it, including one crying baby and two obnoxious children. There are two very narrow spots on the bench seats that adults might be able to squeeze into.
Man: “What in the hell is this? You can’t expect us to sit here and try to have dinner! This is our anniversary and we expected much better than this!”
Host: “This is our Standard Economy Class seating. Anyone who books a reservation with us receives this class in order to save money. It’s for your own benefit. But if you prefer, we have other options available. If you would like additional legroom, we can move you up to a Preferred Economy Class table for only $50. If you want a table with fewer people, you can upgrade to a Business Class table, which has larger seats and only two other people there. That would only be $100 more.”
Man: “Are you out of your mind? This is our anniversary. We want a decent-sized private table in a quiet room!”
Host: “Excellent choice, sir. That is our First Class seating. I believe we have such a table available.”
Man: “How much more does it cost?”
Host: “I can’t give you an exact dollar amount. We just triple the cost of your meal, including drinks and wine. But it cannot be less than an additional $250.”