What wouldn’t you do for a cheaper plane ticket? This.

By | February 13th, 2016

A new survey suggests airline passengers would give up bathrooms, carry-on luggage and even the ability to sit, in exchange for a discount.

Boxever just released a fun poll that’s sure to give the free marketers and airline apologists a little ammo in their misguided, anti-consumer arguments.

So why do I care? Because I don’t want to see these numbers, which are strategically timed to coincide with the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill’s release, to be used as battering rams for the wrongheaded rebuttals, persuading passengers that they don’t deserve to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect.

This is a debate that has nothing to do with free markets and everything to do with safety and human dignity. But before we get there, let’s have a look at the numbers.

Boxever says it surveyed more than 500 “travelers,” although it declines to say whether they are air travelers or how often they fly. It found that “many deal-seeking travelers are willing to give up basic in-flight amenities for cheaper tickets.”

That includes:

    • Access to in-flight movies, magazines and music (73%).
    • Drink services (49%)
    • Boarding zone (board the plane last) (48%)
    • Seat size/leg room (19%)
    • Carry-on luggage (18%)
    • Bathrooms (8%)
    • A seat in favor of standing room (8%)

I can already hear some of you going: “Ya see, Chris! We’re asking for it!”

Well, not really.

Remember the old trial lawyer saying: “Never ask a question that you don’t already know the answer to?” I think that’s what’s going on here.

Boxever knew there’d be enough cheapskates out there to ask for standing seats and bathroom-free planes. It also knows what air travelers really want: Free first class seats. (If you want to keep that dream alive, head on over to your favorite credit card shill site or mileage-worshipping blog, and have at it.)

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The Boxever study’s authors must also know this. They surely also know that just because a select few say they want it doesn’t mean they’ll buy it. They must also know that just because we want it doesn’t mean it’s safe — or right.

After all, there was a market for substandard, window-free apartments before the enactment of the New York State Tenement House Act of 1901, and we can all agree such a law is necessary, even if there’s a market for slum housing. And people bought cars without seatbelts before Chapter 301 of the Motor Vehicle Safety Standard became law in 1968, but we can now agree that this one-time option is the right thing.

Right?

I know the answer to that question. Most of the readers of this site do, too. But some people still think minimum seat standards interfere with a free market. They also think that further shrinking legroom, eliminating amenities, and even forcing people to stand, is the free market at its best.

That’s nonsense.

What if we turned the question around? What if we asked what you’d be willing to pay for a humane amount of space or for clean, functioning bathrooms, friendly service, or for the ability to check a bag on a plane? I think we know the answer, because airlines like Southwest and JetBlue, which are slightly less awful than their competitors, are doing well by advertising their “Transparency” and promising to “Bring humanity back to air travel.”

Bottom line: The Boxever survey only proves some penny-pinchers would do anything for a deal, hypothetically. But let them spend a few hours strapped into that too-small seat, with no bathroom to use, and then let’s have a conversation.

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