You’re not so special! The hidden messages of the airline industry


Sometimes, airlines reveal their true feelings about you with a simple word or phrase.

I came to this realization as I squeezed into my ridiculously small economy class seat in a recent Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta to Paris. No sooner did we take off than the passenger in front of me leaned all the way back, cutting off the circulation to my long legs.

“Hmm,” I winced to myself. “Wouldn’t it be nice to sit in one of those Economy Comfort seats?” You know, the ones that offer about the same amount of legroom as the coach seats back in 1969, the year I started flying.

And then it hit me: By calling the seats with a reasonable and humane amount of legroom Economy Comfort, isn’t Delta admitting that its regular economy-class seats are uncomfortable?

I had eight hours to ponder that question.

I flipped through Delta’s inflight magazine, which was filled with uncritical reporting about the travel industry. One ad reminded me that I could qualify for Sky Priority benefits if I became an elite-level customer, which meant spending every travel dollar on overpriced Delta tickets.

Sky Priority, it noted, is “designed to improve your travel experience at every step. Now instead of waiting, you’ll always go first — whether it’s through the airport, onto the plane or exiting baggage claim.”

Really? To my non-elite eyes, this makes it look as if the air travel experience, particularly on Delta, is somehow lacking. It’s fraught with long waits to get through the airport, onto the plane or to collect my baggage.

Of course, Delta sees this differently. It would say that it’s taking a good experience and making it better for those willing to pay a little extra — or a lot extra. But its marketers are oblivious to the fact that they’re sending a clear signal to the rest of us:

Delta’s economy class seats are uncomfortable.

You are not a priority.

You’re unimportant – unless you’re elite.

Here’s where more egalitarian airlines like Southwest, and until recently JetBlue, had an edge. It wasn’t necessarily that their service was any better. In fact, I’d take a lie-flat business class seat on an international Delta flight over the best Southwest seat any day of the week. Who wouldn’t?

It is the naming conventions, the taxonomy of air travel, that set these airlines apart — and also, our expectations. JetBlue says it will “inspire humanity” and when it gives you a premium seat, it offers “even more space.” There’s a subtle, but important, difference. Every seat on JetBlue is good, but if you want even more room, there you go.

JetBlue’s lie-flat seats were an unfortunate step away from its culture of egalitarianism. It looks more like the other airlines than ever.

It’s hard to get any more customer-focused than Southwest, which advertises “wallet-friendly” fares and notes that every day is customer appreciation day. That kind of inclusive language is enough to make anyone forget about the privileged few who got ahead of you in line with the “A” boarding groups or who didn’t have to pay for their Wi-Fi.

Not to pick on Delta, even though it deserves it. After all, United refers to its elites as Premieres — if you’re not one, you come second. American has its clunkily-named “AAdvantage” program. If you don’t belong, you’re presumably disadvaantaged.

I’m not sure if I want this to change. I think legacy airlines that purvey these addictive, customer-hostile loyalty programs are revealing their true feelings for us with their naming conventions.

All you have to do is pay attention.

Do you think airlines take your business for granted?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • $16635417

    I had a “preferred” customer card from a retail store I shopped at. I got it by simply signing up for it.

    I sent an email to them asking that does this mean people without the card at not “preferred” customers. I didn’t get a response.

    I now noticed they no longer call it a “preferred” card, but refer to it as a “savings” card.

  • TonyA_says

    How much did you pay for your tickets? What do you expect for that price?

    Maybe that’s the problem :)

  • Christopher Elliott

    It’s not the problem. Airlines control pricing. To accept that we deserve punishment for wanting a low fare is to buy into their twisted logic.

  • John Baker

    I laugh every time I read an article on airline pricing. Almost everyone of them want to return to the benefits of the regulated period. Rarely do I see someone want to return to the benefits and pricing of the regulated days… Tickets today are far cheaper than during regulation but expenses (fuel & labor to name two) are higher according to articles I’ve read but can’t find this morning. You don’t have to have an MBA to see that airlines are going to maximize their income for their fixed costs… put more bluntly… they have to pack more of us in every flight.

    Simple question Chris… If you wouldn’t pay the $100 to upgrade to Economy Comfort, would you really pay the hundreds of dollars more for the old regulated price and benefit? I think not…

  • $16635417

    Who should control pricing if not the entity that is selling it?

  • Christopher Elliott

    I don’t normally link to other travel bloggers, but I’ll make an exception for this tasty takedown of the airline lie that air travel is actually cheaper. Enjoy.

  • Common sense

    Not at all, Chris. How would you suggest they offer the “comfort” of yesteryear for the prices of today?

  • Common sense

    Airlines give customers what they want. Even if they say they want something different.

    Customers want cheap, cheap, cheap fares. The majority couldn’t give a fig what sort of service they get and are accustomed to paying for every little extra. For example, an elderly lady I met on a domestic UK flight was accustomed to flying Ruinair and easyJet, but one day decided to travel British Airways instead. As the complimentary bar trolley rolled around, I told her how everything on the trolley was the same price: £0. She couldn’t believe it: she was so used to having nothing or paying out. She enjoyed her gin & tonic.

    But back to the point. How do fares get cheap? Stuffing in extra passengers so cutting the seat pitch, and offering for sale the things which not everyone cares about. That applies right across the board. The average customer is going to go onto Kayak or Orbit or Skyscanner or whatever the tool of choice is this week and if JetBlue is $.05 cheaper than US, they’re going to be on JetBlue. The airline that isn’t on the first page of results isn’t an airline that will be carrying many passengers.

  • Christopher Elliott

    I think you just made my point.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I’m editing this because I foolishly didn’t look at page 2 of the chart. Even so, I think the analysis shows that the fares did decrease after deregulation but what is missing, from all 4 pages, is a “transparent” analysis of the effects of 9-11 and higher airport taxes and TSA fees which are not the airline’s fault.

    In the case of refundable fares, frequent fliers and even saavy business fliers can score a first class upgrade for cheap much of the time and avoid the fees listed in the chart. I know these guys who do it all the time. They buy the walk up fare which is a “Y” and then pay out of pocket for an upgrade to 1st or business. Or as elites they’ll get the fees waived.

    For steerage class, cheapest fare, I think the chart is misleading. For example, a $25 priority boarding fee. If everyone got “priority boarding” in 1975, then the term is meaningless.

    Finally, while there’s a $25 call reservation fee, most people prefer online and papered ticketing. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the best things the airline industry has done. I know people who have lost paper tickets and even though the airline had the reservation in their mainframe, they couldn’t or wouldn’t help them. The paper tickets were currency.

  • $16635417

    Thank you. Glad to see you agree with me. Let the selling entity set a price and let the market decide.

  • Cynthia Kruger

    My preferred airline is Hawaiian Airlines and they do treat their pax with Aloha . . . at the airport, on the plane, and with their planes. I’m 6′ 1″ tall and always have plenty of legroom on my HA flights. And no I do not have elite status in their Hawaiian Miles program . . . but it doesn’t matter because they, near as I can tell, treat every pax with lots of Aloha!

    Mālama pono Chris . . .

  • Hanope

    I wish Southwest flew to Europe.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    To say airline’s control pricing is a bit misleading. It’s like saying that when I sell my car, I “control” the price. I do, but effectively only as much as people voluntarily buy it.

    Certain flyers HAVE to fly and really don’t care about price. Politicians use taxpayer money to fly first class (there’s a recent bill introduced to change that), elite business class flyers also largely don’t care. But most of these elites can’t fill up a plane. So in a way, the steerage class does control their fares in that they buy based upon price. Most of them anyway. I personally will pay more for a quality bundled fare but even I will consider a much cheaper fare if I don’t need the extras. When I have a family of 4, I’ll pay $50 for that round trip bag and stuff it to the brim to the 50 lb mark. I don’t care about priority boarding. I’ll deal with the smaller seat by losing weight. I’ll bring snacks and eat at the airport.

    Think airfares are bad now? Wait until the government “regulates” them and the airlines then make campaign contributions to the regulators (or the other backdoor method, give high paying “no show” jobs to the relatives of the regulators and politicians. It’s amazing how all these politicians’ children get high paying corporate jobs just out of college which they get legacy benefits for…)

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I PREFER Jetblue. Free checked bag, free snack and soda, great IFE, comfortable seats, and my flights arrived on time. If I had taken American, United, or Delta I would have gotten stuck with bag fees.

    Whenever I tell my wife I made a reservation and say it’s Jetblue, she says “Ok, they’re good.” She doesn’t like Delta even thought Delta is often more expensive!

  • $16635417

    So we should lobby for a $628 one way refundable fare today between LA and Chicago as our only option? (1975 fare in today’s dollars.) Family of four pays $5024 RT.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Looking at the cheapest ticket, let’s start with a base/total fare from 1975 of $325 (inflation adjusted.) Now you, the flyer, can go shopping: Book online base fare $204, take one bag $25, buy the extra legroom $68, and even get a meal ($10). Sure, you better not change your ticket or want to get boarded before everyone else, but you can fly for $307.00

    Now keep in mind that you’re also getting a modern IFE, smoke free cabin (which to me is worth double the fare!), and the option to buy internet access (and there are many programs available to get that for $50 a month if you fly frequently. I personally bring along a USB card that allows me to tether to other passengers. Shhhhh!)

    Bad news: There are more government fees coming into effect this summer I’ve read and it will make flying more expensive.

  • Zarkov505

    I wish JAL and Cathay Pacific could fly domestically in the US.

  • omgstfualready

    and…..we’re back to the same old same old. Please go through your mutual funds and overall investment portfolio and be sure you aren’t profiting off what you hate so much.

  • John Baker

    Ok but …
    Using your trip as an example… you opted out of most of the add-ons mentioned in the article (we know you opted out of the extra leg room… did you pay for both bags or the excess bag fee or the standby fee or calling the reservation center?). Some of those appear to be added in simply to drive up the ticket cost not really fees that most people use. You continued to save money over the cost of the regulated ticket by not paying for those things you didn’t need.

    Also the author completely neglects to look at the effects of costs that rose faster than inflation. In the regulation days, the CAB would have raised prices to account for those. For example… Cost of jet fuel in Jan 1975 was $0.295 per gallon in Jan of 2013 is was $3.117. If you just look at the inflated cost ($0.295) it was $1.28 so jet fuel has increased at a rate almost 2.5 times inflation (sources US Dept of Energy Information Administration and US Bureau of Labor & Statistics)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I didn’t read the entire article, but after reading the first two pages, I had some serious trouble. It seemed tortured. For example, Joe adds the following dubious charges

    1. Excess Baggage fee $200
    2. Priority Boarding $25

    Does the average flyer pay an excess baggage fee. No. That cannot reasonably included in the calculation, nor can priority boarding. (Someone had to board first). Besides, even back in 1975, didn’t we pay excess baggage fees.

    But my main problem is that no statistical analysis would take one data point, e.g. a flight from Point A to Point B. One would take data across time to get a representative sample. Otherwise the data gets cherry picked to make whatever point the writer desires.

    For example, one might take the average fare paid in 1975 and compare it to the average fare paid in 2013, then adjust for inflation and then norm for the different nature of the product, i.e. baggage fees, loss of meals, etc.

  • MarkKelling

    I also really like Hawaiian. On their 767s, the leg room in coach is better than what other airlines call “extra legroom”, there is a meal included, all the (non-alcoholic) drinks you want, and a friendly flight crew. What more can you ask for these days?

  • $16635417

    Thank you. Judging just a couple routes makes the analysis anecdotal rather than a complete picture.

  • LeRoy Trusty

    It is when I am in the econo seats I realize there is no need for the seat in front to recline. I have found ways to keep the seat in front from reclining but it is a hassle.
    Of course there are other issues as well.

  • Mel65


  • MarkKelling

    Remember, according to numerous articles presented here, NOTHING is FREE. (and sometimes you even get to pay for nothing :-)

    Those things you call free are all included in your ticket price. But why Jetblue and Southwest can include them and still be within a couple dollars in ticket price of the other airlines still makes me wonder what the other airlines are doing so wrong.

  • Mark H

    I’m officially setting a new rule for myself. Even though I am in the travel industry myself, I am never clicking on another Elliott article ever again. I’ve understood for some time the the sensationalist headlines rarely reveal an article of any interest or insight, but I kept letting myself be baited. No more. This is yet another example of a non-story. Is there anything in our capitalistic society that you can’t pay more for to improve your experience? No, I thought not. This is just another thinly veiled slam of the airline industry, even though ticket prices are,on average, cheaper than they were 30 years ago. If you want more, pay more, just like every other place in your life. Goodbye Elliott, I’m breaking up with you permanently

  • MarkKelling

    Statistics can be made to prove any point as the correct one, especially when using a single example as your proof.

    While things are different now with air travel than they were in 1975, most people choose not to pay the extra fees detailed in the referenced article so including them as part of the base price is not valid. I have no way to verify the quoted prices from 1975 so I will take them all as factual and correct. And all the add on fees listed with today’s airfare I will also accept as factual (depending on the airline of course). Unless you choose to pay all of the extra fees detailed in the article, airfare costs the average traveler no more today (in inflation adjusted dollars) than it did in 1975.

  • Mark H

    I echo what all the others are saying below. That analysis is very skewed. Regardless, look at just one cost, oil prices. That is many, many times more expensive than in 1975, should airfares be even close to 1975 levels? Of course not. You are a shill for the anti-airline crowd.

  • MarkKelling

    So what is wrong with paying more to get more?

    If you choose to travel and not get the options you need, in this case the extra legroom seat, and end up miserable then that is your choice. Like it or not but the vast majority of the traveling public has chosen with their dollars and this is what we got.

    I agree that the wording used by many airlines to describe their roomier seats, priority treatment and frequent flyer benefits can sound uppity to those not choosing to utilize those options. Maybe they can choose better so that the advertisements don’t sound like they are inviting class warfare.

    But I still don’t have a problem with airlines (or any other business for that matter) offering multiple levels of products that provide options that might appeal to certain customers more. Take automobiles for example. Chevrolet offers various sized and priced vehicles because that is what their customers want. The least costly option they offer is the Chevy Spark for around $12,000. It calls itself a 4 passenger vehicle with space for luggage, but it is very minimalistic in both size and features. I can’t fit in it without feeling pain and discomfort and can’t imagine 4 people in the vehicle at one time. At the other end of the spectrum, Chevy sells the Suburban for $50,000+ with huge amounts of interior space for both passengers and luggage and additional comfort features too numerous to list. I feel like I am in my recliner at home whenever I ride in one of these. Either one of these as well as all of the ones in between will get you where you need to go but it is your choice to pick the one that you want. Using your view, Chevy should offer Suburbans at Spark prices because then everyone would be treated equal. But that is just not how business works in a capitalistic world.

  • MarkKelling

    Punishment? Hash word. Considering that probably 75% of the traveling public is quite comfortable in the standard economy seats because they are both short enough and thin enough I don’t think anyone would call it punishment. For the rest of us who are too tall or too large in other dimensions for the standard seating, we should be happy the airlines offer options providing more room.

  • Michael__K

    I believe Joe’s general point holds up very well across all routes — if you want 1975-era seat pitch and baggage service and ticket flexibility and meals, you will generally pay much more in 2014 even after adjusting for inflation.

    If you don’t care for those features, then absolutely you can pay less and get less in 2014 than you could in 1975 — unless you are unlucky and can’t make your flight. I don’t see where Joe claims otherwise.

    The airlines want us to look at the following chart, which starts from 1979(*) — and which on the surface appears to reflect the comprehensive analysis you ask for:

    The problem is that what “Airlines for America”, includes in their “total fare” is just 6% higher than what they call the “base fare.” We know something is wrong with that chart because we know that base fares today account for less than 70% of airlines’ revenue from passengers. If we add 30% in fees to the base fare instead of 6%, that works out to an average fare of 377.76 today in Year2000 dollars (vs. 441.69 in 1979 in Year2000 dollars).

    377.76 is still less than 441.69, absolutely. The point is those prices aren’t for the same product. Of course it should cost less if we get less (and sometimes we get nothing if our tickets become worthless and we need to buy a brand new one if our plans change). I’m pretty sure many savvy travelers would jump at the chance to pay the 441.69 pricetag and all that it included if they could.

    [Edited to fix arithmetic]

    (*) [re: 1975 vs. 1979] According to this DOT record of average passenger fares:
    fares rose 5% faster than inflation from 1975 to 1980. But the “Airlines for America” chart shows that this increase overwhelmingly occurred between 1979 and 1980. So ultimately, it doesn’t seem to matter much on average whether you use 1975 as Joe does or 1979 as Airlines for America does as the starting baseline.

  • Mel65

    I really don’t get the big deal about seats reclining. Granted, I’m pretty short, but my hubby and sons are all 6′ or taller and they don’t have a big issue with it either. They really only go back what…2-4″ or so, right? I keep seeing statements about recliners being “in someone’s lap” or whatever and I’ve never seen economy seats that go back THAT far…. I get a lot more irritated by the people behind me who use the back of my seat to hoist themselves up and grab a handful of my hair during the process, than the ones in front of me adjusting their seat from 90 degrees to 85 degrees.

  • John Baker

    @Michael__K:disqus I’ll be the first to admit that the A4A has and agenda, just like the author Chris pointed to, but I think you are reading their chart wrong…

    I see an average of $0.50 per passenger in change and luggage fees in 1979 on a $186.22 ticket… basically 0.3% of ticket cost

    In 2013 I see $22.47 on a $362.85 ticket or 6.2% of ticket cost.

    Their numbers show what we all know … ancillary fees have jumped greatly over the last few years… but ticket prices including the fees people choose to pay are still a lot less than 1979. Ultimately, that’s what Americans have said they care about.

  • $16635417

    I can buy a $536 one way fare from Chicago to Los Angeles on Southwest. Business Select which includes most of the amenities. (Two checked bags, priority security access and boarding, refundable, and one free drink. I’ll bring my own food on board so factor in $10 out of pocket…OK $15, it’s bit longer flight than average.)

    I’m not sure what additional amenities I’d require.

    The base fare on that is $488.37. Using 1975 taxes (8%) I would have paid $527.44. Today the government fees and taxes bring it to $536.

    That’s a far cry from the $896 comparison in Joe’s article.

  • Michael__K

    If base fares represent ~70% of passenger revenue (BTS data), then how can the “total” round trip cost be just 6.2% higher than the base fare? Where did the other 23.8% go?

  • Michael__K

    Southwest is in several ways an exception to the general trend, sure.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s the problem, Joe’s numbers take liberties to prove a point. That’s my objection.

  • $16635417

    This is why his analysis is flawed. My example is an anecdotal rebuttal to his anecdotal analysis.

  • $16635417

    Much like mine took liberties to disprove his. End result…we got nowhere.

    If you want to believe Joe’s, you will find ways to put a hole in mine. Michael K took the bait and delivered with his “Southwest is an exception” comment. :)

  • John Baker

    Because as I read the website, the number shown is the amount paid so it would include government taxes and fees that aren’t considered revenue by the airlines. Fox example each ticket has 7.5% excise tax plus $11+ in fees.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    “I don’t normally link to other travel bloggers,”


    You should have resisted the urge to do so this time, as well. That article ties itself in knots trying to prove its flawed point but still fails.

  • Karen L

    Like the feelings of the flight attendant who the brilliant David Sedaris described walking down the aisle in coach at the end of the flight saying to each and every passenger… “your/you’re trash”

  • Michael__K

    I cited the airline lobby’s own chart and composite BTS data. Which anecdotal number did you find in my post?

  • Michael__K

    There are many domestic routes but not so many domestic carriers.

    Shall we list all the carriers by market share? What share of the airline market offers the features you tout from Southwest?

  • emanon256

    Easy answer:

    Jet Blue’s CEO make approximately $600K per year including bonuses, Jet Blue has a small number of executives all making less than the CEO.

    Southwest’s CEO makes $975K per year including bonuses, and also has a small number of executives making less than the CEO.

    United’s CEO makes $13.4M per year including bonuses, and United has a lot of executives who make many millions a year.

    Delta’s CEO makes 12.6M per year including bonuses, and Delta has a lot of executives who make many millions a year.

  • emanon256

    I guess it depends on the person body. I am 6’1″ and my height is all in my legs. I barely fit in standard economy without my legs hitting the seat in front of me. When the seat goes back that small amount, my legs no longer fit and I must turn my hips at an angle which gets very uncomfortable after a few minutes. And this is with my rear firmly against the back of my seat to maximize room.

    I have been on some international flights where the coach seats go back a lot further. On a Lufthansa flight I still had leg room because they had more leg room to begin with, but the top of the seat in front of me was in my face when fully reclined, and I no longer had access to my tray table at all. That was not a fin flight as I couldn’t even watch movies on my laptop or read a book due to the lack of room.

    I do agree that its annoying when people use the seat to pull themselves up. I have short hair and they have even managed to pull y hair. Aren’t the arm wrests for pushing yourself up?

  • $16635417

    Oh…need more data? Then please ask Joe to include a broader analysis of the market as well.

    On June 17, I count 12 Uniteds, 10 Americans, 7 Southwests a couple Virgin Americas and a Spirit. I don’t care what the actual market share is. A pretty good choice of 32 flights spread over 5 different carriers.

    EDIT: I didn’t bother adding other LA Area airports which may have not been a nonstop option from Chicago in 1975.

  • $16635417

    “I believe Joe’s general point holds up very well across all routes.”

    What independent analysis supports his data?

  • Michael__K

    The airline lobby’s own numbers.

    Unless you think you can upgrade to a fully flexible fare using what they claim you are saving vs. the 1979 fare.

  • SoBeSparky

    Year after year, flight after flight, airline passengers choose on price. The tiniest seat is the lowest common denominator, the seat for which the airlines can charge a lower price and still make a profit.

    So how do all these poll respondents figure that an industry takes them for granted after more than several billions in losses and numerous bankruptcies?

    Investors and bondholders, real people, lost all that money on the airlines. Tough luck. So the industry responded and the low-cost carriers seemed to have the formula and it was emulated. Pack them into planes and make every extra cost more.

    The airlines responded to the mass marketplace. It is giving the public exactly what they want, cheap and safe transport. That is NOT taking anything for granted, but rather making air transport affordable for most Americans.

  • TonyA_says

    I think the seats are too narrow and close together so people tend to grab at anything (back of your seat) so they can get in and out of their own seat.

  • emanon256

    Ugh, I hate the seats that are 16″ wide on some plains. I LOVE that some airbus seats are 18″ wide. Give me 18″ with and 36″ pitch and I will be a happy passenger.

  • TonyA_says

    Re: JAL CEO

    Perhaps top execs at US airlines could learn something from JAL CEO
    Haruka Nishimatsu. After major lay-offs three years ago, Nishimatsu cut all his perks and then slashed his salary. In 2007, he made $90,000. A tidy sum, but much less than many of JAL’s pilots make. He takes public transit to work and eats lunch next to the plebes in the cafeteria.

  • John Baker

    Its called Leadership instead of Entitlement… Something I wish US CEOs would learn

  • TonyA_says

    I get 34″ pitch in Korean Air. Cathay reduced coach to like 32″ to accommodate Premium Economy. So I moved to KE’s 18 x 34 :-)
    But even with that seating arrangement I still experience old people grab the back of my seat. I just expect that as the new normal.

    Unfortunately there is not much choice for us over the Atlantic. So prepare to pay (or use points) for EC or something like that. BC is too expensive for me.

  • MarkKelling

    Many times it sounds more like “you’re trash!” than “your trash?” to me especially on one airline I won’t mention by name. :-)

  • Michael__K

    If taxes are included in the BTS revenue figures, then that does account for a good chunk of the discrepancy but nowhere near all of it.

    All of the taxes on the U.S. aviation industry combined — according to A4A — including taxes that don’t apply to domestic tickets and including taxes that aren’t directly paid by passengers — still represents only 16.5% of passenger revenue.

    And looking at the BTS data more closely, my 70% figure is a bit dated. In Q4 2013, less than 60% of passenger revenue was from base fares. So we still have at least 7% and perhaps 17+% (based on the 60% ratio) of passenger fees that are unaccounted for in A4A’s analysis.

    Here is a footnote from the DOT site which hints at some of the explanations for where the unaccounted passenger revenue comes from:

    Passenger airline operating revenue includes two other categories. Transport-related is revenue from services which grow from and are incidental to the air transportation services performed by the air carrier. Examples are in-flight onboard sales (food, liquor, pillows, etc), code share revenues, revenues from associated businesses (aircraft maintenance, fuel sales, restaurants, vending machines, etc). Miscellaneous operating revenue includes pet transportation, sale of frequent flyer award miles to airline business partners and standby passenger fees.

  • DavidYoung2

    I’ve gone from a Delta Elite (yes, w/ Delta Amex too) to a Southwest loyalist. Just booked LAX – Boise yesterday and didn’t even look at Delta. That’s all because of their program downgrades.
    Now a Southwest style airline going tranatlantic. I have no idea if Norwegian Air Shuttle is any good, but maybe good old competition will make the majors pay attention to their customers again. Or maybe Delta et al will continue to lose customers.

  • TonyA_says

    Funny it led to nowhere, too.
    I thought this was simple. Can’t stand coach, pay $100 or some more and get Economy Comfort. Noooo, but we have to debate inflation in the meantime.

  • emanon256

    I can live with 34″, but I prefer more :) Actually when I flew Air Tahiti Nui, they had all 18″ width and 33″ pitch and I made it. 32″ is where I really start to suffer.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Agreed. If anything, I wished the airlines offered more levels of options.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    I would sooner swim than fly to Paris in coach; how awful for you. I agree with one of the other posters, normal size people fit fine in a coach seat, the rest of us do not. How long did it take to recover from the flight? Airlines are giving the travelling public what it says it wants: low fares, period. I see a ray of light in the premium economy concept, if enough people fork over extra cash for comfort, perhaps seats in those sections will increase.

  • Michael Minor

    I fly Delta when their price is better than their competitors (if any). Of course, I say that for their competitors too.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    stop whingeing !!!
    You all want to pay less. Be glad you’re not seated on the toilet. By the way, you’ll have to pay to use the toilet soon.

  • Sandra Olson

    I LOVE Southwest so much I bought stock in the company! Any flight that has a fairly comfortable seat and serves you a complimentary none-alcoholic beverage and TWO packages of peanuts on a 1 hour flight is okay in my book. The icing on the cake is the 2 free checked bags. Yes, I know we’re paying for them somewhere along the line but I still enjoy thinking something is free!

  • polexia_rogue

    “You’re unimportant – unless you’re elite.”


    i discovered this a;one time ago, so i am one of the thousands who stay up late to get a discounted upgrade on virgin america (150 instead of 500 for business class.)

    once you snag a business class ticket you will have great time.

    and as for

    “Do you think airlines take your business for granted?”

    OF COURSE! but what are you going to do? drive? it will take you twice to 4 times as long….

    you have no choice but to fly and they KNOW it. maybe in the far future we will have nation wide high speed trains but untill then- we do what the airlines say.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Consider that non-free checked bags do cost the airlines money in a way: gate lice. When I flew with delta a year ago, I experienced it. My wife and I had our two regulation carry-ons and the gates were swarmed with a mob of passengers looking to fight over the limited overhead space. I simply volunteered for the gate agent to check my bag and wait the 10 minutes at the arrival gate for it. Philosophically, it was more pleasant to wait in that line than to stand for an hour with the mob (some of them sneezing.) Yuck!

    Anyway, gate lice cost the airlines money because of all the delays in getting the plane up in the air. Well, kind of. The poor FA’s and I think pilots don’t get paid for the time they sit on the ground waiting for the herd to fight over the bag space. It’s sad. But even so, the airline pays for the time the plane sits on the ground and the extra time to push away from the gate and get in the air. It hurts their on-time and flight time statistics which matter a lot to business passengers who sort by time in the air.

    Then there are TSA costs of all the carry on bags schlepped through the xrays. Yes, the airline doesn’t pay for that but it does drive total costs up.

    I love my jetblue flights. I check in everything in my bag, walk to the gate, relax with a cup of coffee watching the planes come in, and then walk up to a relaxed gate when my zone is called. Nice and smooth. I feel great pity for the workers at Delta.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I wish there was a stock mutual fund for companies with low paid executives which also turn a profit. I’d be happy to put my money there exclusively.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    The goal of everyone in a market is to establish a monopoly or reduce competition. It’s how labor unions seek to raise wages. On the other end, airlines seek to consolidate, eliminate rival carriers and take over particular routes.

    All that said, as consumers, are are not entirely blameless. Flying Spirit basically tells the airlines to give us the shaft. When I read about horrid conditions for labor at American, I decided to avoid that carrier.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Were free bags and big,comfy seats ever mandated by the regulations? I don’t think so. I think what happened is that when flying came out, it was seen as similar to trains and buses where you got a big comfy seat and could throw as many bags as you liked underneath. With cheap gas, a heavy bag wasn’t a problem. Also, the seats were probably designed with old fashioned “lazyboy” technology: big and fluffy. In addition, with smoking cabins (yuck), there was a limit on how close you could pack people before they choked to death on the fumes.

    In other words, the airlines back then didn’t get petty because they hadn’t figured it out yet and not due to regulations.

    Also, back then, with little security, passengers were a little more, how shall I put it, uppity. You could tell a stewardess that you paid X amount for a ticket and were entitled to a hot meal and she’d smile and say of course. Now, try to argue over whether you should pay $5 for a bottle of water and she’ll have you tased and locked up upon arrival. With labor conditions in the airline industry strained, they take out their frustrations on the passengers (another reason to fly with the smaller carriers that are more in touch with their labor and customer.)

  • John Baker

    @disqus_yLBoCs4Y0d:disqus Here’s the major difference between today and yesterday … Price was mandated by the government so the only thing the airlines could compete on was service and amenities. If 5 airlines all flew the same route, they all had to charge the same amount so the only was to differentiate themselves was the experience. Now, they can use price to differentiate themselves and we’ve shown as a flying public, that’s all we care about. Sad but true.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Here’s the wiki link for what regulation actually was:

    You’re partly correct that the airlines were used to having set prices and then competing on service and amenities but even worse than that, sometimes the airlines simply had a monopoly on a particular route and the service and price were irrelevant. These monopolies were traded, somewhat, with losses on other routes. Prices couldn’t respond to dynamic variables such as fuel prices or economic demand so sometimes airlines lost but more often, the regulators may have padded things to protect them. In other words, it was a lot like the power and cable industry.

    The power and cable industry had monopolies set in order to avoid having 3 sets of power cables in a region and also to help generate a customer base in order to make industries profitable (if you have 5 internet providers, the cost of infrastructure swamps what they get from their customer base.) But with air, that’s not such a big factor. There’s no reason to not have 10 different airlines.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Last flight I was on was on Southwest last Saturday night. Seats are 17″ across. I was nice and gave up my window seat on 3 out of 4 legs, so that a larger person could access the window seat. I raised the armrests between all of us, so that all of us could fit in those 3 seats. Luckily, my husband had snagged the aisle, so I could sort of lean across him, like we were at the movies or something. No armrests from which to push up. If I push up directly, I smack my head on the overhead bins above me, since there’s so little pitch to maneuver in. If I’m acrobatic enough, I can turn while I push up so that I use my hands overhead to catch myself, but if the plane hits a bumpy patch while I’m doing that, I have to catch the seat in front of me to avoid landing on someone I don’t know. Icky. I do try to avoid yanking the seat or grabbing hair, though.

  • Laura616

    Jet Blue cancelled my flight this morning from Ft Lauderdale to Newark. They said the next available flight would be at 5:35 pm. At this point it was 8:30 am. Not only are we not special the airlines are actually laughing at customers and treating them like complete idiots. I had no choice but to purchase a first class one way on United for an embarrassing amount of money because I have to get to Newark. Everyone was scrambling to get alternative flights.
    Then we learn the delays which were originally due to weather are also because only one runway is operational at one of the busiest airports in the country. I am not even stressing about this because it’s just very normal these days. I need to be somewhere at 8pm and provided I make it I should be grateful.

  • LonnieC

    Sounds like the seats are designed only for Cirque du Soleil personnel….

  • LonnieC

    Ah, but the comments are frequently interesting/enlightening/educational/humorous. I’ve certainly learned a great deal travel-related by reading them. Makes Eliott well worth the read, as he provides the forum (my guess is that’s his intention).

  • LonnieC

    Hey, I wish ANYONE flew from Albany, NY to JFK. Not a single flight between the capital of the state and its largest airport….