When will the airline industry join this century?

Most of us hate the giganto airports like denver, miami and dallas. They are the last vestiges of hub and spoke world – the failed futuristic dream of the last century. Amazingly, they manage to co-exist today still seeming to represent the paragon of efficiency in people moving.

Yet, we all hate them. Corp executives have risked criminal prosecution and jail time to avoid them (can u say netjails. Ok, bad humor).

The interesting question is how much longer these horrible giants will survive. Like the berlin wall, I expect they will topple seeminly overnight. The catalyst will be companies leveraging fuel efficient jets from companies like embraer offering higher priced flights to lower volume airports.

As I sit here with an oversized woman’s arm spilling into my lap (oh wait there is a g-d, she’s in the wrong seat…no…he’s letting her keep it)….I realize that while I would have a hard time ever justifying the absurd price of a charter (aspen to sf rt for 19k), I would happily pay 1-2k and unhappily double that for a direct flight with reasonable frequency to oakland airport.

the air taxi (based on the new very light jets) has been widely heralded as the answer. Problem is too small and too late. Will be a decade before they approach the volumes to matter.

But, why doesn’t some company like richard branson’s virgin start a jetblue for business travelers and high end consumers who are willing to pay more for direct service into low volume aiports?

I believe that the airline business is unique in facing almost perfectly elastic demand. Consumers are perfectly driven by price and seats are an interchangeable commodity. In a sense we have got we what we have asked for. We tolerate horrible experiences to save $100.

However, there is a massive class of consumers totally ignored by current offerings. The gap between even a 1st class seat and a charter flight is 10x or more.

We are still in the primitive early days of consumer air travel. We are offered two products today – slave galleys (where 1st class means sitting in front but all else is equally horrible) and flying taj mahals that offer services reminicent of robin leach’s old ‘rich and famous’ show.

In surveying many charter operators, I’ve concluded they have no clue about what their customer really wants, nor about the even larger universe of people who would never blow that money.

Let me state the painfully obvious answer here in the hopes that some well capitalized entrepreneur (or just ballsy) will actually listen and grow fabulously wealthy by actually responding to unmet demand.

We need a new airline that flies small jets point to point and serves the bizclass and consumer luxe passengers. These planes and flights do not need to be over the top with amenities (though a few might be nice). Just offer the following

* decent sized seats * point to point service. Start with underserved direct destinations like aspen but look to offer major routes too. * great customer service.
* inflight wifi. Don’t bother with any entertainment as it will all be avail soon on the net. * outside vendors for inflight meals. Let people book good packed meals upfront at premium prices that are handed out in boxes.

Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

5 thoughts on “When will the airline industry join this century?

  1. I have talked about many of these issues before, most recently here: http://prometheus.med.utah.edu/~bwjones/C1705165967/E20060914140216/index.html
    In essence, there are so many screamingly obvious ways to improve travel that it is shocking that people who work in the industries involved have refused or been unable to do anything about it. Certainly, part of it has been the unreasonably silly rules and regulations being imposed upon the industry by the largely ineffectual TSA, but that does not explain the whole problem.

  2. Couldn’t agree more! Some of the smart people who’ve started the new, all business NY-London routes should conquer the US opportunities!!

  3. As someone who flies a lot for both business and personal stuff, I share your frustration with the airlines.
    But Patrick Smith (of Salon’s fine “Ask the Pilot” series here: http://www.salon.com/tech/col/smith/2007/03/02/askthepilot223/) has noted that, for much of this, the enemy is us.
    Specifically, he’s suggested (rightly, I think) that if any airline raised their prices to be $20 higher than all other airlines on the same route, they’d go bankrupt even with offering clearly superior service.
    In other words, we’re all friggin’ cheap bastards. Except for the companies who fritter away insanely large amounts of money by having their employees consistently fly business class, and — let me tell you, as someone who was bumped into business class for my last flight from Sydney to San Francisco — it makes flying almost a pleasure.
    What I wish for is some sort of intermediate class; business, at typically 4x or more the cost of coach, is way too much of a stretch for the vast majority of us. And Economy Plus is a joke, at least on United (w00t, a little more legroom; doesn’t help when I’m pressing the flesh next to a Person of Size, nor does it provide me with food that’s remotely edible).
    Maybe then, if we had *distinct and affordable choices*, we’d quit being complainy and stingy bastards and actually get the decent service we deserve in the air.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s