Friday, December 29, 2006

I just flew in yesterday...

....and boy are my arms tired.

Tess and I were out of town for the holidays. We flew at the busiest as worst time of the year to fly. And once again I am baffled as to why, in this day of computers, the airlines seem incapable of determining how many people their airplanes can hold.

I may be naive. I may not understand the airline industry or the nuances of selling seats on an airplane. But it would seem to me a simple thing to figure out how to do without being totally f-'d up when it comes time for the plane to take off.

Maybe the airlines could commission educators to design a story problem that would help them sell seats on an airplane. It could be something like:

Joe has an airplane that is leaving Houston at 5:30 p.m. bound for Seattle. Joe has 150 seats to sell on the airplane before the plane takes off. How many seats should Joe sell?


WRONG! Joe must sell more seats than the airplane has. That way, Joe can have more people show up than he has seats so that he can offer free flights and cash to people to give up their seats to make up for him selling more seats than he has on a his airplane. While he does this, he can make everyone on the airplane wait wondering why the plane won't take off even though it seems more than full.

Maybe I am stupid. Maybe there is some financial formula that explains why selling more seats than you have on a flight actually makes you more money, even if you do have to pay off the ones you bump from the overfull flight. Maybe I'm the only one who pays for a ticket that he is told that is non-refundable with the assumption that the airline gets paid regardless of whether a person shows up or not. Maybe I'm the only one who finds it odd that it is legal to sell more of a product than you have.

I've expressed this confusion before. And I'm still waiting for anyone to explain it to me. I really want to understand. So this is an open plea to the airlines. Please, just tell me why you never know how many seats you have on an airline that, as far as I know, is subject to the same laws of physics as the rest of the world.


Whitesnake said...

I........LOVE IT when you talk this way......:-}

Anonymous said...

Ah, the dark and occult art of airline yield management! I know it well. The simple answer to your question is, no, you're not the only one with a non-refundable ticket, but people with non-refundable tickets are in the minority on any given flight. And people without the "non-refundable" threat hanging over their heads think nothing of no-showing a reservation (preventing the airline from making any money on the seat they've held out of inventory for them)and expecting to be transported later on the same ticket. Airlines attempt to compensate for the no-shows by selling more seats than exist in the hope they go out full. Unfortunately, sometimes this means that there will be more passengers then there are seats when people do actually show up.

In short, people are flakes. And we all pay for it.

Time said...

Whitesnake, please deposit $25 for another five minutes of dirty talk.

Lights, Thanks, we actually had a great Christmas.

Kristy, Ah yes, I forget you used to work in the belly of the beast. I suppose the solution would be to only sell non-refundable tickets or charge a penalty for changes up until 48 hours before the flight. But I am just one of the simple people who actually show up for my flights.

Alex Pendragon said...

It's no different than the time-honored traditions such as having a 10:30 doctor's appointment and actually SEEing the doctor sometime around noon.

Or Microsoft selling you an operating system that you have to buy additional software for to keep the bugs out.

Or having your insurance rates determined by your credit rating, your age, your location, but not at all by wether or not you've had an accident or ticket.

It's called CAPITALISM, or "People with lots of money getting lots more money by screwing over people without lots of money."

Time said...

Take that Kristy, THE Michael dissed your capitalistic self big time.