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.
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