Saturday, September 30, 2017

Basic economy

I unknowingly bought "basic economy" tickets for a flight recently by failing to realize that this phrase, introduced only days before I made my purchase, meant something much worse than "regular" economy. In case you are not yet familiar with this new delight, allow me to explain: "basic economy" is a new, discount airline class on all the major carriers which permits you to save about $40 on your flight, in exchange for giving up your overhead bag space and your ability to select a seat in advance, as well as relegating you to Boarding Group Dead Last. At the same time, in a move worthy of Marx, the price of previously regular but now "main cabin" economy has increased to levels higher than it was prior to the class division that created this new flying proletariat, despite the fact that the service has not improved in any way.

The question I have though is this: why stop at basic economy? The idea of air travel as an a la carte experience has a lot more potential. For example, why not allow passengers to give up their seats entirely and occupy a "standing room only" class in the back of the plane for a further $50 reduction in fare? And $20 more for waiving bathroom access? Another $15 to go without any food or drink? For agreeing to fly crammed inside an overhead bin, you can get $200 off your flight! And if we open up the cargo hold to passengers, an entire world of steerage-class possibilities awaits.

For my particular flights, which are regional and which I'm taking alone, I think that the negative effect of my negligence will be minimal. There are no middle seats on the regional jet, and there aren't even enough people on the flight to divide us into nine boarding groups, so boarding in Group 9 is effectively no different than boarding in Group 2. I did have to check my bag though, which is a pain. But I can see how this booking error would've resulted in catastrophe had I been flying with my family, especially on a longer flight. And since I will have to do so in eventually, I will of course be required to pay more for my non-upgrade upgrade in order to be able to sit with my own kid. 

On the other hand though, perhaps what airline travel really needs more of is toddlers assigned to random seats apart from their parents. A few such experiences on trans-continental flights may be just enough to incite a passenger-led revolution that will dissolve all former class divisions.


Emily Hale said...

Yes--flew this recently and realized that I had to pay +40 (I think for two people) so that I could sit with my kid. Insane. And yes, it made me want to fly basic economy so that we could sit apart and other people could suffer. F(*&#$ up.

Anonymous said...

If the trip is a day or less on Greyhound, that's my choice. Cheaper, too.

Miss Self-Important said...

Emily Hale: Someone should organize a protest around this principle. It wouldn't even have to get very big before it has its desired effect. All you need is a couple loose toddlers on a plane to make the point very clear.

Anonymous: There is the Allman Brothers song about being born on the back of a Greyhound bus. I take that to be good reason to avoid them when possible. Also the stations are horrible.

Anonymous said...

Well, some stations are worse than others, it's true. But if your issue is cramped seats, difficulty in standing up, or TSA, Greyhound comes out way ahead. Plus, you stop for rest breaks every few hours. And if you grew up riding Greyhound, as I did, you are used to the general seediness.