American Airlines has announced that they are doing away with pillows on their flights. Well isn’t that special. Ya know, if it wasn’t for all those pesky passengers taking up space and demanding the barest of amenities, maybe the airlines could turn a profit.
I’ve long held the belief that if the airlines installed those pet feeders at each seat, they could get rid of flight attendents. Just fill the things with some sort of compressed food pellets and water and people could just paw at the tabs to release nourishment. Think of the savings!
I wonder if its occurred to any of the executives in the airline industry that if you treat people like shit, you get fewer customers, and therefore, less income. If they offered a few more amenities, they could justify raising fares, and everyone would be happy. Also, if they’d stop paying executives so goddamn much money, they wouldn’t be so far in the hole anyway.
Actually, they suckle so much off the government teat with their subsidies while they pretend to be an actual business, why not dispense with the charade and ask for full government funding? Forget that profit stuff!
I’m not going to pretend I know anything about the industry and how it should work, because I don’t. But I did listen to NPR last week when they did a couple of stories on the airline industry. They interviewed a few CEOs, things like that. One of them (I think it was a CEO rather than a pundit) said that the customers view airfare/airlines as a commodity. They are looking for the lowest cost way to get from one place to another.
If that is true, and I don’t know if it is or not, I’m not sure that your suggestion would work.
Of course, given how effed up everything is with the airlines in general right now, it certainly couldn’t hurt to try!
My rant is that when I flew AmericaWest last month, I didn’t know UNTIL I WAS ALREADY AT THE AIRPORT that what my itinerary described as “lunch” was really “snack boxes and sandwiches that you must pay for”. Had I known that, I would have swung by Subway on the way to the airport. Thanks a pantload for the warning, jackasses!
But never fear–you’ll be able to purchase a seat before the flight and carry it on. Or maybe they’ll make coach a class you have to pay extra for, and create an all new budget class called “steerage,” and do away with in-flight beverages (bring your own), seat cushions (bring your own), drop-down oxygen masks (bring your own, if you can get it past security) and bathrooms (an FAA-approved lightweight aluminum bucket will be provided).
Speaking as a very infrequent flier, cost is ONE consideration when I’m choosing a travel method. Another consideration is how much of a hassle am I going to have by whichever method I go, the amount of time I’m going to have to spend (and I include going to the airport and checking in as part of the travel time), and how comfortable I’m going to be. Right now, I’m so extremely uncomfortable in an airplane that I view air travel as a last resort. It’s not just the cramped plane seats…it’s the uncomfortable seats in the waiting area, the bad meals, having to trot up and down a long flight of steps in some airports, etc. I’d rather spend 10 or 12 hours on a driving trip than a couple of hours in an airplane. And I hate driving trips, too. I get motion sickness, so I’m pretty miserable when I’m on the road, but not as miserable as I am when I’m in an airplane, where I can be sick AND cramped at the same time.
I said nothing when they took away our in-flight meals.
I was quiet when they stopped drink service on short flights.
I stood by and watched while they quit handing out peanuts.
But I will NOT stand by quietly while they take my pillows away!
Sometimes the only thing between you and the creepy middle-aged dude with the combover whose hand keeps floating under the armrest is that damn pillow. Or the only thing between you and the woman from Cleveland who’s going to visit her son and two granddaughters in New Jersey because little Kaitlyn is in the school play and Madison has a ballet recital, so she’s going to watch their performances and maybe take in a show in the city, maybe like that Producers show or go to see that puppet show because she heard it was just so funny, and she really loves going to New Jersey because her son has a nice house and two large SUVs, and she gets lonely now that all of her children have moved out of state and she only has her bird to talk to, but she does have bridge club every Thursday night, except they’ve cancelled it the last two weeks because poor Alice has gout, and they can’t play without a fourth, but that’s okay because she really likes to watch Survivor on Thursdays now, but she has DVR so she can tape it if she’s not home, but she’d rather watch it live so someone doesn’t tell her the ending - and if I don’t have the pillow, I can’t pretend to be asleep.
I’m going to have to fly United and US Air from now on.
I get fed in coach on American if I fly at the right time of day and if the flight is a certain length (I get fed very well in business class on American, AND I get the seats that tilt all the way back!).
Based on the information in your post, I sincerely doubt that you have ever flown first class.
There used to be only two airlines I would fly–Southwest and American. When American started to come close to being the same price as Southwest, I started flying with them more often for one major reason: the More Room Throughout Coach program. Heck, I’ve flown with them often enough in the last couple of years to pick up 10,000 frequent flier miles (not bad when you figure I only fly about 3 round-trips a year.) Anyone who’s seen me knows I’m a big guy and although I don’t think the seats were any wider, the extra couple inches of legroom was nice. A little more money was worth the room. Now American has discontinued that program and I’m probably going back to flying primarily Southwest.
Quite frankly, I’ve always liked Southwest. You know exactly what you’re going to get because they’ve been the same for years, they’ve got one of–if not the–best on-time percentage in the industry, they consistently turn a profit, and their pricing actually makes sense. For example, I’ve got to go from BWI to ABQ and a little bit later from ABQ to SAN. Southwest doesn’t charge extra for a multi-city route like that and they don’t charge more for a one-way trip. I could book that as two seperate, one-way tickets instead of the leave BWI, arrive ABQ, return SAN that I did and get the same price. I looked at doing that on American and they wanted at least 200 dollars more. While I’m not the biggest fan of flying–I have no problem doing it, it’s just that travel in general sucks and all the security and whatnot makes flying more of a hassle–I’m looking far more forward to the BWI-ABQ-SAN trip on Southwest than the SAN-SCE trip I’ve got coming up on US Airways.
Quite frankly, at least three of the legacy carriers need to die (I’m looking at you, United, Delta, and US Airways) and the government needs to stop bailing them out. I would much rather they take the billions used to bail out airlines and put them into a good, fast, long-haul passenger rail system. I also agree that passengers look at flying as a commodity. Maybe this is a result of deregulation–I wouldn’t know, I’m too young to remember regulated anything. But if you’re going to stick with pension plans, hub-and-spoke systems, and baffling, higher pricing structures, you better give passengers a reason to fly with you. The airlines also need to realize that their business passengers are gone and probably aren’t coming back any time soon, if at all.
Hmm, has anyone made a good airline business simulator in the last 20 years? I have an old copy of AirBucks, but I always found parts of the game baffling (such as never being able to do anything with stocks and why airport rights were limited to two companies), and now I can’t get it to run at all on WinXP. I also think this game was made before deregulation.
Airlines compete on price. A large majority of passengers choose flights based entirely on price (it’s why I ended up once on Spirit Airlines: Greyhound with Wings - never again). The consumers have taught the airlines that price, and price alone, matters.
American (United and Delta also) has a larger overhead than many smaller, regional airlines. The regional airlines pick and choose routes for profitability, thus taking away the most profitable routes from the larger airlines. In order to compete on price and stay profitable (more accurately, to lose money slower), American et al must cut costs. Some bean counter believes that pillow savings will more than offset the few fliers who might cross out American because of their lack. I believe they are right. If American comes up first in one’s Orbitz search as the cheapest flight, one will fly American.
I flew to and from LA last week on American. I breezed through American in LA, and even changed to a much earlier flight. [And I didn’t use my pillow because I couldn’t figure how to comfortably employ it]. I marvelled at the line for Southwest stretching far outside the terminal. A colleague told me it was a 90 minute wait (he was using a carrier sharing their terminal, but he was lucky enough to have preferred status with that carrier). Why are so many people putting up with this? Because Southwest is cheap. People will bitch and moan about the wait, about how Southwest should have more agents, etcetera, but when their next search comes up with Southwest as the cheapest fare, they’ll jump on it.
To conclude, 50% of the blame rests on the shoulders of the consumer. Airlines have learned that they can’t charge a small premium for better coach service, and instead have to take every measure, reasonable or not, to cut costs.
I’m pretty sure that Southwest proved that one wrong. Bare amenities + cheap price = profit in the airline game. For most people, air travel IS a commodity for all except the very best and the very worst airlines.
Cost really is the only factor that determines which airline I fly, with the exception of a few overseas airlines I won’t fly because of totally over-the-top bad safety records. If it’d knock a couple hundred bucks off, I’d gladly sit on the floor. Heck, if the price was right I’d stand the whole way.
That said, I don’t think getting rid of pillows will lower the prices substantially enough to make it worth the sacrifice in comfort.
I half agree with you. I think the formula for Southwest’s success has been cutting down to the bare essentials PLUS friendly service with minimal hassle. But based on my last experience with Southwest, they’re starting to lose the second part of the equation. I don’t know what’s happened to them, but their employees don’t seem to have that relaxed, helpful attitude that attracted so many people to their airline in the first place. They seem to be moving towards that uptight, “you will follow our rules” attitude. They’ve done so well because they offered low price AND a pleasant flying experience. But not treating people like shit isn’t just about whether you get a sandwich or not. I hope they shape up.
an airline provides a means of getting from place A to place B. They’re not caterers, bedding specialists, or anything like that. No one bitches because Grayhound doesn’t feed you, right? Air travel used to be a luxury, something most people didn’t participate in. Most people do fly at least occasionally now. The airline’s job is to get you from place to place and make it tolerable. They’re not supposed to care about whether or not you need to listen to the woman in the next seat.
If it’s that big of a deal, fly a different airline. Or bring your own damn pillow (the ones they give you are, IME, approximately as useful as a flat magazine). I’ve never been in an airport where you can’t stop in some fast-food joint and get something to bring on your flight with you. If that’s not to your liking, make a sandwich at home and toss it in your carry-on. Even if you only get a little sack of pretzels and half a can of soda, because you expect them to feed you (who the hell expects a meal on a plane today?), you’re not going to starve to death. Perhaps the difficulty some people apparently have going for five hours without eating is tied in with the fact that we’re a nation of lazy fat people.
Jeez. It’s not like they’re taking away the wings of the plane or anything. Calm down
True, that’s why I left my caveat in about the very best and very worst. But let’s face it, there’s really not much difference in the customer service levels between most of the airlines. At least, not in my experience. There’s always the exceptions like ATA, of course. So when talking about the major airlines, I figured reasonably friendly service was pretty much a given.
I rarely ever fly. So I’m not really up to speed on who is offering what. Mostly when I’ve flown, it’s been with Southwest. When I fly them, I know to bring my own food. So when I booked a rare flight on America West, I wasn’t sure what to expect. So when I looked at my itinerary and it said “Meal: Lunch” well, goddamn it, that’s what I expected. I didn’t know that it was going to be offered at cost.
I could have easily spent $3 on a Subway sandwich before I got to the airport. Once I’m at the airport, I’ll easily spend double. The whole point is that it wasn’t clear, and because I don’t travel frequently, I just didn’t know what to expect.
Now, having said that, I’ll actually be flying America West at the end of this month on a rare work trip. You bet your sweet as I’m going to bring my own lunch. And frankly, I’ll sit there with a smile on my face, enjoying my own darned food.
Yeah. But I also pay maybe less than 1/4th of what I pay when I fly.
I do not seem to get the economics as to how not having pillows will save them so much money that it could possibly change loss into profits. How much does that small padded piece of cloth cost? Also, it is not served on the meal tray for the passengers to have as dessert. It is used over and over again until it becomes unusable. So, how much do they think they will save not giving pillows?