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    Airlines Can Charge, People Will Pay

    April 15th, 2010

    All sorts of talking heads have been in the news recently discussing what the impact will be of the decision that Spirit Airlines to charge people up to $45 per carry on.  They talk about how other airlines will watch them to see how the program is received by the public.  Then of course there are the Southwest commercials that only talk about how they don’t have bag fees.  But all of these people, in particular Southwest, are missing the boat.

    People  get upset when new fees are implemented.  Some fees, like for checked baggage, are just frustrating while others, like charging for bathroom use, are silly, and still others are illegal (like charging for handicap assistance).  But these fees only make people upset for the moment and then they pay.  I would argue it is in danger of becoming a confusopoly.

    What makes it worse is that the pointless TSA rules force you to discard items (like beverages) and yet provide no oversight on the cost of the beverage on the other side of the gates.  Meanwhile they are spending $1 Billion on scanners that, by all accounts, don’t work, are able to transmit ‘nude’ photos (as specified in the requirements document in the original proposal), and could damage your DNA.  And of course this is tax dollars and additional security fees at work.

    Whatever, the point is there are lots and lots of fees which brings me to the point of this post: all of the power is in the hands of Kayak and Priceline.

    Think about it for a second.  Airlines are imposing these fees so that they can get the lowest far shown, which should drive business.  This clearly is based on the assumption that price is the most important thing to customers that are traveling.  And yet nothing is being done on these comparison sites to expose this.

    Which brings me to my secondary point: Southwest is getting screwed.  If I ran Southwest starting tomorrow, the first thing I would do would be call up Priceline and Kayak.  I would get an estimate of what it would take to add “how many checked bags”, “how many carry-ons”, “how many in flight meals/snacks”, “how many in-flight bathroom uses”? and similar things to the site and I would pay to develop that functionality.  The prices people see now are simply no longer valid.  There are too many additional add on costs to just keep ignoring them.  And for an airline like Southwest, to not expose that more in a pricing engine is a HUGE miss.

    While I like the lower costs, and I like the idea of only being charged what I use, I also think I like to feel like I got a deal, or at least am not being taken for every cent I have.  It is a very delicate balance, and probably depends on the point of the trip (business or fun).  This could get interesting.

    What do  you think about the more a la carte structure (besides that cable companies should offer it)?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Thoughts On The Christmas “Bomber”

    December 29th, 2009

    Internet, I cannot help myself.  All of the talk around this guy that tried to blow up a plane is frustrating me to no end.  Nobody seems to want to apply an ounce of rational thought to the situation.  I have no idea why our ‘leaders’ are ignoring any relevant information.  I guess that’s just what politics are.

    Consider a few of the following topics that have been in the news:

    Republicans have hinted that there should have been a big red flag next to the suspect’s name….how [could] the suspected terrorist could fly in the first place after his own father had warned authorities his son was possibly under the influence of religious extremists.

    Well, let’s see.  I was listening to NPR and they had a guy on that said there are about 500,000 people on the watch list database but only 4,000 – 5,000 on the no fly list.  A single complaint from a father is not evidence to put someone on a no-fly list.  Wow!  That actually makes sense.  Score one for the FBI.  They don’t just randomly prevent people from traveling, they actually need evidence that they are a danger.  At least we are still of sound morals, despite what the supposedly ‘moral’ right would have us believe.  Hell, they may even want me on some watch list because I disagree with them.  Now if they would just ban anybody that is a religious extremist…oh wait, that would prevent some of themselves from flying.  Talk about a lack of research or any knowledge at all.

    Obama said: “Had the suspect succeeded in bringing down that plane, it could have killed nearly 300 passengers and crew — innocent civilians preparing to celebrate the holidays with their families and friends.”

    300 innocent people.  If they would have died that would have been tragic, for sure.  But how many people die every day in vehicles?  Well, so glad you asked.  The National Highway Traffic Saftey Administration has the answer for you.  In October of 2009 they released a report (link to PDF) that showed we were at record low traffic fatalities to start 2009!  We managed to get the rate down to 90+ people dead a day, with 16,600 dead through June!  Way to go USA!  So if we assume that more people travel during the holidays (and the death rate is deaths per 100 million miles traveled) then we may have had more people die over Christmas weekend on the road than if the guy would have blown the plane.  But this gets no mention.  Nothing is ever put in context with other issues.

    Would it have been possible to prevent this guy from getting on a plane?  Yeah, I am sure it would be.  We’d have to burn our already partially scorched Constitution, but we could do it.  People complain about insurance companies reaping mounds and mounds of profits and yet who can rationally blame them.  We are in a culture that is fearful of everything.  People are willing to sacrifice everything to live “safely”.  So we buy insurance of all types, give up our privacy, and submit to what would once be considered clear violations of personal freedoms.

    Meanwhile we ignore the clear dangers of driving (1.19 deaths per 100 million miles) and a multitude of other activities while pretending that terrorism is the biggest threat that we’ve ever faced.  It is far too easy to quote people, and yet I will do it anyway (from TenthAmendmentCenter):

    The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. ~ James Madison

    A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have. ~ Thomas Jefferson / Gerald Ford

    I think the TSA is far more of a danger to our Constitution than terrorists will ever be.  I am sure other disagree.  And I respect that people want to be safe.  But what is missing is the element of common sense, and I just can’t get over that.  A fact that I am reminded of every time I travel and see the TSA confiscate something.  I mean really, if they think the liquid is dangerous, shouldn’t they treat it as an explosive instead of just throwing it in the trash.  Or take away “weapons” but give real silverware in First Class.  My only fear is that some idiot at the TSA will read this and instead of applying logic to see how silly they are and how they are not making us safer they will see an opportunity to further tighten the straps while thinking “silly civilians, liberties are for kids”.

    Would you rather have the illusion of safety or less hassle when you fly?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.