At the end of every semester, I always look forward to finally being back in the warm embrace of my family in Singapore. However, I’m never thrilled at the prospect of flying over 30 hours to get back home, especially when I know I’ll be restricted to a 32-inch by 17-inch seat.
In the past, I have relentlessly blamed airlines for cutting costs by monetizing every single comfort that was once a given, especially in economy class. For instance, over winter break, when my family and I attempted to reserve seats on an Air India flight from Singapore to Mumbai, we realized that we would have to pay an additional 30 dollars per seat for this “perk” of choosing where we sit. While Air India previously didn’t charge customers to pre-reserve seats, this decision wasn’t surprising considering that most domestic U.S. airlines took this measure ages ago. Now, with no more ways to charge customers, airlines are at the end of their rope, and I’m beginning to realize that perhaps we, the customers, are responsible for our own circumstances.
Before you argue that consumers certainly did not demand a tight seating plan, subpar food and a disorderly boarding process, it’s also true that we didn’t display an eagerness to pay more for a higher quality service. Rather, we are doing the contrary by consistently picking our flights based on their price, rummaging as we do through discount flight websites like Expedia and StudentUniverse. By observing this trend over the past five years or so, I believe that airlines think that it is a wise decision to cater to our bargain-seeking nature, and offer cheap flights by stripping off all basic amenities. As The Economist put it, this is why Spirit Airlines, one of the most destitute airline services in America, still rakes in a high profit, compared to Virgin America, which despite being a superior airline, has seen falling profits. Furthermore, most airlines make their big bucks with their business class seats. Since a single business class ticket brings in almost 10 times the money compared to an economy class ticket, it wouldn’t bode well for airlines to skimp on the service provided to business class ticket holders. Hence, the necessity to cut costs is pushed onto the economy class, and we are left with an inferior flying experience.
Until and unless we stop purchasing dirt-cheap tickets, airlines will continue to benefit off of our willingness to settle for the absolute worst.