I don’t know why it’s taken so long but based on a recent trip I took (first piece of luggage $20, second piece, $45), it’s pretty obvious that the airlines have finally figured out that the passengers are the problem with their business model.
“You know what we’re doing wrong?” I can hear the CEO of Amalgamated Consolidated Air say at a board meeting. “We’re treating these people like they’re royalty. We give them big luxurious seats, a fold-down tray and then we pamper them with half a can of free soda and a miniature bag of peanuts. Where else would you get that kind of a deal for $1,100 a head?
“Who do they think they are, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip? All we do is give, give, give, and they take advantage of our good nature. Where else would you get all that service for free?”
“By ‘free’ you mean ‘pay through the nose,’ don’t you?” says his chief financial officer.
“If you’re going to quibble over every little word, we’ll never get anything done. What I’m saying is that they’re paying for the seat, not all the little extras we give them like windows, recycled air and working toilets. That stuff cost a fortune, and we’re just giving it away.”
“So you’re thinking of pay toilets?”
“Not until you just mentioned it, but I like it. I like it a lot. Give yourself a million-dollar raise. And give me a two-million-dollar raise. You know that oxygen mask that drops down in case of an emergency? Not any more. Not until you put a ten-dollar bill into a slot on the back of the seat in front of you.”
“Did I tell you that our revenue is down because once we started charging $25 for each piece of luggage, people really cut back on it,” the CFO says.
“Can we charge them for not taking luggage? Like a night club with a two-drink minimum?”
“But we don’t want them to bring their luggage.”
“OK, I’ve just had a brainstorm. Make it $100 for two pieces of luggage, $50 for no luggage. Do I smell a bonus?”
“Why can’t they just take the corporate jet the way we do? I wouldn’t fly coach on one of our planes on a bet.”
“Oh please, I don’t even want to think about it. Cattle veal get more leg room. And better feed.”
“If only people would stop taking things like clothes and toothbrushes with them on business trips and vacations, it would make things so much easier. Why don’t they just leave all their stuff at home and buy new clothes when they get to wherever they’re going, like we do? Why take golf clubs and skis with you? Just buy new ones and leave them in the hotel for the next guy. Pretty soon, no one would have to take anything anywhere.”
“That’s right. When you book a hotel room, you don’t bring your own bed and sheets and TV. No one expects you to bring your own. So why doesn’t every hotel room have a desktop computer and a closet full of clothes in your size? It would save us a ton of money.”
“And if nobody took luggage, we could get rid of the baggage carousel and put something down there that would generate revenue. Like a casino.”
“I like it! Casino Air. It’d be the best thing since riverboat gambling. Look into that, see if we can put slot machines in every seat. Is it legal to gamble eight miles over a state? We could even let them bet on whether their flight will be canceled due to weather or equipment failure, or by how many minutes they’ll miss their connecting flight.”
“You know what’s strange? Here we are in the airline business and the only thing we don’t make money on is the flying. We lose billions and billions of dollars year after year. Why are we doing it? Why don’t we sell the whole thing and get into a business that makes money?”
“But I do make money.”
“I mean for the business, not for yourself.”
“What are you? A communist? I didn’t get to be where I am today by making money. I don’t know anything about that. I’m a CEO, not a miracle worker.”
Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at email@example.com
Copyright 2010, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.