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View Diary: Abbreviated Pundit Round-up (108 comments)

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  •  The Atlas Piece Bugs Me (25+ / 0-)

    because it focuses on the most obvious "class" markers of air travel without interrogating their causes.  It's all this was great and now it sucks.  Atlas wants to argue, implicitly, that air travel was more special for all of us forty or fifty.  But who is "all of us"?

    The Google pointed me to this article, which actually provides some data:

    -- in the US, three times as many people fly today as in 1970, and
    -- ticket prices are one-third as expensive today.

    That picture Atlas drew of the happy old days of flying -- that was a more exclusive time, with travelers in effect treated like business-class passengers at the least.

    So why do airlines have these first-class and super-duper-luxury-class accommodations?  Because there's a market for it.  And, because we all end up on the same plane (except when the super-rich are on their own planes), we see those seats.  I mean, we all know that hotels have luxury suites, which most of us never see, but on an airplane they can't remain hidden.

    So the same market forces that have led to the democratization of air travel, trading comfort and perks for affordability, have also created hugely expensive seating for those who are willing to pay more.  Yawn.

    I fly a lot for work, mostly domestic but occasionally further.  Ninety percent of the time, I'm in coach, including for almost all my longer flights (the longer the flight, the higher the number of fliers with more miles than me).  This world Atlas describes of bent-kneed passengers looking down at a world of litter, I don't know what he's talking about.  I'm not small -- 5'10", 200 pounds -- but I can sit comfortably in the seats.  I've been in rows with three large men, and we've all made it work.  I've endured the hardship of the person in front of me putting their seat all the way back, making it hard to set up my laptop -- so I read instead.  And all of us -- except the toddlers -- we all give our trash to the attendants and mirabile dictu there isn't a sea of refuse at our feet.

    And for those who can't stand the constant class reminders of first-class, fly Southwest, which is all coach.  It's the most consistently profitable airline, and they make a big joke out of providing no-frills travel.  People know what they're paying for, and they like it.

    A 47% return on investment--that's pretty doggoned good!

    by deminva on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 04:54:22 AM PDT

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