Back more than thirty years ago when I went to college in Los Angeles and flew back to New York to visit my family, I recall paying (well actually my parents did) $99 each way to fly from L.A. to New York. It was a really good deal then. Translated into today’s dollars that round trip would cost more than $300 each way or a roundtrip fare of over $600. Anyone that has flown recently is aware that a round trip coast to coast fare for less than $600 can be purchased rather easily.
So even with skyrocketing airline fuel costs, the cost of air travel today continues to be less (inflation adjusted) than what would be expected. Is it possible that airline travel is too cheap? Well maybe in terms of the kind of service you receive flying domestically in the USA. However most people I talk to don’t feel airline travel is inexpensive. People seem to wax nostalgically about the halcyon days of air travel with better meal service, more attractive and attentive flight attendants and smaller crowds. Of course it’s easy to forget that until 1988 people could smoke cigarettes on airplanes – I doubt many people wish to return to that particular practice. Here’s a video of those not-so-good old days – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_caR1bkOEg
Cheap (or cheaper) airline travel has enabled many people who heretofore could not have traveled by air to afford to fly to see family, friends, do business or take a vacation. Would people today be so willing to fly to Las Vegas (just as an example) from New York if the round-trip fare was $1,000 or more?
While it’s true that the level of service on airlines has dropped overall and yet at the same time air travel is being segmented such that the ‘Elite’ traveler continues to receive something reminiscent of the ‘classier’ airline service of the past, while the ‘proletariat’ (low-fare) traveler is taking what amounts to be an air bus – literally. But then the low-fare traveler would not have been able to do that thirty or more years ago. At that time air travel was still considered to be a bit of a luxury. Today, airline travel, if nothing else is…a commodity. And if you agree that airline travel today is a commodity – is that a bad thing?
Here in 2011 people think nothing of hopping on a plane to do whatever strikes their fancy. They can use a myriad of online services to check out the lowest fare and if that’s the driving force they can get to where they are going – perhaps not directly and maybe even with three or more connections, cheaply and for the most part safely. This is not only true in the U.S. but something I’ve noticed when traveling in China and Asia in general. There is not much ‘class’ in airline travel anymore as it’s become a tool for the masses. I think that’s a positive thing and something people overlook more often than not.
People like to complain (I’m among them) and ignore basic facts such as airline travel is cheaper than it’s ever been and airfare costs are not usually the determining factor on whether to fly somewhere – or not.
So the next time you have to fly somewhere and you go for the lowest cost think about that cost being 3 times what you are quoted and ask yourself would you still be doing it?