May 24, 2018 | Kendall Creighton Is economy travel just for the little people? News broke last week that American Airlines CEO Doug Parker still hasn’t sat in Economy Class on his newest and tightest aircraft, the Boeing 737MAX. Admittedly, nobody “wants” to fly economy, but shouldn’t the managers of an airline know what it’s like? Also newsworthy was that AA is reducing space for its First Class and Main Cabin Extra tier. So, the airline doesn’t seem to be catering to its high-revenue customers either. Are they trying to become Spirit Airlines? When the top brass is willfully blind and oblivious to the marketplace It’s likely Parker will never fly in the back, not only because he knows it’s awful, but because conventional wisdom among airline CEOs is that customers will put up with anything as long as it’s cheap. It is the “all customers care about is price” narrative. A CEO only has to declare that consumers want cheap fares above anything else, when the reality is that many passengers have no choice. There used to be choices in airlines. Not any more. Obviously, people take airfares into account. But you cannot over-generalize and presume people will universally put up with rubbish to save $10. Meanwhile, airlines have doubled down on greed. Remember the $25 baggage fee imposed during the high-priced fuel era 10 years ago when a barrel of oil was approaching $150? The airlines imposed that fee, as well as a fuel-surcharge fee, ostensibly to cover the high fuel cost. Then after the cost of fuel collapsed in 2014-18 they kept both baggage fees and fuel-surcharge in effect. It should also be mentioned that following the spike in fuel costs, most of the airlines followed the example of Southwest and begin to purchase fuel on the commodity market, further enhancing their profits off baggage fees and the fuel surcharge. Now they make billions in profit off unnecessary “bag fees.” The public is being fleeced. FlyersRights.org has invited intervention by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and legislation by Congress to protect the health of passengers and provide refuge from the “public-be-damned” CEOs like Parker. Make no mistake, competition is a good thing. FlyersRights.org has pushed the DOT to vigorously enforce existing antitrust regulations and break down the oligopolist business models that exploit the lack of competition that currently exists in the airline industry. Nearly all air travel is miserable We often get asked why is Spirit the most profitable airline in the U.S. when it treats passengers so poorly. Because passengers are tricked by low-ball, too-good-to-be-true base airfares on Internet search engines – not knowing about the fee-heavy pricing model. So, by the time passengers have paid all the gotcha fees, the airfare can be as much as or more than the big three legacy airlines, or Alaska Airlines, JetBlue or Southwest. The bias has swung even further in favor of airlines and against beleaguered flyers. We have a DOT administrator who plays down the stripping away of consumer protections, allowing intentionally dishonest and deceptive pricing practices. Are the best days behind us? Maybe, but there is so much room for improvement. Don’t accept poor service, poor treatment and poor attitude as part of the flying experience. Hit back and report substandard behavior. Also, always opt out of body scanners and file a complaint at tsa.gov. Don’t get angry, get even!