New York — Major US airlines announced today a new pricing model for air travel. Zero airfares. Free.
The airlines have decided to unbundle all aspects of air travel. Customers will only pay for the services they desire. If they avoid all services, they will fly for free.
The airline CEOs as a group issued a statement with this announcement heralding the coming of free air travel, emphasizing their long commitment to customer service and safety.
Here are some examples of service charges:
Luggage: $100 per piece; no carry-on luggage allowed as overhead luggage bins will be removed, which will allow much more rapid boarding and exiting of the aircraft.
Drinks: Range from $10 for a bottle of water, $20 for a soft drink, $30 for beer, $40 for wine, and $50 for liquor.
Snacks: $10 for each packet of pretzels, peanuts or cookies; snack boxes for $50. A single concierge using pre-stocked vending carts will vend all drinks and snacks.
Sales Period: From the time the boarding door is closed until the plane backs away from the gate, there will be a one-hour period during which items may be purchased from the concierge. There will be no in-flight sales. All flight times will be increased by one hour to accommodate this period and assure passengers on-time arrivals.
Bathrooms: $20 per use, $30 if the bathroom light is activated, no toilet paper or hand towels provided. Bathrooms will be cleaned as often as once per week.
Seats: No assigned seats, no seat numbers, business class eliminated allowing a major increase of seats on each plane. Larger planes will be configured to carry 500 passengers.
Safety: $50 for seat belts, $100 for flotation device under seat, flight attendants are eliminated, replaced by the single concierge noted above who has no safety responsibilities. A single pilot will fly each plane.
Insurance: $100 premium required per person, with the airlines being the beneficiary. Otherwise, passengers must sign “fly at your own risk” waiver of any possible airline responsibility.
Penalties: Passengers’ credit cards will be automatically charged the following penalties: $50 for snoring, $100 for crying baby or barking dog, $200 for each unruly child
Airport lounges are eliminated, as are concourse seating and food services as well as other retail. Passengers are loaded first come first serve via turnstiles similar to subways. No one is provided priority, not handicapped, elderly, or children. Gate agents are eliminated.
The airlines project that these new offerings will result in huge increases in revenues as well as substantial decreases of costs, particularly for airline personnel. With airline liability being eliminated, they expect dramatic decreases of insurance costs. Indeed, any major aircraft accident will result in a windfall due to the aforementioned insurance.
To compensate terminated airline employees, rather than severance pay, each terminated employee will receive 100,000 frequent flyer points in the new program described below. These awards are valid for six months and can be used any weekday except for holiday weeks. Employees will, of course, be eligible for free travel as outlined above.
Each passenger will be required to provide credit card information prior to each flight. They will be automatically charged for each service and consumable, detected in part via an extensive onboard sensor network. This will enable customers to pay instantly any penalty or service purchase. The airlines expressed their commitment to providing detailed electronic receipts within 30 days after each flight.
Finally, the airlines frequent flyer programs will be completely revamped. The concept of free tickets for points will be eliminated, reflecting the fact that tickets will now be free. Further, upgrades will be unavailable with only a single class of service available. Points will now be usable for onboard entertainment. Four classes of entertainment will be available — Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond — and earned via cumulative onboard expenditures rather than miles flown. The normal $100 entertainment fee will be discounted by 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%, respectively, for these four classes of passengers.
The executives commented, “We realize that the lost of first class upgrades and possible free vacations reflects a major change. However, we are confident that the increased quality of our online entertainment will be an enormous hit with our customers. Our Diamond Members, with 100% entertainment discounts, may even take free flights just for the opportunity to compete, for free, in our online games. We expect to be seen as a major entertainment venue.”
Industry pundits reacted to this announcement with skepticism. One suggested that frequent flyers would game the system and judiciously avoid any fees. Another suggested that people would form teams to take flights in mass to assure airlines lose money. One airline spokesperson said, “Our abilities to instantaneously change fees and implement new fees will be akin to pari-mutuel betting. For each flight, we will know how much we need to charge passengers’ credit cards to be profitable. We will adjust fees accordingly once the concierge period is over.” When asked about the possibility of passengers paying far more than they expect, she responded, “Flying has always been risky.”