Frank Bruni packs a ton of complaints about aviation into a single New York Times column, which really is meant as an allegory for his complaints about society as a whole.
He packs a lot of disparate complaints into one column!
- lack of infrastructure investment
- poor manners
The ‘rich get richer’ theme doesn’t especially work in aviation, at least in the US context he’s describing since
- airfares have gotten far lower over time in inflation-adjusted dollars, even after including all add-on fees and even with the run-up over the past two years.
- legroom hasn’t gotten materially worse, even with JetBlue adding seats and American adding seats. In fact US carriers have been adding extra legroom seating that offer a mid-range product between economy and first class, it’s easy to forget that “economy plus” is relatively new.
- first class has been getting substantially worse (it’s become for the most part just a bigger seat)
Poor manners, sure. And plenty of airports poorly connected to the cities they serve (though many major metropolitan areas are well-connected, and one feature of the US itself is sprawling population centers that are much harder to connect to public transit than the clustered cities of Europe and Asia).
But it’s very much not that US airlines are giving more and more to the top flyers and less and less to everyone else… everyone gets less and less, at a lower price, with an option to spend the difference to buy up to a better experience.
Don’t get me wrong, like everyone else I want more for less. But it’s just not accurate to say we’re getting less for more, or at least unambiguously so.
Ironically enough, I very much agree with the conclusion of the piece:
Some blot out all of this sorting with Candy Crush. Some seethe. Too many of us lose sight of more than the earth. We forget that simply being up in the air is an experience that others seldom if ever get. If there’s one thing in even shorter supply than legroom, it’s empathy.
At the end of the day everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy.
(HT: Larry M.)
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