I took great umbrage at a very silly column by Christopher Elliott suggesting that coach passengers were ‘subsidizing’ the comfort of business class passengers.
That’s a strange idea given the spread between economy and business fares. Here are the cheapest advance purchase fares Delta has currently filed between New York and London:
And here are the business class fares on Delta without the benefit of advance purchase discounts:
There’s one flight, though, for which Elliott could be right: the Pope’s charter!
The press corps arguably subsidize papal travel.
…the dirty little secret of papal travel is that the press corps actually subsidizes the pope’s movements, since the roughly 70 reporters on the plane are asked to pay business class airfare in order to fly in coach. Since the 30 members of the pope’s entourage who fly in business aren’t paying anything, this means the cost of the charter is borne almost entirely by the people in steerage.
Now, I don’t think that’s actually right. Coach passengers are paying more than business class passengers, but that doesn’t mean coach passengers are subsidizing those in business.
There are a limited number of seats available on the plane. More journalists want seats than there are seats to go around. So those seats are priced at a profit, they’re rationed on the basis of price.
Meanwhile the reason those seats are so desirable is because the Pope is on the plane. He’s creating the flight’s value in the first place. His compensation is merely in the form of travel for himself and his entourage.
The idea that the media — who are getting access and the ability to file stories that those on the ground cannot — are subsidizing the Pope (rather than the Pope subsidizing the news business) is rather bizarre.
But at least we’ve finally found a flight where Elliott could be right. Although it takes putting him in opposition to the Pope to get there.