Markets: Controlling Them And How They React


Some time ago airlines would price their tickets in whatever manner they priced their tickets.  We would buy them through travel agents or, if we were daring, but them from the airline directly.  Over time, and with emerging technology, we became good at finding deals.  I still remember my dad calling from Minnesota on a Tuesday, telling me he was coming to Seattle that Thursday.  See, Northwest would blowout sale their empty planes to certain destinations.

Downside?  No lead time.  Upside?  Retired teachers with nothing to do get to see family often and cheap.

Then we discovered “aggregaters”.  These were the engines on line that would allow you to shop all the airlines at once.  You know, trevlocity, orbitz, expedia, whatever.  And the airlines, and is, LOVED it.  It not only made it easier to shop, but by posting price, airlines were forced to compete ’cause whenever people have a choice to fly from Dallas to Fargo with all things being equal, they choose, wait for it, the lowest price.

So, right after WE figured that out so did the airlines.  In response to the demand for cheaper and cheaper seats, they had to find ways to bring the TICKET price down but still make the profit margin they were used to.  See, it turns out that orphans and grandmothers don’t invest their trust funds in mutual funds that buy companies that don’t turn a profit.  I know I know, the greed surrounding orphans and grandmothers is gross, immense and very ugly, but alas, that is the nature of orphans and grandmothers.  Anyway, so the airline decoupled the price of a person and the price of a piece of luggage.  Now the ticket prices for their seats would be lower and we would buy those cheaper tickets.

Nothing else changed.

The total cost, over time, of flying remained the same, only now it was two line items, not one.  Wanna fly from St. Louis to Bangor?  $375.00 please.  Or, if you want, I can split that up and charge you $340.00 for the ticket and $35.00 for the two bags.  No change, just accounting.

Annoying?  Perhaps, if you’re less enlightened.  Or, if you’re like me you try not to pack things that you can buy at your destination.  Diapers, formula, flip flops…whatever.  Or, you learn to pack better.  Or, you ship your luggage, it might actually be cheaper.  Or, just maybe, you accept the fact that the price of luggage is really the price of admission and just deal with it.  Where I really hate this is when I’m behind the guy that wastes 40 minutes trying to shuffle items from one bag to another to get under the 50 lb limit.  Anyway, enough.

The point?

The point is that lawmakers actually think they can make things better.  Baggage fees a pain in the neck?  Make ’em illegal:

WASHINGTON One of the most loathed aspects of holiday air travel – paying to check bags – is at the center of a growing debate that does not look to be resolved soon. Travelers who could otherwise be spending $50 on an extra gift must instead use it to buy their Samsonite a round-trip ticket in the bowels of an airplane. The anger over increasing fees has gained the attention of Washington, pitting some members of Congress against the airline industry.
U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell joined other federal lawmakers last week to press airlines to scale back their baggage fees. Kissell, a Democrat who represents Charlotte and Concord, proposed legislation that would allow travelers to check one free bag on each flight. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., introduced a similar bill in the Senate. To date, no Republicans support either bill.
All fine and dandy, I guess.  But I wonder if these lawmakers are aware that flying people from Kissimmii to Detroit [why ANYone would fly from Florida to De’troilet is beyond me] costs real money and that by making it illegal to charge real money for one thing means that it raise the price of the other legal thing.

If congress wants to choose higher airline tickets over free baggage, that’s fine.  I guess.  I just wonder why congress feels that decision is up to them?

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