WEL­COME

Business Traveller - - WELCOME - Tom Ot­ley Edi­to­rial di­rec­tor

Our fea­ture on the new hand-bag­gage only econ­omy fares be­ing of­fered by many air­lines (p48) points out that it is an ex­ten­sion of what air­lines have been pro­vid­ing on short haul for two decades. We all like a bar­gain, and we like choice. By strip­ping out the ex­tras and then al­low­ing us to pick what we want in­cluded, air­lines are us­ing tech­nol­ogy for our ben­e­fit, or so the ar­gu­ment goes. Yet, we al­ready know that the more com­pli­cated a de­ci­sion is, the more likely it is we will make a mis­take, es­pe­cially when on the in­ter­net. That sim­ple click-through to the bas­ket can mean we for­get to in­clude checked bags or to choose seat se­lec­tion, as­sum­ing (wrongly) that if we are trav­el­ling with some­one and on the same book­ing, we will be au­to­mat­i­cally seated to­gether.

So here’s an anal­ogy. We once worked for one or two com­pa­nies all our life, paid into a pen­sion plan, and then re­tired to en­joy a de­cent in­come pro­vided by our em­ploy­ers. Then em­ploy­ers re­alised that they couldn’t af­ford it, and those pen­sions evap­o­rated for the next gen­er­a­tion. The same hap­pened with the air­lines. Legacy car­ri­ers saw the prof­its taken by low-cost air­lines (our fault, we booked with them), and so those all-in­clu­sive fares have come un­der threat.

We live in a great time for travel. We have never had the choice of so many desti­na­tions, with so many fre­quen­cies, from so many air­lines. At the cheap end we have never had such low prices, and at the top end, never had so much com­fort. So what’s not to like?

Well, noth­ing, if you keep your wits about you. But it’s a case of caveat emp­tor, and we have to be con­fi­dent enough to con­trol ev­ery as­pect of our jour­neys. The air­lines are get­ting very smart at in­creas­ing an­cil­lary rev­enue (ie, charg­ing us ex­tra for things). As we re­ported on­line, be­fore long you’ll have per­son­alised fares de­pend­ing on… well ev­ery­thing that’s per­sonal about you. Wel­come to the new world of air travel.

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