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.