Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Most airline executives think they’re quite clever.
When they introduce something new, they generally feel confident that passengers will put up with it and that it will make their airline more money.
Such was the case with Basic Economy Class.
This is the painful entity — I prefer to call it Sub-Cattle Class — that offers a (supposedly) cheaper fare, doesn’t allow you to upgrade, limits your carry-on to an under-the-seat-in-front size and strives to give you the worst seats on the plane.
It’s really just a pricing strategy, designed to make this class so abhorrent that passengers will want to pay more to avoid it.
How odd, then, that rumors suggest American may be rethinking the product a little.
Jamie Larounis at the Forward Cabin reports that the airline will soon relax the Basic Economy carry-on rules.
He says that Basic Economy passengers will be allowed to bring with them a normal-sized carry-on.
Which would seem one tiny step closer to civilization.
I asked American for its view, only to be told: “We don’t comment on rumors and speculation.”
Which the life-addled might take as not a no.
Why, though, might American have taken this step? One is surely because some Basic Economy passengers ignore the rules.
Last October, for example, an American Airlines Basic Economy passenger said he fell into a spirited debate with a gate agent about the size of his carry-on. This led him, he bemoaned, to missing his flight, as he wasn’t keen on paying a $ 50 baggage fee.
Despite the airlines’ best efforts, some passengers still aren’t aware of all the restrictions. Or they just don’t care. They only want cheap and whatever they can get away with.
Moreover, I understand that some American Airlines employees are maddened by the need to police the carry-on restrictions.
They have to check which passengers have the cheapest tickets and then scrutinize their carry-ons for inflation.
They’re already under constant pressure to ensure that planes push back on time. Airlines do adore padding their statistics, even though they’ve already padded flight times to levels approaching the absurd.
Do airline employees really want to be Bag Police, as well as all the other duties they have to perform, sometimes in very cramped environments? Not really.
This may, though, leave some passengers wondering whether there’s much difference between Basic Economy and regular old, slightly more human Economy Class.
With the latter, you can buy a seat at the time you book. With the former, you have to wait until 48 hours before you fly to scan the leftovers — if the seat map really does show you all the genuinely available seats.
Airlines are constantly trying to push the boundaries of what used to be acceptable in order to garner greater profits.
American’s CEO Doug Parker has been quite open in admitting he would love to shove more seats onto planes. Who explained to him this wasn’t the best idea? His own airline’s Flight Attendants.
It will be moving to see whether, at some point in the next year, airlines conclude that Basic Economy isn’t making them as much money as they’d hoped, perhaps because confusion about the rules is delaying departures — which can have a knock-on effect.
Some airlines might even decide that Basic Economy wasn’t really worth it after all.
Passengers and airline employees might even help them make that decision.