David J. Danto
Principal Consultant, Collaboration/ AV / Multimedia / Video / UC
Director of Emerging Technology
Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance
If Airlines Were Restaurants
Some years ago a very popular and funny article called “If Airlines Sold Paint” made fun of the arcane and ridiculous pricing models that commercial airlines used for their ticketing.
Airlines have come a long way since then, but most of the changes haven’t helped the flying public – made up of business and leisure travelers. Instead, they’ve helped airline management and investors at the expense of the flying public – and usually also at the expense of airline employees. So to bring this examination by contrast concept forward into the modern age of air travel, I present If Airlines Were Restaurants.
Customer: Hi, I’d like a table for two please.
Restaurant: Welcome to our restaurant sir. Regrettably we don’t have any tables available right now. Our first available reservation is in six hours.
Customer: I don’t understand – I see that entire section empty – there has to be over a hundred empty tables!
Restaurant: Well, yes – those tables are empty, but all the plates, cutlery, dishes and other tools needed to service that empty space have been stored in a desert for the last few years. We’re only servicing customers from these twenty-five tables on this side. Regrettably (for you) that puts them in high demand.
Customer: Those are twenty-five tables? It looks like one big table with everyone squeezed together in a tiny room.
Restaurant: Well, yes. In order for us to minimize our cost of operation we’ve had to squeeze everyone much closer together into this one small room that used to only hold a few tables. As you can see, the diners here realize they have no choice, so the table is always full. It really never gets any better.
Customer: That’s awful. OK, I’ll take the reservation in six hours.
Restaurant: I’m sorry again sir, but in the time we’ve been talking about it the reservation available in six hours was sold to somebody else. The next available reservation will be two days from now.
Customer: Well, that’s just insane. I don’t have to take this, I’ll go to another restaurant.
Restaurant: Sir, the government has allowed most of the restaurants chains to merge. Many of the locations that used to serve food are now closed. There are only four major restaurant chains right now, and I think you’ll find that we all have about the same number of service items stored in the desert. We’ve also made sure to consolidate our operations, so that the likelihood of you being able to eat at another restaurant near ours is very low – you’d have to travel a long way – to another state – to find another restaurant.
Customer: What would you do if I opened my own restaurant down the block?
Restaurant: Oh, sir, you’d never be able to open your own restaurant. While in theory you are allowed to compete with us in a free-market economy, nowadays you’d need a heck of a lot of money to buy the needed restaurant equipment. The only place to get that kind of funding is from bankers and Wall Street investors, and they wouldn’t give it to you because they want us to keep the number of diners low to artificially inflate the price of a meal. Our blue plate special for example -- the one that used to cost $300 -- now costs $600 -- and that’s just for the food. If you want plates, forks, knives, napkins, water or anything else with that – those will be extra charges. The typical blue plate special is now actually $900…then an extra $100 for the natural gas surcharge to cook it.
Customer: Natural gas prices are rock bottom now. Why is there still a surcharge?
Restaurant: Once we restaurants add a surcharge for any reason it never goes away. $1,000 is the total meal actual cost…unless of course you had changed the time of your reservation before you arrived – that would be an additional $200 tacked-on as well.
Customer: $1,000 for a blue plate special!!!! What are you nuts! Your waiters and waitresses must be millionaires by now…
Restaurant: Well, actually, no. We fired all our waiters and waitresses. Can you believe they actually wanted health and pension benefits from us just for working seven days a week, 24 hours a day? We replaced them with an outsourcing company that supplies us workers and pays them minimum wage and no benefits.
Customer: Do outsourced workers do their job with the same care and skill?
Restaurant: Of course not, but the extra money left over can be used to pay our management extra millions in compensation, the reduced operating costs drive up our stock price…and then, on top of that, the stock options we pay our management also go up in value.
Customer: I’ve just about had it with this situation. I don’t care how much it will cost, I have the money saved in a family trust, I’m going to open up my own restaurant down the block and give you some competition anyway.
Restaurant: Oh, no sir. You can’t open up competition down the block from us. We own all the restaurant slots in this neighborhood. You can’t just have one because you want one. You’d have to buy one from us…and they’re not for sale.
Customer: So what you’re saying is that even if I had the money and could invest in my own restaurant, you can prevent me from accessing the needed slot to run a restaurant? The whole point of de-regulating restaurants years ago was to increase free-market competition to the benefit of the consumer. What it apparently actually did is allow a small cabal of restaurant companies to control the whole market so that competition is actually impossible. You’ve made your management and Wall Street wealthy while cutting jobs and job benefits, and at the same time artificially reducing consumer options by arbitrarily removing previously available choices and alternatives.
Restaurant: Yes, yes! That’s it! We’re so happy we had this opportunity to listen to your thoughts and needs - because they are so important to us - and explain how they influence our management decisions. We know you have a choice when picking restaurants and we appreciate that you picked ours (instead of traveling to the next state at your cost and finding only more of the same limited choices.)
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.