The Writing on the Wall

An overheard conversation gets me thinking

For the last 4 days I’ve been in London where I delivered prints for The Bridge and Black Walls show. Martin, Michele and I brainstormed the look and further content for the show and as Martin said, there are few things better than working collaboratively, and it was been a joy.

Returning about 10 pm last night, for reasons unknown, I had a jones on for a big American style breakfast, and I knew just the place to get it this morning.  Great breakfast and the place is deserving of it’s rep. But I won’t rant on about my meals, and except to my son, I don’t send images of them either.

For me eating out, especially when alone, is an occasion to overhear, to easy drop, to invade peoples privacy in a more passive way than when I work.  Today was no different.  In front of me the table for 4 had the usual array of late 20’s early 30’s people, maybe from tech, that SF has so many of.  One, like me, had just been to London and had flown on someplace using a “budget” airline.  For those not familiar with them, amazingly cheap, only a seat and toilet come with the airfare.  The US carrier Frontier has adopted a similar model ("we have unbundled so you pay only for what you want").  So why this post, a comment from another member of the table about what a great idea these “no frills” airlines are, having only to pay for what you want.

I am well into my 6th decade and while my bones hurt a bit, and I get stiff, what follows is not based on my current circumstances.  When I was less than half my age I am now and working for unions, I learned negotiations were tricky – not the usual pushback from the company but the internal membership issue of age:  the young with no families, no health problems - either seen foreseen, and no sense of 40 years down the road needing retirement, wanted their money upfront.  Those starting a family saw the benefit of expanded health benefits and a bit more money up front.  Those near the end wanted bigger and protected pensions, and continuing healthcare.  The conflicts of perceived age related interests is also a prevalent topic in the “marketing” of private health care plans, not to mention the negotiations around the ACA.

How does that relate to this morning’s breakfast table conversation and the talk of how great it was to have a low price to fly, paying you only for what you want/need - it is the same as with the union negotiations I witnessed 30 or 35 years ago, and “rate” setting policies I witnessed much more recently, only you are sold the bill of goods directly.

If you are young and rail thin small seats are just fine.  Hell no seats, a proposal by more than one airline, maybe just fine as well.  You probably won’t need the bathroom either as the young “hold their water” better than those hovering around my age.  Or if you are traveling with kids, well the singles and or those without kids, why should they have to pay for the bathroom they don’t need so others might have it.

And am I the only one that finds it strange that I now pay extra to sit in the emergency row where I will be called upon to assist in an emergency?

Where is the line of “the choice is yours”, all you have to do is pay the fee?  Booking is free but you are charged for everything there after: the boarding pass, the luggage, the carry-on - starting at 1 item, water, seat (not placement but the seat itself), seatbelt, the order of getting off the plane (getting on is already a matter of fees).  Note that if this happens there will be further fees such as: injury due to no seat belt.  After all the fault will be yours because you did not purchase “insurance” when opting for not purchasing a seat belt.  How about a charge to jump the line in the automated information reservation system?

All these are tactics designed to play sides against one another for the benefit of a few “owners” bottom line. 

More importantly they destroy a sense of society, that we are all in this together.  The idea of union is “all for one, one for all” and it is the same for any society, be it a family, a neighborhood, a city, state or nation.  And as we are finally beginning to realize because of global warming, it is true for the world as well.

So just because the ticket is cheap, or at least cheaper, on a airline providing  nothing but “choices for purchase”, we all, together, must remember there is always a price to pay, it will come due now or in the future, but it does come due.

And just to be clear, I don’t think the answer is paying exorbitant prices so that the “owners” can have ever increasing paydays.