Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Here’s the trend.
As U.S. airlines attempt to lessen their offerings to domestic passengers, they have an eye on the world.
Why, United Airlines just decided to use its more cramped Boeing 777-200 planes on some international flights.
Now along comes American Airlines.
It’s expanding its Basic Economy offering — the one that’s supposedly cheaper, but doesn’t let you bring a full-size carry-on, book a seat in advance, change the flight or go to the restroom (that last one is a joke, so far) — to international flights.
As the Dallas Morning News reports, American is beginning to offer what I prefer to call its Sub-Cattle Class to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.
Just in time for the holidays.
Yes, you too can spend an hour at the airport wondering which middle seat will be yours.
You can also hope that your carry-on won’t offend a gate agent who’s having a bad day and incur a $50 charge for being a few millimeters too large.
The deeper truth, sadly, is that Sub-Cattle Class is a mere pricing ruse.
Airlines want you to feel so bad about the mere idea of tolerating it that you’re prepared to spend more to avoid it.
United Airlines’ CFO Andrew Levy recently admitted this was the case.
This strategy appears to be also working for American in the U.S. So why not expand it across the world?
If you can get passengers used to it on the shorter international flights, you can start to slip it onto the longer ones too.
It used to be that there was a limit that passengers would bear.
If a flight is over a certain length, surely airlines must offer a little more space, food and entertainment in order to stop those passengers from going doolally.
Now, however, airlines have realized that they can take away things that passengers used to think were basic and charge them more for those very things.
Inventive, it isn’t. Hard-hearted, it most certainly is.
The lack of meaningful competition — more than 80 percent of U.S. airplane seats are in the hands of four airline groups — means airlines are in a strong position to dictate.
I cannot confirm that bench seating is their next big idea.