January 18, 2018

Travel Thursday: Fair is a Four-Letter Word

One of my favorite blog authors is Eric Barker, who writes thought-provoking and well-researched columns over at Barking Up the Wrong Tree. (He also recently published a book by the same name, if you prefer to do your reading offline.) And to kick off the year, he wrote a great post addressing a popular New Year’s resolution: This Is The Easy Way To Save Money: 6 Powerful Secrets From Research.

I was enjoying the piece thoroughly, as I usually enjoy Eric’s writing. But it was the points around fairness that got me thinking about the airline industry. In the “Fair is a Four-Letter Word” section, Eric points out that sometimes, we allow the concept of fairness to get in our own way. When Uber is applying surge pricing on a rainy day, we might choose to walk rather than ride – even though it’s worth the extra $5 to not arrive soaking wet at our destination. In Dan Ariely’s latest book, he argues that what’s important is a good/service’s worth to us… not whether it’s priced fairly. I think that lesson is one people often forget in dealing with airlines.

Sure, it would suck to pay $15 for a seat that maybe ought to be included in the ticket price… but wouldn’t $15 be worth the relaxation of not having to stand? (This is also a pretty great analogy for premium economy seating, which is now expanding to TATL flights.)

To be crystal clear with an airline example: tickets from New York to LA can cost $100, or they can cost $1000. (Or a lot more than even that.) But if the airlines weren’t flying that route, how would you otherwise get from New York to California? If Amtrak is pricing cross-country train tickets at $250, any flight under that price is already a bargain. Personally, though, I’d pay a big premium to avoid wasting hours and hours on a train. And an even bigger premium to avoid driving myself for even longer, having to buy $300 worth of gas, and not being able to be productive on the way! When taken in the context of the service’s worth, a $500 flight seems downright reasonable.

Next time you’re upset about how expensive flights are, focus on their value to you. How awesome is it that you can go thousands of miles in just a few hours, while barely lifting a finger? Even if the in-flight wifi isn’t working (arghhhh, makes me so frustrated!), you can read a book, do some puzzles, just close your eyes and nap your way around the world – as you’re not in the driver’s seat. Put into that perspective, the airlines that allow us to travel the world so effortlessly are pretty darn amazing.

Happy Flyday!


2 thoughts on “Travel Thursday: Fair is a Four-Letter Word”

  1. I like this topic! Yes, sometimes things are overpriced but I decide whether or not it’s worth it to me to pay that extra money for the convenience of what I’m getting. Sometimes I’m all about being as frugal as possible, and sometimes I’m tired and will pay a lot extra to make something easier for me.

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