India Uncut

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Airport departure lounges suck

Why so? Tim Harford explains:
[T]ravelling first class by rail or air is much more expensive than buying a standard ticket, but since the fundamental effect is to get people from A to B, it may be hard to wring much money out of the wealthier passengers. In order to price-target effectively, companies may have to exaggerate the differences between the best service and the worst. There is no reason why standard-class railway carriages shouldn't have tables, for instance, except that potential first-class customers might decide to buy a cheaper ticket when they see how comfortable standard class has become. So the standard-class passengers have to do without.


The shoddy quality of most airport departure lounges across the world is surely part of the same phenomenon. If the free departure lounges became comfortable, then airlines would no longer be able to sell business-class tickets on the strength of their 'executive' lounges. And it would also explain why flight attendants sometimes physically restrain passengers from the cheap seats from stepping off the plane before the passengers from first and business class. This is a 'service' aimed not at economy-class passengers but at those looking on in pity and disgust from the front of the plane. The message is clear: keep paying for your expensive seats, or next time you might be on the wrong side of the flight attendant.
The excerpt I've quoted is from the first chapter of his book, "The Undercover Economist," which I can't wait to read. I hope it's released in India soon.

Harford, by and by, blogs here, and also writes the entertaining and enlightening column for the Financial Times, 'Dear Economist'.

Update: Here's a review of Harford's book by the Economist.
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