Free to Fly

While traveling last week, I started thinking about the recent trend in airlines.  Gone are the days of buying a plane ticket and being done. Now, you are constantly running into more ways to pay, many times for things you use to get free. Off the top of my head, i can recall being offered the chance to pay extra for the following

  1. Checking bags
  2. Buying bonus miles
  3. Upgrading your seat to a Premium economy seat
  4. Upgrading to 1st/Business class
  5. Premier boarding
  6. Movies
  7. Food

I’m sure there were more than that too. All of that got me thinking that airlines are like the worst implementation of Free to Play (F2P) game.

For one thing, the cash shop items often feel like requirements rather than bonuses. While you can do without being in 1st Class or getting bonus miles, you often need to check a bag. If you’re gone for more than a few days, you need more stuff than can fit in a carry on bag.  Likewise, if you have a really long flight, food can feel like a requirement.

So the airlines have a situation where they aren’t Free to Fly (F2F) but you still need to buy stuff from the item shop just to play the game (err fly). They really try and pimp the other items too. Those people who paid for premium seats got special thanks from the flight crew. Those that had premium boarding got to walk aboard the plan through a special carpeted lane. How fancy is that? A dirty carpet placed on top of the terminals even dirtier carpet that only then can walk on. Totally worth paying for.

How can the airlines get away from this crappy implementation? They could go back to the old model where everything’s included when you buy the box (err, purchase a ticket). This might require raising the price of the tickets. Would that be so bad?

Given the trend, I would imagine they think so.  Every game’s F2P now, why shouldn’t airlines fully embrace this model? Get rid of ticket purchases entirely.

Allow anyone to Fly for Free. You can show up at the airport and board any plane you want without having to pay a cent. Your flight will be subsidized by those willing to buy from the cash shop.

You might wonder what the airlines could sell that would make up for the loss of ticket sales? Like with F2P games, convenience items.  F2F travelers would have to wait in a queue to get on a flight. But you can buy a token from the cash shop to move you to the head of the line.

Another thing they can sell would be upgrades to superior seats. The standard F2F seat doesn’t come with cushions. It’ll get you there but if you want to ride in style, you need to pay.

F2F travelers also wouldn’t have a lot of storage space. No carry on or checked luggage without paying. First bag space upgrade isn’t to expensive but it ramps up quickly.

But the airlines already do many of these things, how will they really make up the money difference? Sell ad space. F2F seats can have monitors that play commercials for the entire flight. Companies can buy a F2F seat and cover it in their logos and ads.  To turn the commercials off you need to pay. To turn the volume down, you need to pay.

Wouldn’t this be a better flying experience? You could travel across the country FOR FREE.

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