31 July 2007

And the "gap" just keeps growing

We knew they didn't want to sit next to us; now we learn that don't even want to sit near to us!

The relatively recent emergence of first-class-only airlines has, it seems, really started to take off. In another newspaper report (NYT) - they just keep coming! - there's talk of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic launching their own rival versions of Eos and MAXjet, Silverjet - three of the better known such airlines flying between New York and London.

NYT: Mr. [Richard] Branson said that Virgin’s research showed a “mood change in the last five years” among business travelers, who “want to sit in an airplane with people who are also working.”

“It’s a status thing,” he added, “and a psychological thing.”

About three months ago I had the chance to try one of these airlines out for myself - part of my Global Mobilities research project - and there wasn't a lot of working as far as I could tell (see pic from Eos). I'm pretty sure that's just a convenient pretext for the "status thing" Richard Branson talks about.

This exclusivity comes at a tax-subsidized price of about, for New York-London round-trip walk-up fares, of $5,400 (Eos), $3,300 (SilverJet) and $2,600 (MAXJet) - compared with a standard fare transatlantic ticket of about $800. That's tax-subsidized because these are mostly corporate dollars which we all subsidize in one way or another. Having said which, these are bargain-basement prices compared with, say, the $16,500 to $18,500 one pays for a first-class Seatle-London return ticket with British Airways - I kid you not: check it out (next post) - or the tens of thousands for a trip with a private flight with NetJets.

All this, and still 1.1 billion people live each day without safe drinking water (WHO)


No comments: