I was flying Spirit a couple of weeks ago, and when I arrived at the gate instead of the Spirit Airlines aircraft I discovered a North American Airlines 757 pulled up at LaGuardia. North American, which used to offer scheduled service between New York and Nigeria, Guyana and some other random locales, now offers charter service to sports teams, politicians and sundry others.
I was actually pretty happy at that sight, as I was dreading Spirit’s legroom situation (the situation is that there is no legroom) and when we boarded we were happy to find ourselves in the non-descript, non-knee-challenging seats of an ancient 757. Added bonus: unlike Spirit they did not charge for sodas and pretzels.
On our return, I found the same situation: North American Airlines plane with in-flight movie (Despicable Me) and free soda. Made my $160 Spirit ticket to Florida over Christmas seem like a bargain.
And it made me think: when we buy a ticket, what are we entitled to? Are we just guaranteeing that we get from here to there? In my case, the replacement aircraft was an improvement. But what if we were on JetBlue? The North American plane, without live TV and the JetBlue legroom, would have been a major disappointment. In fact, a quick search found that this exact situation has happened, with JetBlue offering nominal compensation.
But when they sell a ticket on JetBlue, are they guaranteeing the JetBlue experience, or are they guaranteeing that you’ll get to Fort Lauderdale? If you reserved a room at the Ritz Carlton, they wouldn’t move you to a Courtyard and charge you the same price saying that you’ll be sleeping either way.
What do people think? Are airlines selling the whole experience, or are they just selling the ability to get to your destination? A given airline doesn’t charge more for one of its aircraft outfitted with TV while charging less for aircraft that do not include schmancy amenities. It would suggest that they see no value in in-flight experience (or they feel they’re unable to charge for it). Does a ticket just guarantee you’ll get where you’re going?