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Oh NY Times, Please Stop Writing about Airlines

The NY Times offers an article this morning (on its front page, no less) that I suppose is supposed to be about how airlines have upped the amenities in international first class. It is, like many airline-related Times stories before it, a jumble of nonsense (save, of course, for the quotes from Cranky Flier). To wit:

The piece starts by saying how economy class travelers will pay for bad food and have cramped seats this holiday season. Very original. Then they contrast that with the massages, multi-course meals and limo rides that you get in international first class. But the suggestion that you are paying for food in coach while it’s “free” in first class is ludicrous. A coach seat from New York to, say, Sydney is $1600. A first class seat on Emirates is $27,000. That “free” massage, limo ride and meal will cost roughly the price of a Volkswagen Passat. So much for free.

Then comes the obligatory paean to the good-old-days: “Until the 1980s, first class was roomier than coach, but not all that fancy. The seats in the front offered more legroom but did not recline more than 40 degrees.” But according to this article, Philippines Airlines and JAL had flat beds in the early 1980s, if not sooner.

And of course memories of how great coach food was back then: “The food was better in first class too, though even the meals in coach were better than they are now.” How quickly we forget that airline food was a joke. And as I’ve written here before, it was so often a joke made by comics that eventually the joke was how often comics joked about airline food. It was not better then, and it’s not particularly good now.

And who is flying in first class? “Obviously the first-class passenger is a very senior person in his company, coming a long way around the world, and probably doing something very important for his business,” said John Slosar, the chief executive of Cathay Pacific Airways.” Or someone cashing in miles, of course.

“First class has also served as a lab for in-flight amenities that eventually trickled down to the rest of the plane. Individual screens are now found in the seatbacks in coach.” Because JetBlue installed them. In coach.

“Delta Air Lines and Qatar Airways, by contrast, do not have a first class, just business and coach.” Except Qatar Airways DOES have first class. It said it would remove first class from some aircraft that had yet to be delivered. But many current aircraft have first class.

And the piece wraps up with a frequent flyer saying how awesome first class was. Except he used miles to sit up there.

I’m really not even sure what the point of this piece was — while it is saying how airlines are upping their game in first class, as the same time it is saying how airlines are removing first class cabins (or shrinking the number of seats). Really, if there’s a story, it’s that business class has become what first class was. This idea is given a passing glance, but that’s a more interesting story than whatever this was.

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  1. You aren’t sure what this article is about? It’s about OWS. 1%’s vs. the rest of us. Read the comments – the NY Times readers get it. Sure, the commenters completely ignore the economics of it (that without the fare class structure, prices would be higher, not lower, for everyone). But they got the article’s underlying message (that the gap between rich and poor is growing) loud and clear.

  2. It’s probably a PR play. Ever see an article saying “Suits are back!”? See this article by Paul Graham about these kinds of articles: http://www.paulgraham.com/submarine.html

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