I can count on one hand the number of trips I’ve taken by plane. It helps that I have six fingers, but that’s not the point.
The point is that, because I’m relatively unjaded, I still approach air travel with a mixture of awe, trepidation and mistrust. There’s the awe of flying through the air, the trepidation of suddenly and unexpectedly not flying through the air, and the general mistrust of airlines that I also feel for phone and cable companies, mechanics and “extra” insurance on anything. Essentially, I’m your cranky grandfather sitting in a rocking chair yelling at the TV.
Everything I know about the airline industry, of course, could easily fit in an overhead storage compartment. On the other hand, I have to pay extra to check my second bag of ignorance.
Next month I’m flying to Nova Scotia for my parents’ sixtieth anniversary, and I’ve been putting off booking my flight because fares keep bouncing like white-knuckle turbulence. For a while, this particular airline – let’s call it Porker Airlines – offered a flight for $320 return from Montreal to Halifax. When the sale ended, it jumped to $440. About a week later, the price went down again to $320. “Will not be extended!” Porker announced on its website. Foolishly, I did not heed their warning, and when this sale ended, the return flight to Halifax soared all the way to $515.
I felt like such an idiot. But then, quicker than you could say “What happened to $440?” Porker was offering a 50-percent-off sale and we were back at $320.
“It’s nothing but a racket!” says my inner old man on the Barcalounger, shaking his fist, even though I’m sure there’s a simple business reason for these fluctuations in prices. But the beauty of ignorance is that you get to make up your own reasons.
For example, the original seat sale was probably due to the fact that there was some weird smell on Porker’s entire fleet of planes. No one could quite explain it. No one could quite describe it, for that matter. Kind of a wet dog smell with a hint of no-name-brand fabric softener and cardamom, but not quite. More like a combination of morning breath and cherry Chapstick in a room where someone recently ate mulligatawny soup. No, that’s not it either…
It was driving the Porker people bonkers! One plane, sure, but the entire fleet? It was baffling (which is an airline term meaning “this close to plummeting to the earth”). Naturally, Porker couldn’t sell such stinky seats at full price. Thus, the discount.
In the end, it turned out that those pranksters in air traffic control had smeared kitchen-scrap compost on all the landing gear, which is another reason to fret about air safety.
Once they got all that figured out and fumigated, Porker could then bump the price back up to $440.
That went well for awhile until some idiot in marketing launched that ad campaign entitled “Porker? Barely Flew Her!” This was very possibly the worst airline slogan since Ostensible Airlines’ “Arrive Alive or Your Money Back!” Sales took a nosedive in reverse proportion to the outrage on Twitter (#ClearThePunway #HarePlanedIdea #PorkerPigs). Consequently, back to the seat sale.
After they recovered the black box on this disaster and somehow managed to pin the blame on a guy named Kenny in Baggage (his whereabouts are currently unknown), Porker execs decided that the best way to counter their shoddy image was to go posh. They pressurized the cabins of all their flights with high-ozone Himalayan air (“guaranteed compost-free!”) and equipped each seat with its own personal panini press. (“Ask your attendant about her prosciutto!”)
But the piece-de-resistance (an airline term meaning “costs more”) was booking Hawaiian music icon Don Ho to perform live on select flights through the month of May. “We have to jack up the price to $515,” the executives declared, “because he ain’t no cheap Ho.”
Unfortunately, they failed to recognize that Don Ho unfortunately died in 2007. That’s why, in embarrassment, Porker had to once again reduce fares, drop their “Go With the Ho” campaign and quickly cover up with their “No Mo’ Ho” seat sale.
None of this makes much sense, of course, but I take a certain comfort in the presumed incompetence because, unlike the bizarre workings of the airline industry, at least it’s something I understand only too well.