Tuesday, February 24, 2009

LCCs: A Study in Tyranny

What is low cost? It is not value for money. It is not competitiveness - better value for money. It is what it says it is - low cost.

Low cost of production. You get exactly what you deserve. Because of the low cost, many of the facilities that the public has taken for granted are not provided.

So, if you go low cost, it means that you have decided that you can do without a lot of things.

What are these? All these things come under the heading of No Options. You have absolutely no options. (In political terms, you have no right.) You do exactly what the small print says.

1. Price. You make a forward contract and this is the price. The future price is lower than the spot price because the seller wants to lock in a certain amount of capture which should be sufficient to cover the cost of that operation. The spot prices are there to make a profit. If the forward contracts are not sufficient, then launch another so-called promotion. If still insufficient, consolidate operations. So, no way is the seller going to refund your money back. Hence, there is no need to invest in any communications with customers - whatever they want, the answer is "No, didn't you read the contract?"

2. Date. Any change of date is to be discouraged because of the costs involved. They need to rent a place and hire the people and pay the communications bill. To discourage any change of mind, impose a charge for the change as much as making a new contract so that, price wise, it makes no sense for the buyer in making any changes.

3. Ground Infrastructure. If possible, there will be no infrastructure. If possible, they would ask you to wait in an abandoned lot, but unfortunately the size of the carrier does not allow that to happen. Som you are given a basic shed to wait in, for which you pay a nominal sum. This is low cost. You get what you pay for. If possible, you will be ask to climb up the carrier in a rope. But that may discourage too many customers. If possible, they would want you to luge your stuff with you subject to a limit because they do not want to spend too much time or money doing things for you. Whatever they do, they want to make sure that they get something extra out of you. For example seating.

4a. Free Seating. Seating seems to be a big thing in the worldview of ordinary human beings. As if a sign of great egalitarianism, there is free seating. You queue up to be certified to board but because of the super long free space that exists between the door of the holding hall and the door of the carrier, this passage is a study in free competition. You will see that the experienced and the young and the strong will move rapidly forward. Understandably, there used to be a handicap given to those of 55 and above, families with young children. But such welfare provisions have been toughened. Now, only those 65 and above, and only those who pay for the option to board first.

4b. No Free Seating. From great egalitarianism, comes totalitarianism. No Free Seating. These buggers are very clever. They observe customer behaviour, and change their rules and their pricing. All the favourite places on the carrier have been noted and now come under a charge if you want to seat there. If the carrier is half empty (not surprising, given their recent trickery), you will see that all the favourite seats are left empty. (It is not dissimilar to the abandoning of a first-class futuristic travel station for a shed.) Everybody else is preassigned by the computer to a seat not of their choice, and true to their evil intention, you have to pay to change your seat.

Nonetheless, there are a few things I wish to commend travelling low cost:

1. Alertness. LCCs train you to be alert. You have to be alert to book early. For that, you have to be alert about your whole year calender.You have to be alert to queue up. You have to be alert to know where to sit (now no more, taken over by computer).

2. Patience. LCCs train you to be patience. Because of the tightness of their schedules, there is really no time to service the carrier except when you are sitting onboard. It is servicing as and when trouble arises - no pre-emptive. (I suppose travelling on LCCs is like playing Russian roulette.) But if you are not onboard, you have to wait in the shed because they really make the carriers work very hard and there is a know-on effect. If the trouble starts early in the day, the last one of the day could be delayed for hours. You have to be patient - bring a book and some drinks.

3. Exercise. If your doctor tells you that you have to strengthen your legs by walking and to strengthen your heart by climbing up and down stairs and that you should have fresh air (rather than breathing recycled air in massive concrete blocks), well travel LCCs. It fulfills all your doctor's recommendations.

4. Food. This is the one thing good if it is short haul. You do not get stale food smells trapped in the carrier. You do not get to over-eat, i.e., eating the stuff you do not need. Even for long haul, I can imagine it to be good if you enjoy sleeping and not wanting to be disturbed.

Conclusion. LCCs are a subject for a study in tyranny for any student of democracy. It is a tyranny of no free options, that a human being has no right unless he or she pays for it. You are controlled by a system that is monitoring you all the time and making you pay for your favourites so that to enjoy life you must have money.

Maybe it should properly be a study of expectations, if tyranny is perceived as the removal of expected rights. So, LCCs may afterall be a great way to travel if you are a keen student of politics.


de minimis said...


Once again, you have provoked my thinking with a different take on things. There is, indeed, an underlying psychology and human behaviour that drives the way in which products and services are delivered. The "no-frills" people are particularly adept at exploiting these matters.

I should also add that you have given a very fair and balanced perspective on the matter. This is as things should be. It is constructive thinking. This is a benchmark we should all aspire to meet.

walla said...