Whenever I tell someone that I am an employee of an airline, I more often than not hear, “Why don't the airlines give us anything for free anymore? Why don’t they give us blankets? Why do we have to buy our food?…”
I am going to tell you something you are probably not going to like: It’s the customers’ fault.
Yup. I said it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I certainly don’t love the changes that have happened on planes over the past 11 years or so. As a flight attendant, I really don’t like having to tell passengers, “No, we don’t have any free peanuts,” or, “Sorry, I don’t have a pillow to give you.”
But, the truth is that these “nickel and dime” fees have come about for a simple reason: the passengers’ willingness to accept them in order to get a lower price.
Let’s face it: most people who are traveling on their own dime (as opposed to a company’s) are going on to websites like Orbitz, Expedia and Kayak to search for flights.
Let’s say you are looking for a flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco. One airline has a flight for $450, another for $525. As long as the time schedule works, most people will choose to save the $75.
You’ve flown on the $450 airline before. And even though you were mad because you had to buy a sandwich on board, pay a couple of bucks for headphones to watch the movie, and were chilly because you didn’t and you weren't given a blanket, you are going to fly that airline again anyway.
Because $75 is a pretty good chunk of change. And this time you’ll pack some crackers and cheese, bring your ear buds, and remember to grab your cardigan sweater.
So, why wouldn’t airlines charge? When low-budget airlines came on the scene and people started snatching up those cheap tickets and were happy with a half a can of Coke, the days of the free meal and other amenities on a domestic flight were out the window exit and down the slide.
Airlines are businesses. They need to make a profit in order to exist. Supply and demand. The demand is there for cheaper airfare, not free amenities, so that is what becomes available.