Saturday, March 03, 2007

Fine, Die.

A little while back I got into a discussion with LJ about how we might do things differently if we were running our own Airline. Her position was that she would design airplanes with more amenities and comfortable seating. I said that if people knew that these planes were way safer that tickets would sell better. Things got tense; we can really get into it over these hypothetical situations. Anyway, the conversation got pretty heated and its times like that that I need vindication. Most of you already know this, but for those who don’t, when I can’t convince someone all on my own I call my buddy Courtney and if that doesn’t work then I start to call everyone.

The question we posed? If you had to buy an airline ticket and you could only choose between airline A and airline B which would you purchase. A is offering roomier seats and more leg room; while B has the same seat configurations as now, yet it also has a safety feature that would make your chances of surviving any mid-air catastrophe greater than 50%. What was the consensus? Most of you would rather be comfortable than have less the chance of dieing. So, with LJ’s agreement I decided to up the percentage in my favor to a 90% chance of living. This didn’t affect the outcome in the slightest.

A lot of you wanted to add caveats or addendums to the question like “How long is the flight?”, or “Well, flying is already the safest way to travel” and “How would I know that this safety feature would work?” To that I say, how many of you people wear seatbelts or expect that cars should have airbags? The planes that you fly in are pretty damn safe, yes, however why do a flight-check every single time before it takes off? I mean that only increases the safety by a small fraction right? These planes are still REALLY safe without a flight check every time. To me it seamed that people don’t really care about safety until it is imposed on them or available without the cost of comfort. Maybe I’m just sour grapes. Still, I think Darwin would have something to say about this. In fact, the only people who sided with me were those with little children or a fear of flying.

My Opinion:

What this tells me is that people have a complete disregard for personal safety as long as they feel safe. I have done a lot of hobbies that some would consider thrill seeking or inherently dangerous, yet in doing these hobbies one has to take a lot of measures to prevent disastrous outcomes because if anything goes wrong there is little to no redundancy to ensure survival. You know, an ounce of prevention…To me it seems like a car has all sorts of safety measures that go from crumple zones, seatbelts, airbags, safety glass, and antilock brakes. Not to mention that a car never really exceeds 100 mph. Most collisions occur below 50 mph. Oh yeah, and if a problem occurs you can always pull over and stop, in lieu of falling out of the sky. An airplane, on the other hand, is an incredibly complex device that can be in a lot of trouble if there is any kind of mechanical or human error. Where does an airplane go when it has trouble? Strait down, man. Eh, you can’t win ‘em all though so I’ll concede this victory to LJ. Until, that is, she dies in horrible fiery and completely pointless plane crash. Then I win by default.


Mad Mike said...

Take your chances

ncational geographic chart of likeliness percentage of death.

Courtney said...

Your logic is slightly flawed. The flight check doesn't increase safety, it removes risk. There is, obviously, a bit of overlap here, but understand the mathematics. By doing a pre-flight check, I am identifying any problems before they become deadly.
Also, I think those that are deterred from flying due to fear of dying (could be a song lyric or an advertising jingle) a so few and far between that ticket sales increases would be unnoticed. It'd literally be that one guy who drives everywhere, John Dayley. So there you go. One more round-trip ticket per week, 36-40 weeks per year. Meanwhile, LJ's airline has gone belly up b/c the upfront costs of designing a plane around customer amenities drove ticket prices to uncompetitive rates. The federal subsidies couldn't maintain her upstart and the ticket sales weren't enough to meet past expenses, let alone tackle incoming bills.
LJ's argument, sadly was lost before she started it. History (e.g., the golden age of flying 1950-1970s) has shown us that catering to the customer is just too expensive. The bottom line is the king. This does have a threshold... Remember the big hubaloo about removing seats? About 5 years ago, airlines got so many complaints b/c they had people packed in like sardines. They actually did lose sales.
But amenities like free .00000001 oz. packages of peanuts, padded seats and.... toilet paper are issues of overhead which are killing profit margins for airlines.