Why Planes Stopped Flying Half Full


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Airplanes may be a marvel of modern engineering, but unless you're flying first-class it isn't what most people would call glamorous. For many, the biggest problem is how crowded airliners can get. But believe it or not, there was a time when flights rarely left more than half full. How was this possible?
It might be hard to believe in a world where you must book your flight months in advance, but there was a time when you could simply drive to the airport on a whim and go almost anywhere you wanted. If you were lucky, you might even get the whole row to yourself!
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Those halcyon days... 0:30
... and what brought an end to them 3:27
Deliberate overbooking 4:42
The environmental impact 6:54
#planes #aviation #brightside
- In the 1970s, air travel was strictly controlled by the federal government.
- The only area where airlines had nearly complete autonomy was in how many flights could depart on each route per day.
- With no way of expanding their reach or competing on pricing, airlines needed to find another way to stand out from the crowd. The solution they all came to was accessibility.
- It's hard to make unlimited legroom sound bad, but all that extra space came at a price, and I mean that literally.
- The average price of airfare in 1979 was about $600 in today’s money. Compare that to 2015, when the average price was only about three hundred and eighty-five dollars.
- It turns out that all these extra flights were cutting into the airline's bottom line, and they were passing that markup on to you.
- Two things brought an end to these halcyon days of ample knee space. The first came in the form of relaxed FAA regulations.
- Free from price controls and restricted routes, costs fell as airlines struggled to undercut each other's prices.
- The second significant change was a technological one. In the analog world of the 1970s, there wasn’t a whole lot companies could do to adjust prices on the fly.
- Modern airlines have entire departments dedicated to writing the code that goes into determining the price of an individual seat.
- Airlines have also taken to adding more seats to each plane and regularly selling more tickets than they have seats.
- The side effect is that sometimes more people show up than expected, and someone ends up getting left behind.
- In the year 2000, the United States was home to ten major airlines, a number that has been slowly whittled down to just four by 2017.
- While the 70s may have been an excellent time for airline customers, all those extra flights weren't exactly healthy for the environment.
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