In yesterday’s post I made one of the cardinal mistakes of journalism. I buried the lead. I spent the first 80% of the post on definining ancillary revenue, meaning most readers would have fallen asleep before reaching the innovative new practice from United of cabin staff charging on board for seat upgrades. Later that day I was talking to someone in America who told me the United practice was limited for weight and balance reasons, but I would have thought it was more limited by there only being a small number of “Economy Plus” seats available. It is a bit hard to pull the same stunt as US Airways did when the passenger can actually see the seats on offer.
On a different topic, if you enjoyed my Bow Tie post (I’m amazed at the way that one spread via word of mouth after a few early mentions; it is still leading daily page views) then take a look at this post from Travel Weekly linking to The Atlantic magazine. They were very kind to mention me in the same story as their link to The Gift-Card Economy, but I’d go so far as to say most people (especially those outside the airline industry) would almost certainly find the Altantic article much more interesting than my Bow Tie Model.
I’ve lifted one paragraph below that I found particularly revealing:
“In an experiment, Shu and Gneezy first surveyed 80 undergraduates, asking how they would feel about a gift certificate for a slice of cake and a beverage at a local café and how likely they were to use it. Forty-two survey participants were asked to consider a certificate good for three weeks, and 38 were asked about a two-month certificate. More than two-thirds of the group with the longer deadline said they would use such a coupon; only half of the group with the shorter deadline said they would. Shu and Gneezy then ran the experiment in real life, with a different group of 64 undergraduates. Half the participants got certificates good for three weeks and half for two months. Both groups were far less likely to cash in their cake coupons than predicted. And contrary to predictions, the shorter deadline encouraged more indulgence. Ten out of 32 people redeemed the three-week certificate; only two of 32 used the two-month pass. “
I’ve always been skeptical of people making decisions in business based purely on survey data, especially when often what people say they will do is very different to what they end up doing. I’ll be keeping the above text in mind next time someone claims some amazing insight that we must all adapt to whilst waving a survey report high in the air.
Finally, I was a bit harsh on Expedia a month ago when I wrote the following:
The follow up to that line is that I was told earlier this week by a customer that Expedia are planning to release superior reporting options in May which will enable airlines to drill down on actual hotel properties booked etc. I seriously doubt my words had any influence on that enhancement, but at least it is good news for their existing customers.