I’m writing this post aboard a Washington, DC-bound US Airways flight. I don’t fly this airline much. In fact, all I knew about them coming in is that they charge you for water.
This fact at first sounded grim, like a human rights violation. Was US Airways trying to dehydrate its customers? Would flyers, after a long flight, end up shriveled and panting, drinking like thirsty animals from the nearest bathroom water faucets?
Soon after boarding the plane, I realized that in execution, charging for water isn’t bad. In fact, if charging keeps fares low, I welcome it. Here’s what I noticed about charging for water:
1) US Airways advertises their drinks in a way that we’re all used to. The introductory video screen says something like “We sell Coca-Cola products for $3, bottled water for $2,” etc. I’m so used to seeing these kinds of ads, well, everywhere, that I took it for granted that they would charge for water. I imagined someone from a younger generation thinking heck, who *doesn’t* charge for bottled water? (Airlines? You mean they used to not charge? Oh.)
2) When the water was positioned as a commodity, not a right, I didn’t feel entitled to it. Au contraire—I reckoned the prices were similar enough to airport restaurant charges to make them viable, especially considering that once you’re in the airplane, the airline basically has a monopoly over you.
3) US Airways sells ad space on its tray tables. The buyer in this case is the ubiquitous Verizon, who I use anyway. Like the newly priced water, the ads don’t annoy me. I’ll deal with ads if they get me a cheap flight.
4) You get dehydrated. It’s annoying, but it doesn’t kill you.
As a consumer, I value low fares above and beyond any other considerations, including advertisements and food charges. In fact, if airlines get to the point where their cabins are plastered with ads, they hijack your mobile devices with commercials, and vending machines replace flight attendants, I still won’t care—as long as fares stay low. I’ll pine for the good old days of elegant (comparatively) economy class, but I’ll acknowledge that cheap flights come at a price.
If that price is my brain space and hydration, I’m ok with that.