Fly me to the Moon…

…since it doesn’t look like I’m flying anyplace else this holiday season!

What has happened in the last year?

Ever since my best friend and her family moved to Las Vegas eight years ago, I have flown out to spend Christmas with them.  There’s the annual breakfast and gift giving, of course, but there’s also time to walk the arboretum in Bellagio or scale the Eifel Tower in Paris or head up to the lodge on Mt. Charleston.  In short, it’s part holiday, part vacation.

Until this year, there has always been a “red-eye” non-stop flight that I could get out of Ft. Lauderdale to Vegas.  The travel time was a reasonably survivable 4 1/2 to 5 hours (depending on which direction).  Looking at the flights this year, there are no non-stops offered.  Bummer.

The second alarming observation is the price of the flights.  They are ranging from 50% more to double!  Crazy!  Is the airline theory that since travel is reduced they have to raise the fares to make up the difference?  That would seem to be an economically untenable solution.  Wouldn’t more people be discouraged by the higher fares and just opt out of travel.  Would the airlines then raise the fares again to compensate?  Is that the definition of a death spiral?  Hmm, perhaps not the best description when talking about planes.

But wait!  Here’s a kicker.  There are new fees, too.  Checked bag fees.  Carry-on bag fees, even!  Booking fees?  I have to pay the airline to pay the airline?  Huh?  Color me confused (and broke, by the time the fees are tabulated).

This evokes echoes of other industries either de-regulated (banks) or consolidated (communications).  The pricing models for these areas have grown increasingly consumer unfriendly, thanks mostly to the lack of competition or government watchdogging.

Many people like to bemoan the onerous “government intrusion” in business.  “It’s un-American!”   “It’s restrictive!”  It’s restrictive to abusive pricing, for sure.  People like to throw around the term capitalism like it’s a saintly thing.  “Let my company be free; America was made great by capitalism!”

Actually, America was made great by competition.  And exploration.  How many of our advances came from the space program?  Yet, how did we go from having a space program to an orbit program to…uh…does anyone know what NASA does now?  Good luck with your next 100 years of advances, America.  Is it any wonder that all our new inventions cast our eyes inward (fancy TV’s) or downward (fancy phones).  Who looks up at the stars anymore?

Fly me to the moon?  I can’t even get to Las Vegas without a second mortgage.

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