Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Airlines are a little like TV networks.

Once the race to the bottom starts, everyone soon joins in, believing that somewhere down there must be gold.

Rather than grime, that is.

Of late, many airlines have begun to offer so called Basic Economy fares.

These, which I prefer to term Sub-Cattle Class, take away many of the things that used to be basic -- choosing your seats, checking luggage, for example -- in the hope that you'll be so appalled that you'll pay more for something that used to be standard.

You didn't think that Virgin Atlantic would join in with this, did you?

Well, come on down. And down and down.

The airline announced today that it will offer the (allegedly) cheap fares on its flights.

Yes, a company that pioneered so much is now going to follow the herd without a word.

It being Virgin, it's trying to doll up its offering a little.

Or, perhaps, confuse its customers into a stupor.

It will be offering three different types of Economy Class ticket, as well as Premium Economy.

Which will now be named, wait for it, Premium Class.

In the rear parts of the plane, there'll be Economy Light, Economy Classic and Economy Delight. 

It almost sounds like a range of chocolate bars, doesn't it?

And perhaps a better translation might be Dirt Cheap But Not Cheerful, The Usual Economy But More Expensive and Alright, We'll Try And Make You A Little More Comfortable Than The Misers And The Riff-Raff, But Give Us More Money.

At the worst, you'll get a mere 31 inches of legroom. If you pay to be Delighted, you'll get 34 inches, a slightly bigger seat and perks like priority boarding. 

The mere lure of a slightly bigger seat could be quite something. (Yes, I'm trying to be optimistic.)

Of course, this is all motivated by competition from the likes Norwegian Airlines, which tries to act like a transatlantic Spirit and has enjoyed considerable success.

It still feels like an unhappy day when money drives discomfort. I always thought that a peculiarly American phenomenon.

Naturally, Richard Branson offered his cheery thoughts: "When I started Virgin Atlantic I wanted to challenge the status quo and make flying amazing -- regardless of which cabin you're in -- and that's still true today. We're unveiling a multimillion pound investment to make Virgin Atlantic's economy cabin the best of any UK airline and setting the bar for others to follow."


Now, about that bar, Mr. Branson.