Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Have you noticed that gas is a little more expensive these days?
We're at $4 a gallon out here in my part of California.
Just think, then, how airlines are suffering with rising fuel prices.
Please let me qualify the term suffering.
I mean, of course, torturing themselves as to how they can raise prices without passengers beginning to wail in public, thereby giving airlines all that pesky bad publicity to deal with.
So I've tried to put myself into the mind of a soul-deficient airline executive in order to divine precisely what they might do to turn their suffering onto you.
You're worried they're going to simply raise the price of fares, aren't you?
I'm not sure it's going to be quite that simple.
Yes, they can raise fares and they might. They can also reduce capacity a touch, just to make availability a little more scarce and therefore competition for seats a little more intense.
Oddly, airlines can have a remarkably coincidental way of doing such things in concert.
I, though, suspect they may first plump for more sneaky methods.
None of them will dare raise baggage fees, you say?
But what if they all do it together? Other than Southwest, of course.
And what if they start charging a different baggage fee for peak time flights, using the excuse that there's a lot more cargo in the hold at certain times of day?
It doesn't matter if it's true. It only matters if you'll pay.
Perhaps that seems (a little) out there.
More probable is that the algorithmic operators at airlines will start charging more for the things that give you that extra bit of comfort.
When you fly in Economy Class, for example, do you ever wonder why a window seat will cost you an extra $32?
Why not $33? Why not $48?
Well, it's $32 because the machines say that's a number you just might tolerate.
Now, I fear, they'll start pushing your levels of tolerance. That $32 fee will be nudged up to, oh, think of a number, $38.
It's only six bucks. You can take it. Moreover, they might stretch that $38 to, let's say, $50 for peak flights and see how that flies.
The point is that the only logic governing these numbers hovers between the airline wanting you to pay more and you not wanting a blasted middle seat and feeling stressed enough already.
Which leads me to the next sneaky idea I think the airlines will insert.
They're going to try the same pricing idea with extra legroom seats. You know, the ones that give you perhaps an inch more for, what, an additional, say, $64.
Or shall we call it an additional $74?
Because those numbers seem random in the first place, the airlines hope you won't be excessively disturbed when they're randomly a little greater.
Yes, there's a number at which you'll resist. But the next person may not. So cha will meet ching and an airline executive will hiss with joy.
Please remember, too, that baggage fees were introduced the last time fuel prices spiked severely -- more severely than the current hike.
When fuel prices went down, did the baggage fees? Lordy, no.
So the airlines' strategic -- some might say psychological -- challenge is to get passengers used to a higher cost, one that isn't reflected in the immediate price of the fare.
In so many parts of life you're now being manipulated by machines.
This will be little different.
Please remember, you're just a number. Whether you're 2A or 35F.
And because you're just a number, airlines hope you won't feel a thing.