Monday, August 11, 2008

Airport thoughts

Alright, I'm back in Morgantown for a decent stretch now.

Two things that got me with this round of traveling:

1) Luggage stores in airports: Good business idea or bad business idea? I'd like to hear TPS business guru Thomas Johnson's take on this. On the one hand, you're probably most likely to be thinking about baggage when you're traveling...but that could also be the time that you're least likely to buy. I suppose if you arrive at the airport with broken baggage that this could be convenient...but how often does that happen? And why would you show up with broken luggage? Further, if it's a bag you have to check, you'd have to bring your broken bag in through security, buy the new one, repack it in the airport, go back outside of security to check it, then go back through security once more to catch your flight. And receiving a broken checked bag doesn't work either-- you can't get back in past security without a boarding pass, and you just used it to get to where you're at.

I'm thinking these stores might have been more feasible prior to the security increases-- back when you could wait at the gate for an arriving passenger. I might do luggage shopping if I were waiting in the airport for a delayed friend...not these days, though.

Nonetheless, these stores still exist.

2) Boarding order on planes. This has been discussed plenty of times elsewhere, though I don't think we've touched on it here at TPS. I'm not purely interested in how to get everyone on the plane the quickest-- some combination of back to front, outside seats to inside seats-- but rather why it is that those that need the most time to get on the plane get to board first. If you board these people first, then you spread this additional time cost on to everyone waiting to get on the plane. If they get on last, it's like internalizing the externality, which is definitely in the direction of better functioning markets.

It could be that they can board the plane a lot better if there isn't anyone on the plane, too. I don't think this is the case. Suppose they have an aisle seat and two people have to get up-- that could conceivably take longer. But this tends to increase boarding time because of the line that forms behind this maneuver-- and remember, if slow boarders are boarding last, then there is either no line or not much of one.

Incentives, too. If you have to travel a lot and don't like waiting, then you want to get yourself into the fast group-- and this is not only better for you, but better for everyone.

I suppose you need to wait for everyone to get on the plane before you leave anyway, but if you value sitting in your seat as opposed to waiting to get on the plane-- irrational, perhaps, but I'd say this is generally true-- then I think it's welfare increasing to have the slow boarders get on last, yes?

And, of course, the disclaimer for everyone who thinks I want to send people who board planes slowly to internment camps: No, I don't hate them. No, I don't want them to die slow deaths. The question here is simply that we've got two types of plane users and how to get them onto the plane the quickest. (Though I get the "Matt-is-a-child-hater" when I put forth my idea for a kids-free airline-- which, by the way, would absolutely clean up.)


Thomas said...

I would hazard a guess that those luggage stores sell essentially zero pieces of luggage at the in-airport store. I think it's probably mostly a marketing device. You have thousands of members of your exact customer segment ("people who travel on airplanes") passing by your store every day. You're building brand recognition because they look at the store as they pass. It might also be harder to sell luggage through print advertisements versus allowing the customer to actually open up and inspect the luggage.

If you really were interested, you could walk in and chat up one of the salespeople and just ask them.

danarch said...

In an interesting turn of events, on a recent flight, there was a family who ended up getting odd, separated seats due to basically getting the last pick of the seat selection (I think they had to fly standby or something). There was already a lady with a baby in my row and now this family with their kids and stuff. So I volunteered to give up my aisle seat for their middle seat near the exit rows. Because of my charitable action, they bumped me to first class. It's always nice to see actions that are perceived as charitable, but are actually self-serving, being rewarded.

Maybe I'm just a horrible person.

It's funny that you can get luggage after security, but you can't find a decent writing instruments except for the $300 mechanical pencil at montblanc.