Come Fly with Me

Media bias is often subtle. Those that know the whole story are aware when a slanted viewpoint arises from omitted information. Then again, there are times the “reporter” simply is unable to contain his zeal and so takes aim at his subject with all the adjectival and adverbial firepower he can muster. I don’t normally do this but I came across just such a hyperbolically biased story this week and can only perform a proper critique in blow-by-blow style. The editorial, err, I mean news story concerns a Democrat congressman Alan Grayson (Florida, 9th district) who is hell bent on tilting his lance at the proverbial windmill that is airline frequent-flier programs. Good to know our elected representatives devote their energies to solving the most pressing of ills in the world. The article, penned by a Christopher Elliott, appears in the Washington Post and by the fourth word the author is well on his way to making his opinion known. According to him such programs are “rigged to favor airlines, deceive passengers and cost consumers billions of dollars.” Rigged? Deceived? Yeah, no judgment calls there. And “cost consumers” – I’m still scratching my head on that one. How does giving consumers free stuff “cost” them billions? Next we have a quote from the good Congressman:

“Frequent flyer programs are prone to manipulation by the airlines that control them,” he wrote, likening the estimated $700 billion worth of miles to an unregulated currency. “Airlines establish the rules, the terms, the value, expiration dates, and the sales pitches.” To earn more money, airlines are constantly devaluing this de facto currency, which is “profitable for the airlines, and costly for the consumer,” wrote Grayson.”

An unregulated currency! Say it isn’t so! Every decent God-fearing person knows that unregulated = pure evil. How dare those airlines establish rules, terms and values for a VOLUNTARY PROGRAM THAT GIVES THEIR CUSTOMERS FREE GOODS? What’s next, regulating the toys in a happy meal (oh, right, that already happened). But the final bit is the height of hypocrisy. The congressman bemoans airlines devaluing the FREE STUFF they give their customers while oblivious that his employer (the Federal Government) purposefully devalues (through inflation) the US dollar every year. Such inflation (devaluing) is profitable for the government and costly for the consumer because each dollar buys less each year. Wait a minute, no, could it be? Could it be that this inflation is the proximate cause of the decreasing value of miles and other consumer complaints (fees for baggage, narrowing seats, etc.)? When inflation affects the value of money there are two ways for businesses to respond: raise the money price of the goods, or lower the goods price of the money, that is, less stuff for the same nominal money price. No one wants to be the one to raise money prices as that “seen” figure is obvious, but, decreasing the goods received is relatively “unseen” because people normally pay attention to the price of the can, not how much is in it.

The article then moves onto what irritates all progressives: inequality, even voluntary inequality. The fact that we are not all clones of each other with the exact same skills, drive, desires and tastes induces apoplexy in the progressive. For it is only in just such a world could their utopian ideal of equality not of negative rights, but of outcomes, be realized. The author states:

“Thanks to loyalty programs, airlines have completely separated their most valued customers from the rest. They lavish top spenders with perks while forcing the less valuable passengers to sit in shrinking seats and pay fees for services that should come with every ticket, such as a seat reservation and the ability to check one bag without paying extra for the privilege. Frequent-flier programs have widened the airborne caste system to the point where it’s hard to believe everyone’s on the same plane. They’re making air travel worse for all but a few privileged elites, according to critics.”

Allow me to parse this. Is he honestly saying that businesses should not be able to “discriminate” amongst their clientele by rewarding their biggest customers in a way that incentives those customers to remain their customers? Words like “lavish” and “forcing” leave the reader with the impression airlines are an aristocratic institution that “lavishes” perks on totally random people they just happen to like for no reason at all and then “force” the rest of us to ride their planes at gunpoint… after forcibly removing money from our wallet for the ticket. Oh, wait, only the state can force people to buy a product at gunpoint.

You know what Mr. Elliott, you can be part of that caste too if you like, no revolution necessary. It’s totally voluntary; just pay for the level of service you desire. No “force” involved – and in case you forgot “force” means weapons, which is what the state has and the airlines don’t.