|The common assumption about purchasing a product is the closer you get to the source, the better the price.
Every person or company sitting between you and what you’re trying to buy represents a slight increase in price. These middlemen typically include a markup for whatever it is they do, the thinking goes.
So when it comes to buying airline tickets, the rise of online bookings allowing users to circumvent travel agents seemed like a massive win for the consumer.
It turns out that the internet actually screwed up air travel, per a fascinating story from Gad Allon.
Empowered by tools like Expedia, Kayak, and Google Flights, customers now typically search for the cheapest options for their trips. Airlines have adjusted accordingly, prioritizing lower ticket prices while cutting costs everywhere else.
From less legroom to additional fees for seemingly everything, airlines have pulled out all the stops to be the top result when customers sort their flight options from cheapest to most expensive.
Take Ryanair, the Ireland-based budget airline that is perhaps the king of the low-cost, high-fee model. Per a recent search on Google Flights, you can book a direct, roundtrip flight from London to Barcelona for a weekend away in mid-August for only $145.
Of course, you won’t be able to bring carry-ons with you, and you’ll have to fly out of London’s Stansted Airport, about an hour’s ride on the train from the city center. And you’d better eat your breakfast before you get on the flight, or you might risk getting charged an extra $100.
Even those of us willing to shell out a few more bucks for our flights are getting screwed, Gad reported.
A research paper examining the effect of the internet on the performance and quality of the airline industry found that the average actual flight time for the same routes increased between 2.6 minutes and 8.2 minutes from 1997 and 2007.