did someone muck with the backend here

Re: Modern Redlining?

1

This has been about to be the next thing for about as long as I've been connected to the industry (only six years now, but still). It would be bad in a lot of ways, but I'm not holding my breath, because the industry's tech has a lot of 1960s legacy that makes changing things hard.

The second part is an okay summary of how airfares work. I'll expand on that a little. Imagine a simple non-connecting flight, say BOS to SFO and back, United flight 2400. Periodically (weekly to daily), United publishes a pile of data that includes the fares for this flight. This will boil down to a few things like this:
Y: Economy ticket, unrestricted, refundable. $400.
Z: Economy ticket, non-refundable, $300
Q: Economy ticket, only valid if there's a Saturday-night stay between the departure and return, $250.
L: Economy ticket, non-refundable, $225.
F: First-class ticket, $1000.
(Y and F are commonly used for these purposes; all other letters are pretty much "whatever the airline wants/whatever they have free" and doesn't have any cross-industry meaning. And because it's all derived from 1960s punch-card systems, it has to be just one letter).

So when you search for an economy seat on the flight, you're probably looking for that $225 L fare. The Q fare (Saturday night) tries to get people who are vacationing/on a flex schedule, versus business travelers who are spending someone else's money and want to get home.

Then a separate system at United, called "availability", that tracks how many of each fare they're willing to sell, and that can change second to second. The L fare might only cover four seats, and only be turned on as a TV spot airs, so they can say "Flights as cheap as $225". The Z fare might be turned off two days before the flight so that last-minute travelers pay more, and so on. Shuffling that availability around - literally known as "revenue management" - is the secret sauce that airlines use to try to make money on tickets.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 9:13 AM
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You left off "shitty economy ticket with no checked luggage and you can't put your carry-on in the overhead bin and we will split up your party, even minor children, putting you all in middle seats of separate rows". I don't know the short name, but you have to pay $50/seat to avoid it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 9:15 AM
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It's also possible that the class I'm talking about only exists on shorter flights.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 9:16 AM
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Is this in fact very different from aggregating the various crumbs of information about how/when/where people search for tickets to determine their ability and willingness to pay? Don't companies already have access to detailed profiles of probably everybody with a credit card at minimum, so this is just gearing up this one sales area to use that info more granularly? I'm just surmising.

Bigger question, should airlines price-discriminate at all, and on what terms. Given their foundation of government support, and the nexus between travel and freedom/opportunity/family, I'd like it to at least be transparent so it's not screwing people over as relentlessly and unaccountably: one-percenters Tier A, ten-percenters Tier B, everyone else Tier C, with some cross-subsidization? Or at least subsidize one trip per year for Tier C (given so many people don't have the money to fly at all). Potentially different corporate tiers including something for nonprofits? A lot of options exist, is my point; it doesn't have to be relentless profit-taking. If price-variation is needed to optimize demand, that should be within limits and schedules people can learn about.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 9:19 AM
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I have a question: how much does the price tag for all this relentless business class travel - the 10+ trips per year, the hotels, the convention centers and industry organization memberships - how much does that increase prices felt by the average Joe? I want a single number that represents every industry and every consumer, thank you.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 9:22 AM
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I'm not sure it does increase prices for the average Joe, assuming the average Joe stays over a Saturday.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 9:26 AM
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2: Yeah, so-called "Basic Economy" is another fare code, and it does suck, but people get upset when you don't show them the absolute cheapest possible option. We had to do a bunch of work to make it selectable/avoidable in our product

The fare rules can include lots of other nonsense, too, much of which comes into play in connecting flights. The complete set of rules turn out to be inadvertently Turing-complete.

5: I think it makes average-Joe flights cheaper. To a first approximation the flights exist for the business travelers. Tickets for economy leisure travelers are sold to make up as much money as they can.. but they'd rather sell that last seat for $50 than not sell it at all.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 9:32 AM
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Flying to Kansas City is almost always much cheaper than flying into Omaha or Lincoln. This is because Missouri and Kansas are objectively worse than Nebraska.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 9:35 AM
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9

I'm not an expert and certainly won't contradict the report of anybody who has experienced this directly, but I always thought that when it came to flying, TSA handled the racism and let the airlines handle the other types of mistreatment.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 9:43 AM
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You know how if you have a frequent flyer account with Southwest, periodically they send you cards for free drinks. One of my neighbors is trying to sell them for cash. I always just give them away if I can't use them, which I usually can't because most of my flights are either very early or involve a drive at the end of a short hop.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 9:51 AM
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I'm probably bloviating, but smart price regulation might in fact be a key component of Social Capitalism 2.0. When companies have the opportunity to make money by being tricky on pricing (viz. health insurance), that's where they sink any extra effort. They can compete on quality, but commonly you need to leave them no other option.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 9:51 AM
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12

This should be called "Bro-vulating."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 10:02 AM
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||
There is officially no live blogging from the London mini meet up. Just to let you know, I have logged on to say so
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Posted by: Nworb | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:11 AM
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||
There is officially no live blogging from the London mini meet up. Just to let you know, I have logged on to say so
|>


Posted by: Nworb | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:11 AM
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||
There is officially no live blogging from the London mini meet up. Just to let you know, I have logged on to say so
|>


Posted by: Nworb | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:11 AM
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||
There is officially no live blogging from the London mini meet up. Just to let you know, I have logged on to say so
|>


Posted by: Nworb | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:11 AM
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Double posting is the nearest you'll get to it


Posted by: Nworb | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:12 AM
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I hope it's a wonderful time nonetheless!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:12 AM
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Hard to liveblog and knife-stab at the same time


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:13 AM
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It's like the first rule of fight club, but you have to repeat it more because British people talk funny.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:15 AM
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Also they have to log on, apparently. Am I supposed to be doing that?


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:16 AM
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|| is the UK emoji for two Stanley knives rigged together to leave nasty wounds.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:16 AM
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23

Moby, Kevin Drum is looking out for you --

Working on the Railroad Is Pretty Lucrative in North Platte, Nebraska

https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2018/04/working-on-the-railroad-is-pretty-lucrative-in-north-platte-nebraska/


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:28 AM
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24

The Shropshire Smile.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:29 AM
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24 to 22.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:29 AM
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23: I have a classmate who runs a bank there. She seems to be doing pretty well, at least on Facebook.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:30 AM
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27

The Union Pacific Smile is much wider.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:30 AM
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28

Building that is how my ancestors got established in America.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:32 AM
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But North Platte is as close to Cheyenne as it is to Lincoln. I don't know that I've ever spent any appreciable amount of time in North Platte.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:34 AM
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30

I'm positive I've never spent any time at all in any Platte.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:39 AM
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31

I had to bale on possible mini-meetup. Working from home today, but had a mini crisis.

"Here's a huge new list of things we'd like done for tomorrow, please."


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:41 AM
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32

Is there a Nebraskan "It's a cookbook!" variant where the punchline is "It's a Platter!"? Because someone should do that.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:45 AM
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33

South Platte is in Colorado, which is a Spanish name.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:47 AM
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34

You've never had scruples before.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:48 AM
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35

I'm too concerned at how ttaM is going to tie the meetup into a bundle.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:50 AM
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36

The meetup in question would need to be held in Nebraska, or apparently Colorado. I don't think ttaM lives there.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:52 AM
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37

The make bales in England too.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 11:57 AM
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38

I don't see why the cannibal Midwesterners concept has to involve baling.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 12:00 PM
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39

In another century I spent a night in North Platte. Didn't strike me as half as baleful as England.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 12:06 PM
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40

Did anybody call themselves a "North Platter"? I can't recall ever hearing the term, but I also can't recall ever hearing an alternative.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 12:09 PM
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Applause for 39.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 12:09 PM
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42

North Platte.

There's a song about North Platte


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 12:14 PM
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43

6/7: I was actually going for a slightly different question, although thank you. I meant, outside of the airline industry, in general: does this UMC luxury-ish culture of business travel and mega-conferences meaningfully impact middle class and lower middle class people in negative ways? Aside from the people who directly work for the travel and hospitality industries, but beyond that - are these costs just passed on to the consumer? does this just reflect industries that have plenty of profits? Etc.

It was kind of a big, vague, overly general question.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 12:43 PM
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I just bought my ticket for may annual leave a couple of days ago. Round trip from Arrakis to NY on Arrakis airlines cost me $600 more dollars this year than it did the last. I could have sworn when I checked the ticket prices two days before I bought it that it was less but I'm not sure. Stupid me went and bought it anyway.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 12:43 PM
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45

All this stuff gives me extra reasons never to visit my family, so whatevs. You keep it up, aerospace-commercial complex.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 12:55 PM
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46

United Airlines has your back on that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 3:03 PM
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47

It was a great time. Was a lot of fun hanging out with Nworb and Ginger Yellow (who I owe a round next time). Lovely conversation, whip smart, and a lot to think about. Sorry to have missed ttaM and Ume.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 3:08 PM
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48

44. Is the extra $600 due to rising oil prices? They've gone up a fair amount in the last year.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 4:44 PM
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Sorry I couldn't make it - I have an early morning deadline. Next time, I hope.


Posted by: Ume | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 4:59 PM
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44 There's a fuel surcharge on the ticket* but I don't think it adds up to that much.

*Not that I'm sure whether that accounts for all of the fuel price or not. Airline ticket pricing is fairly opaque to me.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 7:09 PM
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43: ooh, you mean when a business buys an expensive airplane ticket, does that hurt customers because they get their money from customers at the end of the day?

I think the answer is "no", but admittedly there is some self-interest at stake. When the company pays to fly an employee somewhere, they have to pay the airline and the employee, even though the employee is just sitting on a plane instead of doing something useful. So they'll happily pay more for convenience because there's monetary value to be gained. There might be some featherbedding going on, but it's far from just that.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 8:10 PM
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does this UMC luxury-ish culture of business travel and mega-conferences meaningfully impact middle class and lower middle class people in negative ways?

It does provide work for a huge number of middle-class and lower-middle-class people in the hotel, airline, hospitality and event management sectors. If you just got rid of conferences, and reduced business travel to the minimum necessary, then much of the hotel industry would go away and the rest would be much more expensive; not because conferences actually subsidise hotels, but because they fill them when holidaymakers aren't there.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 04-23-18 8:19 PM
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Or because they fill them when the holidaymakers have figured out how to make their holiday into a tax deduction.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 3:48 AM
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52. Conventions get blocks of rooms booked (usually) far in advance, so they provide the hotels with a level of certainty about their future income. The blocks are usually at a discount, sometimes a big one, so it's not entirely a win-win for the hotels.

They get a fair amount of extra revenue from incidentals, too (food and drink, etc.). I remember talking to a booking agent at one of the companies I worked for, and she said that hotels hate software and engineering related bookings because nerds don't spend any money. This was a while ago; maybe the attendees spend more today.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 4:46 AM
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The last few comments remind me of something I read recently on an SFF web site. A convention scheduled here in Baltimore, supposedly with an emphasis on diversity in SFF fandom, was cancelled at the last minute, apparently due to financial trouble. The story seems to be that they overestimated how many attendees they would get and booked too many hotel rooms.

I assumed it was just another case of inexperienced organizers getting in over their heads, but it was later claimed that one of the organizers had done a kickstarter for an LBTQ focused SFF convention recently, and that that also was cancelled at the last minute, apparently with none of the money being returned.

All fairly boring stuff except, if the rumor is true, I'm impressed by what an extremely specialized niche this person has found to work in: grifting the progressive wing of SFF fandom. It's a living, I guess.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:03 AM
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Kickstarter maven Spike Trotman has an interesting observation about what the general success of crowdfunding has wrought, and connecting it to other recent debacles. Edited:

It's also given rise to a class of people who seem to think getting the money for anything is/was The Hard Part, and now that's solved. ... And I think a lot of people, in a lot of categories, with a lot of big ideas and dreams, are going into crowdfunding their projects without knowing either.
I'm reluctant to attribute to evil what can be explained as stupidity, and again, fully admitting to the very real possibility I Don't Know Shit? That's what Universal Fan Con feels like, to me. I think these ppl just REALLY WANTED the prestige of running a con, & were clueless.
Could they be legit scammers with pockets stuffed full of cash, giggling as they hop on the first plane out of town? Yeah, for sure. But I don't think they were. I think they thought it looked easy, and got in WAY over their heads, and didn't have the first goddamn clue.
Dashcon wasn't a scam, Fyre Festival wasn't a scam. It was milling incompetents contending with outsized ambition and zero know-how. That's what this feels like, too.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:30 AM
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I mean, the Fyre Festival guy plead guilty to fraud, so it was in an important sense a scam. A scam run by someone in over their head, sure. But still a scam.

Similarly, with all these ICOs, there's clearly a lot of people who have a hope and a dream and suddenly have a way to raise millions of dollars for it, and then there are people who have nothing but malicious intent. But that doesn't make it any less of a scam if you make promises you have no intention of keeping or if you lie about what your software can do or who is using it, or if you fundraise explicitly on the basis that the not-a-security-honest that you're selling is going to increase in value exponentially.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 04-24-18 8:58 AM
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