Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Pay-Per-Pee Plan Squelched

I was incensed this morning to read a news item suggesting that airlines might consider charging passengers per pound of flesh. The reason for my peevishness is that the proposed "Fat Fare" (my term) threatens to thwart a nascent revenue-generator of my own (to be revealed). First, as background, here is today's provocative idea (with a tip of the hat to American Express SkyGuide eAlert):

Should passengers pay by the pound?

With fuel costs spiraling out of control for hard-pressed airlines, a new idea for enhanced revenues is starting to emerge on the blogosphere and elsewhere. No airline has expressed an interest in it yet, but some observers say it would be a logical step: Why not charge passengers a fare based on their weight, or a surcharge or fee for excess weight, since weight and fuel burn are directly related?

A recent posting on ABCNews.com quoted airline consultant Robert Mann as saying that airlines might soon start pricing passenger travel "like air freight - by the pound. We're treated like freight anyway," he told the web site.

Michele McDonald, the editor of the industry e-newsletter Travel Technology Update, picked up on Mann's remarks in a recent issue. "I can't think of any better motivation to lose weight than the prospect of a public weigh-in" at the airport, she wrote. "Just think what airlines would save if we all lost an average of 10 pounds each."

And the writer of a letter to the editor of USA Today last week suggested the same thing. "I weigh 125 pounds," she wrote. "How many passengers are in the 250-plus range? Why should I be charged for their extra weight?...Let's recognize where the problem lies and address it accordingly."

A few years ago, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that the average American gained 10 pounds during the 1990s - which, according to the study, required the airlines to use an extra 350 million gallons of fuel annually.

And then there was the announcement in last Friday's Philadelphia paper of a new airline, Derrie-Air, that charges by the pound. See http://flyderriair.com/.

Why was I upset to read all this? Well, because I had just spent the entire weekend improvising a brilliant set of new charges that airlines could add to the deepening add-on fees already on the books. I won't bore you with the entire menu of thoughtful charges because most of them are dull and boring.

But, if implemented, the above pay-per-pound proposal--the Fat Fare--would pierce my pièce de résistance fee proposal, which is, TA-DAH!, charging each passenger for the right to use the toilet.

I call it the "Pay-Per-Pee" fee for short. My idea is not just a simple payment for the use of the rest room. Heck no, I have developed a full card of possibilities, to wit:

1. Premium Pay-Per-Pee Pass - would allow unlimited use of the toilet for unlimited time periods (would include right to use the First Class head, even if seated in row 46) - $52.90 extra per flight segment.

2. Standard Pay-Per-Pee Pass - unlimited use of the coach cabin crapper only, but each visit could not exceed 4.5 minutes; when the time runs out, an alarm would sound, along with a recorded announcement stating, "Warning! Your time has expired! Please exit the W.C. immediately! Door will automatically open in 5, 4, 3, 2 ..." - $25.50 per flight segment.

3. Pay-By-The-Pee Pass - For the economy-minded traveler, individual passes allowing use of the economy convenience room in 4.5 minute increments (max use of up to 3 passes per visit); same embarrassing warning would sound at end of time period - $7.35 each.

4. Elite-Pee Pass - Super-elite passengers would be mailed 12 Pay-By-The-Pee passes free of charge annually, AND they could be used in either the coach can or the first class latrine! Each Elite-Pee pass would be good for 5.5 minutes, too, a one-minute premium over the plebeian Pay-By-The-Pee pass. Max 3 passes per privy visit would be the rule. As I said, the first dozen per year would be complimentary to super-elite members, and additional Elite-Pee passes could be purchased online for a mere $6.66 each.

Of course, this is just the beginning! The base charges above could be "massaged" upward to squeeze even more extra revenue from the masses. Before increasing the basic prices, however, a very slight discount could be offered to travelers who purchase their Pay-Per-Pee passes at the time of buying their tickets. This would help to avoid Congressional hearings.

The coup de grâce would be to arbitrarily add another $1 to each Pay-Per-Pee pass as a fuel surcharge, and to up the fuel levy every week or so by a dime or a quarter as the price of oil continues its ascent to the heavens. Think of all the money this would bring in!

But I'm not out of ideas just yet. Day-of-purchase Pay-Per-Pee passes could be artifically allocated to increase their value. Announcements could be made at the gate, as for example:

"Attention, passengers on Ding-Dong Airways Flight 443 to Los Angeles. Boarding will begin in five minutes. This is a SIX HOUR FLIGHT, and on-board toilets are STRICTLY RESERVED for prepaid Pay-Per-Pee pass holders! Unless you have purchased your Pay-Per-Pee pass already, WE STRONGLY ADVISE you visit the airport facilities NOW, before you board.

"Alternately, we have A VERY SMALL NUMBER of Pay-Per-Pee passes remaining for this flight, and you may purchase those here at the podium for 150% of their normal prices. We wish to advise you that any passenger without a Pay-Per-Pee pass attempting to use the toilet once airborne will be tasered by our flight attendants and restrained in his seat using plastic cuffs pending arrest by U.S. Marshals at LAX.

"Have a nice flight."

Naturally, if this didn't stimulate a last-minute buying frenzy of Pay-Per-Pee passes, flight attendants could sell them once in the air for 200% of face value.

Alas, this grand plan for generating millions for access to the thunder throne would fail miserably if the airlines instead begin to charge the Fat Fare. The nexus is due to the Law of Unintended Consequence kicking in:

How would the airlines administer the Fat Fare? Probably by weighing passengers as they arrive at the gate and then adding a weight premium to their basic air fare if they were over the average poundage for their age, gender, ethnic group, sexual orientation, religious afiliation, political party, and number of body piercings and tattoos.

So what would people do? ANYTHING to avoid the Fat Fare surcharge! They'd purge their bladders and digestive systems in the airport bathrooms before approaching the dreaded gate weigh-in. They would avoid drinking and eating for hours before coming to the airport for fear of exceeding the average mass when they step upon the Fat Fare scales.

And there would go all that money the airlines could make by selling Pay-Per-Pee passes. Because people who purge and fast before boarding probably won't need to go to the johnny en route.

Too darn bad. I was going to set up a Pay-Per-Pee pass electronic exchange on the Web (ePEE.com) and make a million.

4 Comments:

Blogger Jeanne said...

Your plan is brilliant but for one loophole: Depends!

6/15/2008 2:20 PM  
Blogger Charlene Ann Baumbich said...

But what if you have to go #2? Would that cost more?

6/16/2008 2:50 PM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...

Charlene,

Time in the head would be all that the passes buy you. The policy would not discriminate among bodily functions. What you do in there until the clock runs down would be entirely your business!

That said, I can see a day coming when, in addition to time-in-the-toilet passes, flight attendants might sell tiny individual rolls of toilet paper off their carts the way they do gin now because the airlines will no longer furnish complimentary T.P. (too costly, weighs too much) for the on-board loo.

Thank you for your question.

Will

6/17/2008 8:22 AM  
Blogger Charlene Ann Baumbich said...

This possibility scared me so much that I came up with my own solution. Check out my back-handed thank you post, in which I also mentioned your fabulous self!

6/20/2008 12:44 PM  

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