Rich Guy's View on the Airline Industry


Well-Known Member
Money indeed makes the world go round...

Pity the Poor People Who Have to Fly Coach Class: Michael Lewis
Commentary by Michael Lewis

July 17 (Bloomberg) -- Memo To: The Non-Rich From: A Concerned Hedge-Fund Manager Re: Your Air Travel

Being a private person, I can't imagine flying any way but privately.

It's true that I airdrop into Bloomberg every now and again to offer the public a rare glimpse of the mind of a seriously rich (over $100 million net worth) and consistently successful hedge-fund manager (more than $1 billion under management). But mainly I try to keep to myself, and to that end have long avoided boarding an airplane owned by someone else.

So you can think of me as an outside consultant. With no direct experience of your predicament -- the growing misery of life inside a commercial airplane -- I am unusually positioned to understand it.

I can give you the view from 30,000 feet; I can tell you how your traveling future looks to me from the window of my Gulfstream G5. And from where I sit I can see three big trends. They are:

Trend One: The service on your airplanes, bad as it may be, is going to get much worse.

AMR Corp.'s American Airlines is now charging $15 a bag, U.S. Airways Group Inc. is taking away the in-flight movies and demanding two bucks for a can of Coke, and various airline chief executive officers are contemplating weighing the passengers and charging them by the pound. And you just know that once one of these airlines starts weighing people, all of them will, or risk being crushed by fat people looking for a deal.

``They have already begun to think exotically,'' a spokesman for the airline industry told Bloomberg News, apropos of these airline CEOs. ``Nothing is not under the microscope.''
There's a reason for this, and it's not just the price of oil. It's the price of you.
You still expect to be treated like a rich person when you have demonstrated, by flying commercial, that you are a poor person. (Poor being defined as an inability to afford at least a share of a NetJet.) And nothing demoralizes a service-industry professional so quickly as the sight of a high concentration of poor people.

Take flight attendants, for example. Once upon a time these straight ladies and gay men sought to please fliers; now they treat fliers like criminals. Ask a stew and she'll probably blame it all on terrorism. She'll go on about how after 9/11 she stopped being a camp counselor and became a cop. But that's just an excuse.

Little in Return

What's really happened is that she's come to realize that however happy she makes her passengers they can give her back only so much in return -- so why bother?

If even one of the passengers was a seriously rich person -- Jack Welch, for instance, or even little Dickie Grasso -- these same stews might think twice before abandoning service for law enforcement. They might actually want to be charming. Instead, they gaze upon a first class filled with people who paid with frequent-flyer miles and a coach class of seriously desperate people and instinctively reach for their whips and chains. And really, can you blame them?

Trend Two: Your time will be treated as ever-less valuable. You think it's an outrage that planes are now flying more slowly to save fuel? Wait until you find yourself en route from New York to Los Angeles, and stop unexpectedly in Denver until the headwind slows.

You will wonder: How long can it take to fly across America? And you will discover: As long as they want it to take! They know you are poor; they know from their experience that, given the choice, you will always save money rather than time. And so they don't fear that if they slow down you will get off.

If your time was that valuable, they will think to themselves, you wouldn't be flying on their planes in the first place.
And they are right!

Trend Three: Your planes will be ever-more likely to have an accident.

After all, these people who run the airlines have every expense under their microscope; how long can it be before they're examining the value of your coach-class head?

Of course, no major airline would ever consciously set out to kill you. But their planes will age, their spending on safety will decline, and they will increase, at your peril, the likelihood of catastrophe. The only question is when they try to sell you your own parachute will there be some free smoked almonds inside?

Giving Hope

Studying these trends a pessimist would probably conclude that poor people must one day simply cease to travel. Come vacation time the rich will still pop over to Paris and eat at the finest restaurants; the poor will find something else to entertain themselves. Perhaps a camp site near their quaint little home, where they can forage in the wild for free snacks.

But I am not a pessimist. Like Barack Obama, I believe in giving people hope. And the hope, for you, is to lure actual rich people back onto commercial airlines.

For example, in exchange for paying, say, two-thirds of what it would cost to fly private, and thus covering the bulk of the cost of any flight, rich people might be given special cabins in the front of each commercial plane, decked out very much like their G5s once were.

Obviously, no rich person would agree to fly commercial -- essentially paying for a great deal more than his share of the cost -- unless he was granted the other comforts of flying private. And, of course, he and he alone would need to decide when the plane took off and where it landed -- but as rich people usually go to really desirable places, this shouldn't be a problem.

Getting to Topeka

Each night poor people in say, Detroit, who were hoping to travel to, say, London, could go online and see where the local rich people planned to go. They'd surf around and find...Bill Ford is planning to fly to London tomorrow morning! And as many of the local poor who might fit could click on a link and acquire a cheap seat in the back of Bill Ford's flight.

There are some tiny problems with this plan, of course. There won't be many direct flights to Topeka, Kansas, or a lot of other places that the rich seldom go. Indeed, poor people trying to get anywhere near Topeka will probably experience frustration, as their airplanes fly back and forth over it, without so much as a pause.

But these problems are small compared with the benefits. Once again poor people will be free to fly, at speed and even in comfort, just like us regular folk.

(Michael Lewis is a Bloomberg News columnist and the author, most recently, of ``The Blind Side.'' The opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the writer of this column: Michael Lewis at
Last Updated: July 17, 2008 00:03 EDT

Boris Badenov

Let's get this thing on the hump!
I find it amusing that Lewis thinks that the barely-literate prole swine will idly sit by while being given their due. Poor "people" have proven time and time again that when the going gets really tough (but fair!) they rise up and blame their betters for their sad (but deserved!) lot.

Seriously, I look forward to the day when financial "workers" who "make" nothing but lies, tax-dodges, and fools of those who believe that we live in a functioning Republic are swinging from the lamp-posts.


Well-Known Member
Seriously, I look forward to the day when financial "workers" who "make" nothing but lies, tax-dodges, and fools of those who believe that we live in a functioning Republic are swinging from the lamp-posts.
That will only happen if there is a complete collapse of the monetary system and we're down to Martial Law. Other than that my friend, we live in a world where money talks and all that other stuff keeps walkin...


Well-Known Member
nah it doesn't take a complete collapse of the monetary system and martial law to put a chill down peoples backs who are well off. All it would take is some trained and experienced soldier who has come home from war with his trophies only to lose his house because of a subprime mortgage, have his wife leave him, then have the government reactivate him and then it would all be down hill from there.


I find it ironic. The richest (or is it second richest??) man in the world Warren Buffet flies coach on the airlines. His company Berkshire Hathaway owns Net-Jets...

This guys assumptions are a little bit ridiculous.


Queso King
I'm giving it to my flight attendant today. While it was hilarious the guy needs a good "fist bump" in his face.


Well-Known Member
my gist of the article was that people are going to start to have to pay for the fringe benefits like more baggage and food and not complain about the efficient service or pay more money for nicer trips. your buying a ticket to get some where not to be treated like your special that cost money.


Gone West
How does a guy with only a $100,000,000 net worth afford a $50,000,000 GV?

I smell a fractional, meaning he isn't as rich as he likes to pretend he is.


Well-Known Member
I think I'd consider myself an imbecile if I thought writing an opinion piece about Poor-Folks flying coach would get me brownie points.

Then again - these rich tool bags are over-valued anyways. They don't know what poor is, and think 35k a year is rich. Value and money mean nothing when you have so much of it.


Gone West
I think I'd consider myself an imbecile if I thought writing an opinion piece about Poor-Folks flying couch would get me brownie points.

Then again - these rich tool bags are never worth what they really are.
The vast majority of paper millionaires I have come across, in and out of flying airplanes, have been complete jackasses.


Gastrointestinally Challenged
Most people don't pay for a jet with cash. If he has one, it is financed like everyone elses.


New Member
I don't think it was his G-V, but his clients. Maybe a NetJets client himself. There's a lot of truth in the article, unfortunately. Takes some "kahunas" to print that for average folk to read.