The public has had a love/hate relationship with air travel for decades now. We love the excitement of going somewhere new or visiting people we love, but we hate having our flights cancelled, being frisked in our socks by strangers, getting hit with hidden fees and waiting in line for the infamous full body scanner.
Yet most of us accept these inconveniences as part of the reality of flying. You can’t blame an airline for the weather. Hurricanes happen. So does snow. Most airline passengers sense that we’re all going through this crazy experience together. But at United Airlines, $9 is about to change that dynamic. That is how much United is charging for “Premier Access” to fast-track security lines that offer customers reduced hassle and shorter waits.
How will the public react? This is a tough one. Sure, the airline industry has always offered special treatment to business flyers and the high rollers in first class–but this new “Premier Access” stunt has yet to pass the public’s sniff test.
Is this simply capitalism at work, answering the public’s demand? Or is there something a little more devious going on here? Is United really trying to alleviate congestion before flights, or are they simply leveraging the situation as yet another ploy to allow for a deeper dip into their customers’ wallets?
How will United customers waiting in line, texting their co-workers as their children tug on their jackets, react when fellow passengers breeze by thanks to a few extra Washingtons? Will this add to the public’s weary feeling that our society is continuing to divide itself along class lines, or will they simply see it as an example of that eternal truism “it is what it is?”
That probably depends on whether or not they have a spare $9 on hand.