The airline industry is about to undergo a revolution no less radical than the introduction of the airsick bag in 1949. Surprisingly the change is being driven by a company that is “not yet an airline.”
The not-yet-an-airline is specifically Not Quite An Airline, a fully-disowned subsidiary of NotQuiteProfitable.com. This small startup had been searching for the right business plan for the last few years. Recently the firm’s analysts noted that airlines obtain amazing profitability from baggage fees. NotQuiteProfitable’s spokesperson provided the following statement the hope that members of the news media would use this quote rather than do their own research.
In recent years baggage fees have provided over a quarter of airline industry profits while representing under 2% of the operating revenue.
The spokesperson went on to explain that the NQP New Business Team realized that there was a great deal of money to be made here for relatively little work. This is a perfect match for NQP’s core value of “maximum results for minimum (or no) effort.” They were hoping to turn around a trend where NQP’s previous attempts at a new business plan were less than completely successful. The company’s spokesperson was unable to elaborate due to pending court cases. However, an unnamed source provided insight into outcomes that could charitably be labeled somewhere between a fiasco and a total disaster. Think Enron, Arthur Anderson and the BP Oil Spill but without all the positive press.
R. Langdon, NQP’s VP of Mergers and Inquisitions, provided this background to the decision to not quite start a new airline.
When considering new businesses, one of the things we look for is an industry that has average customer satisfaction scores lower than ours. This limits us considerably but we decided to look beyond the obvious choices of starting a cellular phone carrier or a cable TV provider.
It was at this point that one of our executives had an epiphany after a cross-country flight. Her plane left two hours late and yet was still able to land only four hours after the scheduled arrival time. During the flight itself she understood why railroads no longer refer to livestock transports as “cattle cars” but have standardized on using “aircraft cabin on wheels.” She also noted that the free pretzels had an expiration date that was expressed using the Mayan calendar. Her baggage was damaged when it arrived the following day in another city. It was while waiting in the ER for the X-rays of her newly modified skeletal arrangement that she realized that NQP had the requisite skills to do just as well. Here was an industry where we would be able to easily achieve our corporate goal of “sucking less than the competition.”
Of course starting a new airline, even one that is not quite an airline, is no easy task. That is why we spent most of the following morning creating our plan. Some would consider our lack of planes to be a barrier to entry, but we think it allows us to consider a radical new approach. We are going to be the first airline to forego passengers completely. Face it, drunken toddlers and puking business travelers are a pain and they barely pay for the hassle of transporting them. The real money is in baggage. Many airlines have tried the intermediate step of treating their passengers like baggage, but we are going to drop them completely.
Our no-planes / baggage-only strategy means that we do not have to concern ourselves with being nice to passengers. This is fortunate since that is not one of our strengths. Our operation will accept baggage at any major airport and just like our full service competitors we will deliver the baggage to another airport. The difference is that the other airlines deliver baggage randomly around the country due to their flawed baggage handling systems. On the other hand, we intentionally place our customers’ bags at random on the next cheap flight going anywhere. We achieve the same end result but at a lower cost thereby providing better service to our customers which we feel is a good thing to do when it works out that way.
The bottom line is that a traditional air carrier will charge you $25 to $35 to fail to deliver a bag to your destination. Even without our own planes, we can fail to deliver a bag for less than half that amount.
NQAA hopes to have their service in place by the end of the previous quarter. All the other airlines are expected to follow their lead and transition to baggage-only airlines by the end of this calendar year. If they do not make this timetable then we will have to admit that we made up the headline of this post just to get your attention. Fortunately our research shows that less than 3% of internet users ever read past the headline and first paragraph. We think we are on pretty safe ground here and no one will call us on it.
“unclaimed” photo at top of page by hobvias sudoneighm found on flickr