In a recent editorial for the Luxembourgish newspaper Tageblatt, Francis Wagner writes that air travel is too cheap, or, as he put it, “dirt cheap”. While Wagner does recognise that lower fares have democratised travel, he also believes that current rates are damaging consumers.
“Millions of air journeys are, indeed, made by people who basically do nothing but flee from themselves because they do not know how to do anything useful with themselves,” he writes.
“Countless contemporaries use frequent air travel to combat the boredom that makes their otherwise uneventful lives so difficult to bear.”
We can presume Mr Wagner had a bad day and found himself annoyed by a friend’s social media posts of a late-September holiday, but there is a serious point here as well. The editorial in Tageblatt displays a serious envy for the well-being of European consumers.
In recent decades, air travel has revolutionised the way we go on holidays and visit friends and family. Especially for low-income consumers, the massive decrease in airfares has been a blessing. In fact, airfares have halved since 1978. Cheap air travel has connected families, couples and all those who can suddenly afford to reach destinations that were previously unattainable.
With what right would politicians – or, indeed, columnists – interfere with a transaction between a willing provider and a willing buyer, to tell them their transaction is too cheap? Are those who argue for higher prices ready to visit low-income households and tell them, and their crying children, that next year’s visit to Spain is cancelled, because Mom’s supermarket job does not pay for a LuxAir ticket?
It is often those journalists and politicians who can afford mainstream airlines (while flying on a regular basis) and fancy hotels who are the ones going after low-cost providers. An even more precise number of these journalists are writing for publications that have claimed, for decades, to be close to the working man, standing up for justice and fairness. Is it just and fair that Luxembourg’s low-income families spend their summer on Luxembourg’s Lake Stauséi, while those arguing against affordability sip on their champagne in business class?
Furthermore, we need to recognise that it is the competition among EasyJet, Ryanair and the like that has led the likes of Lufthansa, British Airways and LuxAir to also adapt their rates to more realistic prices. If we eliminate the competition among mainstream airlines, nothing will prevent them from making democratised air travel a thing of the past. That may even be their goal.
This article was first published by the Luxembourg Times.
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