Leaving New York City yesterday bound for California on one of the last flights out of JFK before the airport closed, a flight attendant told me I was lucky to already have my ticket. In light of the pending hurricane, the airlines had just hours before jacked up ticket prices on the flight to $4,000 (I had paid a few hundred dollars when I bought it last week).
As a result of the last-minute rush for tickets, the flight was oversold by 47 passengers. So the flight attendants offered money to any passengers who volunteered to switch their tickets to the next flight out of NYC, whenever that might be. The first offer of $200 wasn’t enough to elicit 47 volunteers, nor were the subsequent ones of $300 and $350. An offer of $400 finally did the trick.
But the transaction was also deeply exploitative. The airline netted a huge profit because of the impending storm.
I couldn’t help think this was a miniature version of the America we’ll have if Mitt Romney is elected president. Rational and efficient in terms of supply and demand, guaranteed to maximize profits, but fundamentally unfair.