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The pre-flight script and video about rules for flying is routinely ignored, despite attendants requests for attention. Southwest Airlines uses jokes to gain attention. Air New Zealand uses Richard Simmons. Both are examples of how grabbing attention is a dynamic process. Breaking the expected pattern grabs attention – at least until it becomes expected again.

Meicheng Shi, who spotted the clip, writes: “The first time I flew in an airplane, I paid close attention to the safety instructions, carefully noting how to inflate a lifevest and where my nearest emergency exits were. Hundreds of flights later, I’m usually asleep before the crew even goes through flight safety…Throughout the entire video, almost everyone’s eyes were glued to the screen– I’ve never seen a flight where the passengers paid so much attention to the safety video.”

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The Transportation Security Authority recommends travelers not lock their bags on the chance that they will be inspected. Of course, this increases the risk of theft. You could buy a specially TSA-approved lock or you could take the advice of an ingenious reader over at LifeHacker:

I use key rings to lock the zip of my check-in baggage and also to secure my carry on baggage. Advantage of using key ring is that it can be opened without a key! But at the same time it takes a small amount of time to get the ring out, this small amount of time is good enough to discourage anyone with malicious intent to try open the bag.

Hat tip: Donnie Hall

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We sure hope not. Ian Ayres and and Jonathan Macey see an opt-out scam where airlines and flight aggregation sites like Orbitz set the default rule for flight insurance (typically between $10-$15). They wonder if Nudge is to blame? Say it ain’t so. Nudging, as we have tried to show in the book, can be used by shrewd manipulators.

In their recent best-selling book Nudge, Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler show that default setting can be a powerful force for the social good. But default setting can also be a powerful force for mischief if controlled by those with ill intent.

We wonder whether the fact that opt outs were only recently introduced in the travel industry — and only after Nudge was published — is merely coincidental. Perhaps the insights in the book provided valuable, if unscrupulous, tips to the marketers who help design websites for the travel agency.

As lawyers and economists, we would have predicted that reputational sanctions would have kept Orbitz from engaging in these sorts of shenanigans. Experience, however, is proving us wrong.

Addendum: Ok, we know these scams were around long before Nudge and will be long after. Be on the lookout – and let us know about them! The Geary Behaviour Centre points to a nice 2006 FT article (pre-Nudge) by Eric Johnson and Daniel Goldstein about the power of defaults.

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