I used to travel two or three times a month, middle class all the way. Oh, occasionally I’d get a mileage award bump to the slightly cushier first-class section, basically upper-middle-class. But the lower-middle-class coach section was fine, really. Once, my rental car company upgraded me to a Lexus with a bunch of little voices; if I failed to shut the door tightly, a voice would scold, “Door is ajar!” So I worked up a little comedy routine with the car. Me: “Hey, car, when is a door not a door? When the—” Car: “Door is ajar!” We had a great time, that car and I. But honestly, I was fine without the voices (I have plenty in my head). Another time, my host booked me into a first-class hotel room with—get this!—a drinking fountain in the toilet! Weird. (It was good-tasting water, though.) Still, a nice clean economy room would have been fine.
But that was then.
Last month, we flew to Los Angeles sitting on cloth-covered 2 x 4s —while, passengers in the newly-expanded first class section kicked back on leather recliners in private cubicles with full desks, beds, and large screen TVs (seriously).
Why the change? Someone figured out that:
- 100 people paying $300 for coach class and 20 people paying $500 for first class = $40,000, but…
- 100 people paying $400* for coach class and 20 people paying $2,000 for first class = $80,000!
In other words, there’s money to be made by eliminating the middle class. In what I call the Firster vs. Worster Class system, the worsters (basically, peasants) pay more for less than they used to get, and the firsters (royalty) pay more (way more) for more (way more) than they used to get. E.g. Emirates Airlines offers luxurious firster-class flights to the Middle East for $50,000 – roughly fifty times as much as coach (worster) class!
The same applies to entertainment. Last month, my wife and I spent $400 for a no-frills day at Disneyland that cost us half that much last time we went. 3/4 of our time was taken up with waiting in lines and riding the shuttle to and from our parking area in Honduras. But for three times as much money, we could have had a line-free firster-class experience. As it was, we managed to squeeze in five rides, one of which, the new Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, cost us an extra $40 to skip the 3-4 hour wait.
Goodbye, middle class. Hello, haves and have-nots. How can these extremes be re-balanced? Maybe a contest. We could call it something like…
The Hunger Games.
*Due to extra fees for formerly free services, economy (worster) class actually costs more than it used to.