British writer Raheem Kassam is the kind of conservative who hates business and free markets, preferring to ‘own the libs’ and take control of government to enforce the values he prefers. He’s hosted a podcast with Steve Bannon, ran Breitbart News London and when he ran for leader of pro-Brexit UK party UKIP he supported lifting their ban on white nationalist parties. He’s also anti-vaccine.
And now he’s going after United Airlines for offering more comfortable seats. I know bashing the airlines is populist gold (Cf. Ed Markey, Richard Blumenthal) but usually the complaint is about squeezing seat size rather than offering more seats with extra room.
United Airlines doing full fleet conversion, turning "well over half" of their aircrafts into First and Premium seating.
Sorry plebs, they're making flying for the "elite" again. pic.twitter.com/aNSFSxUqM2
— Raheem J. Kassam (@RaheemKassam) December 26, 2021
It may seem normal to complain about ‘air travel haves’ versus ‘have nots’ but the complaint here is literally that United is creating more haves on their planes by offering more seats with more room. And to do so he’s dragged up a two year old pre-pandemic article about completing the airline’s new business class Polaris retrofits – a seat that was less luxurious than what American and Delta offered when it was first announced in 2016. He misses the opportunity to talk about United’s addition of premium seats to Airbus narrowbodies or its premium-heavy CRJ-550 regional jets.
Adding premium seats makes those seats more accessible, available to more people.
- An increased quantity of premium seats supplied should bring down their price
- And if it doesn’t that likely means more empty premium sea5s – available for upgrade and cheap buy ups (elite status is not the province of the wealthy but more middle class professionals)
United has ordered hundreds of new domestic aircraft that will include seat back entertainment for everybody, arguable lifting the travel experience for all passengers. And remember that streaming entertainment is available even to passengers buying basic economy tickets, the airline’s cheapest and most restrictive.
Does Kassam prefer a world where only Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant are permitted to exist? Those carriers are still options, along with Southwest which has been the largest carrier of domestic passengers. Here what United is doing is giving customers a choice. Say what you want about the airline for being too woke or being the first to publicly agitate for more subsidies after the CARES Act last year. But they haven’t been too profitable.
Apparently though his beef with airlines is really about (and perhaps calling out United in particular) vaccines, proving that the longer the pandemic goes on the dumber people get, like like Candace Owens defending Donald Trump for being insufficiently anti-vax.
My comment is less about market efficiency and more about the trajectory of the industry based off the analysis and implementations of leading airlines. If we’re at the point of “muh free market” then I presume you won’t oppose immoral vaccine mandates by business? Ludicrous.
— Raheem J. Kassam (@RaheemKassam) December 27, 2021
Contra Kassam there’s actually an alternative universe in which only Republicans were willing to take Covid-19 vaccines. A number of scientists successfully pressed the FDA to throw up hurdles that delayed Pfizer’s clinical trials so that results and an Emergency Use Authorization wouldn’t come before the 2020 presidential election. Without that, Trump would have claimed credit for the successful vaccines before the election and Democrats would have argued that it was all a dirty trick, questioning vaccine safety.
Meanwhile the supposed ‘trajectory the industry’ has been any number of directions, with disgraced former United CEO Jeff Smisek leading a race to the bottom in passenger experience joined by current United CEO Scott Kirby when he was President of American Airlines and US Airways – in some measure in a drive to match costs and fares of Spirit and Frontier, which escape the commentator’s ire (as do services that make flying private less expensive, by the way).
Airlines have gone almost two years with limited food and service in premium cabins and limited lounge service for premium passengers in order to reduce costs (in the face of limited premium demand due to diminished corporate business travel) under the guise of Covid protection. The ‘industry trend’ can hardly be said to be giving more to the ‘elites’ that nationalists despise (though they themselves are among that class) and towards limiting expenses in the face of reduced revenue.
To be sure, some services are coming back. Overall though the trend has been towards giving people the products airlines believe customers are willing to pay for combined with a herd mentality where legacy airlines largely follow what Delta does (thinking their executives are smartest and must know what they’re doing). The pandemic may be disrupting that pattern, as United’s Scott Kirby doubles down on comfort including improvements for all customers and American starts getting more aggressive.
Ultimately this member of the ‘own the libs Right’ fails to understand the industry he’s trying to use to score political points on twitter, and finds himself having more in common with radical socialists than any sort of ‘conservative’ tradition (though even North Korea’s Air Koryo has business class).