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June 9, 2009

Airlines Using Sesame Seed Economics

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 10:45 am

A common example talked about in most marketing curriculums is what we call the sesame seed problem. It’s what happens when businessmen try too hard to cut costs without focusing on the real issue.

Fast food buns come with sesame seeds on them. Every few years some genius MBA will get an idea like “if we remove 2 seeds from the bun, nobody will notice and we’ll save $x.xx in production costs.” A few years later somebody gets the same idea and removes more seeds. Another few years, another few seeds until eventually you’re left serving hamburgers on seedless buns.

All of the ‘non-noticeable’ changes suddenly turned into a very noticeable change that affects product quality.

The same thing is happening with the airlines right now. First, it was the story about airlines removing life jackets from airplanes. Now we’re hearing about airlines shaving fractions of centimeters off of cutlery to save fuel costs.

Seriously? Who came up with the “shave the spoons” idea. And why didn’t he just make them plastic, or out of a lighter material?

If you want to cut fuel costs, stop scrimping on stupid ideas and start doing something significant to address the problem. Hell, fire the guy that came up with the “shave the spoons” idea and you’ve just saved enough fuel to go cross country a few times.

So what should the airlines do?

Eliminate drink service on 45 min flights. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken a flight from Detroit to Chicago and been needlessly served a drink for a short flight. Most of the time I couldn’t even finish my soda before they were coming around to collect it.

Cans of pop weigh a ton. So do the carts that carry all of it. If you eliminated drink service you could not only get rid of all the weight from the pop cans and carts, but you could remove one whole stewardess from the plane. The savings would be astronomical.

I know, I know, what about people who want a drink? Simple: Install a vending machine for 20oz bottles at the entrance to the gate and let me bring it on. This will make more money from the vending machine revenues as well as cut down on spills since all drinks will now be in bottles with re-sealable caps on them.

The barf bags are another opportunity. We don’t need one in every seat. Instead, keep a supply in the stewardess section and have them give one to people upon request. If you think you might get sick, request one as you’re boarding the plane. Since most people just use these to dispose of their gum before they get their free soda, I can only assume that a metric shit-ton of these bags get wasted every day.

Replacing overhead bin doors with a flexible net like material instead of a hard plastic door would eliminate a few hundred pounds while also increasing storage space and accessibility (think no more opening and closing bins to see if it’s full.)

When it comes to the small stuff like spoons and life jackets though, I’ll gladly pay an extra $5 ticket price for the feeling of security that having a life jacket gives me. I know that statistically I’ll probably never need it (or survive the crash to be able to put it on) but if that 0.0001% chance ever happens, that life jacket is going to be a hell of a lot more useful than my can of diet Shasta.

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