Money for muffins and your tix for free
The whole airline business is built on insanely small margins. So it’s hardly a surprise to learn overnight that Jetstar makes its pittance of a profit not from ticket sales but from the sale of muffins and other “food” on board.
Note the inverted commas around the word food. As American satirist Dave Barry once said: “Airline food is not intended for human consumption. It’s intended as a form of in-flight entertainment, wherein the object is to guess what it is, starting with broad categories such as ‘mineral’ and ‘linoleum’.”
Overpriced food aside, Australian budget airlines are not all that bad. Sure, Jetstar’s a bit bogan and Virgin Blue’s a bit like a branch of the Church of the Almighty Cult of His Supreme Hipness Richard Branson. But mostly, they’re OK.
The planes on our budget airlines are typically brand spanking new, as beat-up old birds need spare parts more often and therefore cost more to run.
Aussie budget airlines also seem to have more or less the same number of staff and backroom paraphernalia as proper airlines like Qantas, give or take the occasional Virgin Blue software crash.
A friend who once flew low rent Irish carrier Ryanair swears he once saw the luggage-loading guy in orange overalls throw the bags onboard the plane, seal up the hold, then walk inside the terminal and become the flight-boarding announcement guy.
That doesn’t happen here. If you fly a budget airline in Australia, you’re not really compromising yourself at all. As long as you don’t buy the Branson biography.
So does it matter that they’re not making a dollar out of the thing they technically do for a living? McDonald’s sell fast food but actually make their money out of property and no one seems to care too much.
Air transport is a more serious game than hamburgers. And there are those who would say that if Jetstar is getting by selling $6.95 semi-defrosted muffins, it’s the first early warning sign of a business that both literally and figuratively could soon come crashing down.
As they say on Virgin Blue, “...there is a serious side to our flight today”. Well now, just how serious is it?
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