Rethinking airline seat upgrades

Interesting post from the Economist’s travel blog: you can now upgrade your airline seat after boarding and taking off on some airlines. I’m fascinated by this as a student of logistics; empty seats on an airplane are the ultimate perishable good, meaning the value is lost the moment you pull back from the terminal gate. This is why airlines spend millions of dollars matching demand to price to ensure as much revenue is squeezed from the rest of the plane, and why it’s common practice to overbook a flight to account for no-shows (the cost of accommodating a bumped passenger is small compared to the cost of running with an empty seat). There are enough consumers out there who are cost-conscious enough to stick with economy seats, but human enough to think packing into a metal tube like a sardine is unpleasant, and this policy is geared to them. Imagine — you book your economy seat, then find you’re the middle seat between two “ample” colleagues. One quick swipe of a credit card and you’re up in front. Everyone wins; that much more room in coach class, you get to stretch your legs and enjoy a flight for once, the airline’s goodwill heightens with its customers, and the bottom line improves marginally as business class fills.

Billions in Profit, $500 at a Time

An entertaining bank story for your Monday reading pleasure.

With our old home equity plan we had a line of credit (Old LOC) and a Visa (Old VISA). When we bought the new house we needed to pay off the old stuff, and we got New LOC and New VISA as part of the new home equity plan.

In the process, I overpaid the old Visa by $500. I didn’t catch this until a few months ago. Called the bank up, asked them to please transfer my credit balance from Old Visa to New LOC. Sure, they said, no problem.

Two months later, another round of statements and I realize they had transferred the credit amount from Old Visa to Old LOC. Not so helpful, so I call again, explain my problem, and ask them to transfer credit balance from Old LOC to New LOC. Sure, no problem, we’ll get on that right away.

A week later, transfer hasn’t shown up in New LOC, so I phone to see what’s going on. Transfer never happened, much apology, will re-authorize. Then a phone message at home: we can’t do the transfer, would you mind going to your branch and getting it done?

Three days later, I check New LOC. I find the $500 transfer in there, but it’s been transferred in the wrong direction. Now, instead of having two closed accounts with $0 balances, I have Old LOC, which I can’t access or check online, with a credit balance of $1000. The extra $500 came from New LOC. Pretty impressive given I was told they couldn’t actually process the transfer for me.

The status now is a promise to transfer all the money back into new LOC, backdating as appropriate to avoid interest charges. If this happens without further intervention I will have to schedule time to retrieve my jaw from the floor and reattach it.

It is black or white? No, black IS white!

The best proof I’ve seen that Alberta’s current premier is suffering some kind of multiple personality disorder comes in this story from the Globe and Mail. There’s a lot that people don’t really understand about oilsands development, and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have a full grasp on the issues. But the one incontrovertible truth is that extracting oil from tar sands takes incredible amounts of water and vast amounts of electricity, both of which are environmentally unfriendly practices no matter how much of that water you process and return to source or how you generate your electricity. So for someone to say that the environment trumps the economy but in the same breath refuses to slow the development of oilsands would require two separate personalities sharing one body.

I guess it would be possible to put the environment first and not directly slow development, if you were willing to impose stringent requirements on oilsands developers or charge royalties that would pay for the environmental cleanup. But that indirectly slows development, and it’s already been made clear that the current government has no intentions of slowing anything, thankyouverymuch.

Got Wake?

I read a lot of business magazines and blogs, mostly interested in articles on investing and finance, but I also try to sample articles that will help me work better or become a better leader. This particular article: “The Professional Organizer”, Fortune, September 3, 2007 about Kip Tindell, CEO of The Container Store was mostly forgettable, except for one particular nugget:

“Mind your wake. Someone made me a bumper sticker that reads GOT WAKE? and I keep it with me all the time. I have this theory that your wake, just like a boat’s, is much bigger than you realize. Everything you do — and what you don’t do — impacts the people around you a lot more than you think.”