Stop the plane, I want to get off — then on, then off, then on, then off

Any doubt in my mind that our air transport system is broken beyond repair came in the last 36 hours as I began checking prices for a one-way ticket for my daughter to get to UMass this September. The travel web site I went to offered me 106 different flight options but the results are absolutely asinine.

The cheapest fare was $274. To get there on the Thursday she needs to be there, though, she would leave Sioux Falls Wednesday afternoon on United, fly to Phoenix (with a stop in Denver), then fly a Delta red-eye from Phoenix to Atlanta (arriving early Thursday morning) and then Delta from Atlanta to Hartford, Conn. The travel time is 16 hours — if you don’t encounter any delays.

For just $4 more she can get there the same day she leaves. Under this itinerary, she would leave at 5 a.m. Thursday on Northwest/Delta and fly to Minneapolis, then fly to Columbus, Ohio, where she would take a United flight to O’Hare in Chicago and then a United flight into Hartford. She would arrive 13 hours after leaving — again assuming no delays — and an hour before dorm check-in closes. UMass is about 45-60 minutes from the airport, depending on traffic.

Having at least some modicum of intelligence, I thought, “Why not just fly direct to Minneapolis, Atlanta or Chicago and then into Hartford?” Either of the first two will cost $754, whether through the travel site or the airline web sites. The Chicago route is “only” $543 at both the travel site and the airline site.

Under what pricing model does two takeoffs and landings cost two to three times more than four? Our air transport system is insane and totally defective.

By the way, Southwest from Omaha with a change of planes at Midway is $204.

…if a farsighted capitalist had been present at Kitty Hawk, he would have done his successors a huge favor by shooting Orville down.

Warren Buffett, Bershire Hathaway shareholder letter, February 2008

2 comments to Stop the plane, I want to get off — then on, then off, then on, then off

  • If her specialty is taught in South Dakota, she might be better off here in undergrad school anyway. At least she might actually have a few professors teaching instead of about four years of grad assistants.

  • Tim

    South Dakota offers neither of the two majors she currently plans to pursue and, in fact, UMass is one of only about a dozen schools in the country to offer a PhD program in one of them. With AP courses and the like, she already has all but two of her general education requirements so will be skipping most of the TA-taught courses.