Airline Monkeynomics

It should come as no surprise that airlines view us as animals. We are herded onto the plane like cattle;  on board we are jammed into minuscule seats where we sit like battery hens. Then we are required to tirelessly produce the Golden Egg (our money, for this, that and the other). Like the battery hen, our comfort is not a high priority, so long as we produce.  Then, when our wallets are barren, we are unceremoniously dumped and the airline swaps us for a more fertile bunch of livestock.

This is a grim picture of the reality of modern air travel that does little to provide us with the respect that we might consider our right as Homo Sapiens.  We hobble from the plane after our miserable flight, cricked neck and sore knees, and swear that we will never again travel “Low Cost”.

Yet some months later, when holiday time comes, we reflexively buy the cheapest, nastiest air ticket available.  Like the creatures in Orwell’s Animal Farm, we remember that things were bad in the past but we cannot remember why.  Unthinkingly, we accept the current reality.

Are we no better than animals? The simple fact is, despite all of our fancy education and expensive hygiene products, human beings are monkeys.  Despite our self-important posturing we are driven by the same primal urges as the lower beasts.  That is me and, like it or not, that is you.

A monkey, like any unthinking animal, will reach for the closest thing that resembles food. Logic may dictate that it is better to wait, or that the bananas on the other tree may be better. Such profundities mean nothing to a monkey.

That is why we will buy the ticket with the lowest upfront price even though our rational minds know we will end up paying more. We simply cannot help it.  Monkey programming does not delve such depths, and 35 million of years of evolution have wired you to grab the closest banana.

Is this fact a surprise to Low Cost airlines?  Not on your life!  They know exactly the nature of humanity, and how to use our innate animal instincts to feather their own pockets.  For years these companies have been perfecting new strategies based on the simple observation of our “monkeyness”.  Yes, their methods may be irritating or offensive.  You may even find them deceptive.  As you pay their fees you may find yourself longing for those nobler days when you were told upfront what you would have to pay for your flight.  Those days are gone, Smirky.

Are the similarities between animals and humans merely coincidence?  If only that were true!

Sadly, there is real scientific evidence to support the comparison, and do not kid yourself that the Low Cost airlines are not aware of this fact.

For example, monkey researcher Laurie Santos recently gave a talk about her own studies into how monkeys respond to a free market economy.  She and her team taught a bunch of monkeys to use money and then set them certain challenges to see how they would respond.  Sadly for us, as an “enlightened” species, their responses were very similar to our own.  Which is to say, our responses were very similar to theirs.

Laurie called this experiment “Monkeynomics.”   She demonstrated that the laws of logic do not necessarily apply, in the animal mind, to financial transactions in which the subject feels they have something to lose.  Offer 3 grapes with the certainty of losing one, versus 3 grapes and a 50% chance of losing two, and the monkey will take the chance.  To the animal mind the possibility of a miraculous deal outweighs the known certainty of a sound product.

This stuff is real science (see the video below), and it would be naive to think that the low cost airlines are unaware.  You can bet your carry-on baggage fee that they know exactly what they are dealing with.

As a thinking animal, however, you have a choice.  As the “chimp” in the low-cost aviation circus you can accept your role, or you can choose to open your eyes.  Don’t accept the first banana offered to you.  Have a think about your fruit requirements for the whole season.

Such thoughts may not make you happier about about your own rotten brown banana, but you will at least learn WHY you chose it.  You will also know WHY the low cost airlines knew you that you would.

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