Human factors

Although airlines are unwilling to invest in flight crew comprehensive training in human factors in order to improve safety, and are not willing to apply human factors to operations, there is one area where they have the human factors lesson well applies- passenger's wallets.

Back in 2008, as the price of fuel began to rise and the mismanagement of airline assets began to really show, someone in airline management used the volumes of information on human factors to find a great way to grub a lot of money. The formula involved simply charging a fee for every bag that every slob who was dumb enough to still buy a ticket decided to check. One after another the airlines implemented this little scam and factored that the other airlines would, for the most part, follow suit. They did. The calculation also involved the human factor that once these fees were in place across most of the"legacy carriers" passengers would soon hate the fees, but would also get used to being used in this manner. They did.

A year and a half later, the airlines are no longer facing the steep fuel costs, the pensions of their employees have been erased in the bankruptcy courts, capacity has been slashed and the airlines are raising the checked bag fees. The passengers- in a predictable human factors response- are grumbling, but still pay the higher fees.

In this coming holiday season, my mom will be flying out east here to be with us for Christmas. Northworst Airlines wants to charge her $20, each way, for her one bag. I refuse to pay- instead, I told ma to get a nice cardboard box. She will drive a block two days before her flight and take her box, containing her travel clothing, plus some winter and summer clothing, and she will go to FedEx and, using my FedEx account, ship her stuff by FedEx Ground to my house. When her visit is over we'll store some of her clothing here and what she wants to send back to her home we will FedEx back to her. That process will cost just over $8 each way and will screw Northworst Airlines out of their fee.

Figuring a way around their fees is a human factor too.


  1. Wes,

    Damn straight, finding ways around the fee is a human factor. When I went to book my Thanksgiving flight, after seeing I couldn't drive the distance, I opened both Expedia, and and ran the numbers, the fares were the same, but Southwest didn't charge for baggage, so it was cheaper overall.

  2. I may poke fun at SWA, but I fly SWA- in fact, both my kids (one age 6 and one age 2.5) both have SWA frequent flyer Rapid Rewards cards. Additionally, my flight down for the Ares I-X launch earned me a free ticket on SWA. Screw bag fees!