Left out from this analysis is a major factor in the airlines moving to reduced on-board service, unbundled pricing, and passenger packing. Contributing to these trends from the other side has been consumer behavior over the past few decades, as customers aggressively pursued the very lowest possible price, with decisions often down to a few dollars difference on fares of many hundreds of dollars. Simple economics will tell you that if the consumer always goes for absolute rock-bottom dollar the result will depress quality and service. It’s a feedback loop, in which the flying public and the airlines collaborated, each responding to the gambits of the other.
For my part, as a retired consultant who suffered through millions of flight miles over decades as a road warrior, I never understood the mindset of consumers and corporate travel agents that would give up a meal or adequate legroom just to save a few bucks and then complain about the cramped seating and the buy-on-board boxed meals.
I would not defend United or its actions, and class division may well be part of the story, but I am also reminded of my late father’s words that you get what you pay for and his warnings not to be penny wise and pound foolish.