Airlines are Still the Best Deal for Point-to-Point Travel

Seriously; their planes might be bigger and costlier to operate, but there are more people footing the bill.

It happened again this weekend. I got a call from a guy here in Phoenix looking for a charter flight. He started by saying that his dad had died in Salt Lake City and that he couldn’t afford the $600 airfare to get up there.

I replied with two very truthful things:

  • I was sorry that his dad had passed away.
  • The airlines were the best deal for a flight from Phoenix to Salt Lake City.

I gave him some numbers to back up that second fact. I get about $500/hour for charter flights. Salt Lake City is at least a 4 hour flight from Phoenix. I had to be paid for the trip up there and the trip back. So he was looking at at least $4,000 plus any overnight fees to keep me there until he was ready to come back.

Sure beats $600, no?

And I don’t have a beverage service or rest rooms.

He then proceeded to ask me if I knew anything about a charter operator who flew out of Scottsdale to Salt Lake City. I didn’t.

He then told me he figured he could find someone with a small plane, “like a Cessna,” who’d take him up there for $150. I told him that was very unlikely.

It was difficult to extract myself from the conversation without being rude, but I managed.

I get calls like this pretty often. I’ve had calls for flights to Albequerque, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, and even Montreal (which I still can’t believe; do you know how long that flight would take?). People assume that because my aircraft is smaller than an airliner, it would be cheaper to fly with me than with Southwest or United. This is not the case.

The simple truth of the matter is that airlines are the cheapest way to fly point-to-point if you need to go from one airline-serviced city to another. There are several reasons for this, the main reason being that the cost of the flight is covered by the 100+ people on the plane.

Yes, the cost of flying my helicopter between PHX and SLC is lower than the cost of flying a Boeing 737 between PHX and SLC. But I can carry 3 passengers; the B-737 can carry more than 150. So even if it costs me $3,000 and it costs the airline $30,000, $3,000 ÷ 3= $1,000 per person and $30,000÷150 = $200 per person. Doing the math, you can clearly see that the cost per passenger is considerably lower for the larger aircraft.

And that’s not even counting the money the airline is collecting for hauling mail and cargo on the same flight.

So folks, the next time you need a cost-effective way to travel 200 miles or more between two cities serviced by the airlines, just bite the bullet and buy the plane ticket. You won’t be saving any money with me.

Or if you’re that cost conscious and have a car that gets good mileage, just drive.

2 thoughts on “Airlines are Still the Best Deal for Point-to-Point Travel

  1. another small side fact that applies to this persons dilemma is that “most” airlines have a bereavement policy in place that allows some additional discounts for situations like this, all you have to do is provide the paperwork from the funeral services, relationship to the deceased, and or a death certificate… they will sometimes give a reduced rate or refund a portion of the purchased price.

    • I’d heard something like that but was afraid to suggest it to this person in case (1) he expected me to know everything about it and (2) he wasn’t able to get it for some reason.

      You know, these days people don’t hesitate to put all kinds of crap they don’t really need on their credit cards — electronics, entertainment, dining out, vacations, etc. Seems to me that $600 is not too much to spend to say goodbye to a parent and/or comfort the ones he left behind. But I don’t know his situation; he might be seriously broke. Hope he finds an affordable way to get up there. But I know that chartering an aircraft is not the way.

What do you think?