« JetBlue Badges gamification marketing fails to take off | Main | Write, design, and publish an ebook in three hours »

July 18, 2013


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

seth godin

I've thought about this a lot, since I'm the world expert on thinking about marketing while at airports. It seems like it's all I do.

The reason, I think, is that there is risk (not crash risk, but cancellation/hassle risk) associated with flying.

People at the gate are unlikely to take the $300 (they made it to the gate!) and people in their seats are totally unlikely to take the $300. Because in their minds, they made it. They're in, it's complete.

Our lizard brain says, "don't take the cash, you'll jinx us, and with our luck, you'll be stranded here."

All you'd have to do to flip this on its head is say, "Our flight has a red light on the dashboard and we've called the mechanics. They'll be here in five minutes. Or, if you prefer, for $100 you can get on the plane right next door, which is taking off right now..."

It's not about time.

It's about (perceived) risk.

Joseph Ratliff

This is a huge, deep philosophical topic David. Love it.

I think at least one of the underlying factors that determines someone's value of time is their view of leverage.

If someone's "point B," or end result, is important enough, any amount of leverage that can be gained will be purchased, sold for, traded for, etc... so that person can reach their destination faster, that person can get a better result, etc...

Conversely, if a person doesn't place enough value on their "point B" or result... leverage doesn't factor in their thinking at all, or only a little.

For example, telling my Dad to pay someone to paint his house 20 years ago would have gotten a "Nope, I can do it myself" type of response. He didn't, for whatever reason or reasons, place enough value on his "point B"... the house being painted.

Asked him that question again recently (Dad, why don't you have the house painted by someone?)... and at first I got the same response... until he realized his is close to 60 years old, he does have the money, he would rather do something else with his time etc...

... so he paid someone to paint his house... getting the leverage he needed to do more important, more valuable things.

If people aren't placing value on getting to their destination at the airport, I suspect the scenario is the same, they won't pay (even $10) to leverage themselves onto that flight quicker, that, or they might realize they are still going to get on the same flight as everyone else, so "rushing there" doesn't have value unless they are pressed for time.

You and I see things a little bit differently, personally I place an enormous value on my time, so the "point B"'s in my life inherently have more value.

Therefor, I would pay $10 almost every time so I could have some time with a book, or my laptop etc... at the airport. :)

David Meerman Scott

Seth - that's an interesting take and one I hadn't thought of. That's what happens when you trust economics, right? You forget there are other factors at play. I certainly see my behavior in your scenario, especially if you toss in a little bad weather! (Our plane is here on the ground and ready to go. The next plane is en route from Chicago).

Joseph - interesting take on your Dad's house painting. I still cut the grass. From a purely financial point of view, it makes no sense and I really should hire someone. But I kind of like getting outside and feeling like a true homeowner!

Raúl Colón

I had not travelled with American Airlines in quite some time. At SXSW this year I met part of the AA team and I got offered a discount to choose them when I flew to Fargo, ND from San Juan Puerto Rico.

There is only 1 flight from San Juan to Chicago a day and its usually over sold. Since I live near the airport now I might start booking those trips a day ahead to get a credit. However for those that live far from the airport or are traveling the voucher might not be very attractive when you have to pay for hotel and other extra expenses for extending your stay.

Will make the math next time I am traveling to see if it is worth it to wait.

Sometimes we just need a reminder.

Joseph Ratliff

David, and that "feeling like a true homeowner" ends up being your "point B."

Leverage doesn't have enough value to you in that instance, and that isn't necessarily a "bad" or "good" thing, because it matters to you, and that's all that matters. :)

But yes, I would say that "feeling like a homeowner" is purely fictional... because that seems to be your way of rationalizing not having someone mow the lawn for you. ;)

Because I see the "fiction" of your situation, due to my particular view of leverage as it applies to me.

But, can you see what happens here?

I immediately determine to myself that your view is "fiction"... because I'm rationalizing my own view.

Ahhh, us humans, interesting bunch eh David? :)

And Seth, I think "perceived risk" is only one variable (of many) to consider in the context of the situation we make these choices in. But YES on everything you said.

David Meerman Scott

Interesting how many ways we add up these things and money isn't the most important many times!

Joseph Ratliff

Yep David... and then we get into a philosophical discussion of the true value of money... but that's another time. :)


Pretty deep as other commentators have noted David. It got me to thinking -- isn't both time and money irrational? Both are inventions.

Time might be more tangible since our body rhythms naturally follow the cycle of light and dark -- but money is a complete invention. An efficient invention, but an invention nonetheless. At one time, we bartered tangible goods.


A very interesting topic!

With regards to the $10 fast lane I agree with the point, that you don't actually get on the plane any sooner, and hence the perceived benefit is very small. Especially if you are a non-business passenger who don't have access to a comfortable lounge, don't have wifi, or simply if you have to check in bagage, meaning that you have to be at the airport early enough for the security check time not to matter.

The extra charge for the fast-lane is also added when you buy the ticket, where you are far away from worrying about being late. If you could buy into the fast-lane at the exact place where you spotted the big queue, then I think busines would soar.

With regards to the $300 I do agree with Seth on the lizard brain part, but I also think we might be underestimating how many objective factors that could be in play:
- Have to be at a meeting, wedding or whatever at a specific time.
- On way home to wife, kids or other loves ones.
- Have to catch a connecting flight.
- Are travelling in a group that doesn't fit the offer.

Each time I have gotten such an offer one of these factors have been in play.

And also, unless you are an extremely regular traveller being at an airport plain and simply sucks, and hence the uncomfort of staying at a place where you really don't want to be also makes your time appear more valuable.

Note: I know that in the case of the loved ones, you could argue, that if you are delayed 3 hours, you could potentially spend the $300 on somebody to paint your house for 6 hours, hence getting 3 hours with your family at another time, but that is a lot of steps (and risks) for a rather small gain.

David Meerman Scott

Frank, you're right about money as a human invention for keeping score. But humans are the only animals who know about our own mortality. It's baked into us. So all we really have in this world is time. (How about that for deep!)

Madsbuchstage, Yes about non-business travelers. Also, a family of 4 would be $40 so it starts to add up. Oh, and I love your last point - arbitrage the money!

Allen Roberts

I just get bloody annoyed at the lines at security, consuming my time, and creating irritation and conflict for no benefit. (The cynic in me believes no self respecting terrorist would carry anything through a line where they may be tumbled, they simply bypass somehow. In Sydney/Melbourne at least, by-passing is really easy)
To my mind,it is an indication of management failure, contempt for customers, or probably both.
With some exceptions caused by the unusual, the weight of people trying to get through security at any given time is absolutely predictable, so should be able to be managed.
Notwithstanding my grumpiness, it is a fascinating subject, one that deserves consideration in many marketing situations.


People treat time as if it's a renewable resource, which it is not. They treat money as if they can't get more, which they generally can (earn another paycheck, etc.)


I don't know if I agree about the point on taking money to catch a later flight when airlines have overbooked. I'm not familiar with airlines offering actual cash. Usually it's a voucher, in which case you can't say that someone is passing up the opportunity to make $150/hour. The value of a plane ticket, even if the airline has claimed it at $300, isn't the same as cash. It depends on so many things. For example, recently I was flying out of Newark on United and was offered a voucher. I was so close to taking it, but, as I thought more about the voucher, I realized that I never fly United. I only flew it that time because it was a gift from a friend so I could visit family. So, a voucher for $300 to fly United again, was worth $0 to me, knowing that I always try to fly Southwest first, any other airline second, and United dead last.

David Meerman Scott

Allen, you're right about security being annoying. But I've learned that it is like the weather -- something you can't change, and therefore not worth getting upset about. But if I can pay a few dollars to make the experience shorter Im up for that.

Laura and Henny - Great points. Thanks.

Bill Zahn

David, I think most people view the airport experience as a waste of time (when else do you watch CNN?). If people used the waiting time productively, it is worth bypassing security. If you're just going to watch tv and eat Cinnabon, you might as well save the $15 and wait in line.


It is a nice article.Thanks for shairng your views in a philosophical way.

The comments to this entry are closed.


Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz

follow me

David Meerman Scott books

I want to speak at your next event!


David Meerman Scott e-books

David's iPhone and iPad apps

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 12/2004