Sticker Shock

It looks like I am going to be in Australia for the month of August.

I love Australia, and when I was there in 2004, Sydney replaced San Francisco as my favorite city. But the 15 hour flight from LAX to SYD is murderous. Seriously, I can deal with long flights but 15 hours in coach is painful. On the way back I watched Return of the King three times in a row and the flight was barely half over.

So I thought, hey, this time I’ll fly in business class. Yeah, it is more expensive, but should be worth it.

I went and looked up the price on American: over US$19000.

What? That is the price of a car. For this post I decided to just price a flight in business from LAX to SYD (versus all the way from RDU). It came to US$18700 with taxes, round trip.

If we assume that the round trip is 30 hours or so, that comes to around $623/hour. That’s outrageous. You can get over three hours of top-notch OpenNMS consulting for that. Heck, Elliot Spitzer doesn’t spend that hourly rate (well, at least for 15 hours straight).

Who pays this? I really can’t imagine doing it. Well, I mean if I was Tiger Woods and made millions, US$19K might not seem that important (and I’d probably upgrade to First for just $5K more), but from a business standpoint?

I had a friend say “well, just charge it to the client”. I did think about it, and if it was under $10K I would have even suggested it, but it was almost twice that. For the difference I figured I could fly out in coach a couple of days early, stay in the most expensive hotel room in Sydney, dine on endangered species and still come out ahead.

Sheesh. $19K for a plane flight (well, two). So I’m in coach for a fraction of the price, heading out a couple of days early (staying at the Courtyard) and the most exotic thing I’ll eat is kangaroo, but at least the client will come out ahead, which means they can buy more OpenNMS stuff.

So, am I an idiot for not charging the client? What’s the most expensive plane ticket you’ve purchased?

4 thoughts on “Sticker Shock

  1. A lot of large companies still allow their employees to fly business class if it’s over a certain amount of hours. A few years ago I did some work for IBM in Japan and they I flew from Atlanta to Narita (17 hours) in business class and it was sweet. However, the The last time I went to Japan IBM cut me to a max of 6k. Sometimes you can work with an airline agent and take some funky routes to cut the price down. Also, If I have to fly coach I try to find a flight that looks ike in might not be full and you can sometimes get a row in th back all by yourself (almost as good as bclass).

  2. I can see $6K. Some of my overseas coach tickets run $2K or more. But 19 thousand dollars? Is this a trip on Space Ship One?

    I just don’t get it.

  3. I didn’t purchase it, but I was the recipient of a $5500 round-trip business class ticket from SLC to New Delhi in 2003. Convergys (at the time, anyway) had a policy of business class on all international flights. That was Delta and Air France. I spent about four hours in the lounge at Charles De Gaulle on the way back.

    The telephone companies view businesses as the guys who really pay their infrastructure buildout costs and therefore subsidize lower rates for residential, so getting basic phone service for a business costs a lot more than it does for your house.

    Airlines probably view the higher classes in much the same way – paying for a big chunk of the flight costs so that the “residential” folks in coach can get cheaper rates.

    But, even if you acknowledge that the US Dollar is getting weaker all the time, that’s an insane price.

  4. Yowza. That’s similar to the price I saw quoted for first class on the new Airbus (with the sleep-in-your-own-bathtub seat) from New York to Singapore.

    No, you’re not an idiot. And I’m looking forward to the day that we have really really good video conferencing at reasonable prices.

    But back to the flight. You’re probably paying ~$2,500 for regular class, which is ~$17,000 less than business class. Are there folks who will be $17,000 more productive because of the improved space and comfort on both legs of the trip? Let’s say that you believe that the 30 hour roundtrip ought/could include 2 days worth of work if you were in business class. So those two days would cost $8,500 each. If we assume you can’t get squat done while you’re traveling in regular class, this reduces to… is your time worth $8,500 per day? Roughly speaking, the breakeven on this happens at an annual salary of ~$1.8MM. I’m not quite there yet. You?

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