Over winter break, I was particularly excited to go see George Clooney’s Up in the Air, a film about a businessman’s constant travels and difficult job on the road. I ended up spending the full two hours of the movie completely confused: How could someone enjoy spending their life in airplanes and airports?
Unlike Clooney’s character, I try to minimize my time “Up in the Air.” While I love that airplanes get me where I want to be, I can’t help but feel that it’s all an exercise in waiting. For hours, you are in travel limbo — you can’t quite relax but you can’t really get much done either. (I dislike travel limbo so much that I wrote an entire Report Card post on it while on a layover this past break.)
For someone who doesn’t like flying much, though, I seem to do a bad job of avoiding it. In 2009, I boarded over 25 flights and, this past break alone, I spent about 30 hours traveling.
Living on the West Coast and going to school on the East Coast, it turns out, makes frequent travel a necessary evil. I am not alone in this boat.
The Penn student body, like that of its peer intuitions, is made up of mostly out-of-state students. Ten percent of students are international and the other 90 percent come from every nook and cranny of the United States. Every two months or so, there is an opportunity for students to fly home and see family. Some of these trips are necessities but most (like Thanksgiving or spring break) are luxuries.
Adding it all together, there’s potential for about 10 flights per student, per year. Apply this to hundreds of thousands of students across the country over the course of four years and one thing becomes clear: College students are some of the airlines’ most frequent customers. But this does not seem to affect airlines’ attitudes toward us.
While we may not be racking up millions of miles like the businessmen in Up in the Air, thousands of us spend serious money just getting home every year. Airlines, however, appear to be unsympathetic to the plight of (often broke) college students. Most do not offer what many other companies do: student discounts.
Many companies understand that students without salaries are less able to afford “luxuries” like movies and travel than their salaried peers. Amtrak, for example, offers the Student Advantage Card, which can help students save 15 percent on their travel expenses. Meanwhile, most students who need to fly home receive little help.
Over the years, travel agencies have attempted to fill the void left by airlines; organizations such as STA Travel work with airlines to negotiate discount tickets for students.
According to Patrick Evans, marketing communications coordinator for STA Travel, airlines “want to reach that student market” and “pass off working with the student and youth market to us. We’re able to take care of that market for them.”
These deals, however, are unreliable and usually based on the number of seats left empty on a flight. They are not the direct discounts many students need in this economy if they want to eat turkey with family for Thanksgiving.
There is one airline, however, that now stands apart from its peers and understands the importance of directly catering to students: JetBlue. It now offers a discount of 11 percent to all International Student Identity Card holders. With this, JetBlue is taking advantage of an opportunity to secure student flyers for the “luxury” flights home throughout the year.
After businessmen, students are some of the most regular air travelers in the country. And, unlike businessmen, student travel isn’t in danger of decreasing due to advances in technology. Up in the Air illustrated how business travel might one day be replaced by teleconferencing. Technology will, however, never replace the joy of seeing your family for Easter or Passover. Airlines need to follow in the footsteps of JetBlue and encourage these sometimes-broke but regular customers to fly more often and more easily, both for their sake and that of students.
Juliette Mullin is a College senior from Portland, Ore. She is editor of The Report Card and outgoing Executive Editor of the DP. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.Comments powered by Disqus
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