Airline Ticket Prices Explained

I recently came across this little anecdote and I think it explains the somewhat confusing prices of airline tickets perfectly. It turns out the paint shop analogy is nothing new, but should put you in a good position to explain the price of airline tickets to your friends… and yourself.

Aircraft in Flight

Buying Paint from a Hardware Store:

Customer: Hi. How much is your paint?Airline Ticket Prices Explained

Clerk: We have regular quality for R500/20litres and premium for R700. How many litres would you like?

Customer: 20 litres of regular quality, please.

Clerk: Great. That will be R500 plus tax.

Buying Paint from an Airline:

Customer: Hi, how much is your paint?

Clerk: Well sir that depends.

Customer: Depends on what?

Clerk: Actually, a lot of things.

Customer: How about giving me an average price?

Clerk: Wow, that’s too hard a question. The lowest price is R50/litre, and we have 150 different prices up to R1000 for 20 litres.

Customer: What’s the difference in the paint?

Clerk: Oh, there isn’t any difference; it’s all the same paint.

Customer: Well, then, I’d like some of that R50 paint.

Clerk: Well, first I need to ask you a few questions. When do you intend to use it?

Customer: I want to paint tomorrow, on my day off.

Clerk: Sir, the paint for tomorrow is the R1000 paint.

Customer: What? When would I have to paint in order to get the R50 version?

Clerk: That would be in three weeks, but you will also have to agree to start painting before Friday of that week and continue painting until at least Sunday.

Customer: You’ve got to be kidding!

Clerk: Sir, we don’t kid around here. Of course, I’ll have to check to see if we have any of that paint available before I can sell it to you.

Customer: What do you mean check to see if you can sell it to me? You have shelves full of that stuff; I can see it right there.

Clerk: Just because you can see it doesn’t mean that we have it. It may be the same paint, but we sell only a certain number of gallons on any given weekend. Oh, and by the way, the price just went to R75.

Customer: You mean the price went up while we were talking!

Clerk: Yes, sir. You see, we change prices and rules thousands of times a day, and since you haven’t actually walked out of the store with your paint yet, we just decided to change. Unless you want the same thing to happen again, I would suggest that you get on with your purchase. How many litres do you want?

Customer: I don’t know exactly. Maybe five litres. Maybe I should buy six litres just to make sure I have enough.

Clerk: Oh, no, sir, you can’t do that. If you buy the paint and then don’t use it, you will be liable for penalties and possible confiscation of the paint you already have.

Customer: What?

Clerk: That’s right. We can sell you enough paint to do your kitchen, bathroom, hall and north bedroom, but if you stop painting before you do the bedroom, you will be in violation of our tariffs.

Customer: But what does it matter to you whether I use all the paint? I already paid you for it!

Clerk: Sir, there’s no point in getting upset; that’s just the way it is. We make plans based upon the idea that you will use all the paint, and when you don’t, it just causes us all sorts of problems.

Customer: This is crazy! I suppose something terrible will happen if I don’t keep painting until after Saturday night!

Clerk: Yes, sir, it will.

Customer: Well, that does it! I’m going somewhere else to buy my paint.

Clerk: That won’t do you any good, sir. We all have the same rules. Thanks for painting with our airline.

Original airline ticket prices explained can be found at

Buying Paint from an Airline

Airline Ticket & Paint images from rajaryanme | Triangle Trip | renewsalvagemkt on Flickr

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