That’ll be $9 if you want to use the restroom.

Have you flown recently?

The beleaguered airline industry has been very busy over the past few years, drumming up all sorts of ways to stabilize their fragile business by charging for so many things that used to be free.  There’s a fee for checking a bag, a fee for blankets, for food, seats with extra leg room, and my favorite fee from American Airlines who will let you board first for only an additional $9.

On the one hand, I have to credit the ‘lines for their creativity.  They’ve come up with a ton of ideas to try and plug their financial leakage.  Look, they lost 4.7 billion in 2009 and have been struggling to come back ever since.  If you were running an airline, you might want to see what else you could charge for too, right?

On the other hand, I can’t help but get more and more frustrated every time I see a price tag next to something I used to get for free.  Now matter how much I understand it rationally, it just bugs me, as I’m sure it bugs you.

And honestly?  Because of all those fees and loss of complimentary services, if I didn’t have to travel by plane, I wouldn’t.  But until they invent one of those damn teleporter machines, I’m stuck with it.

You’ve heard me say before how closely related the theater industry is to the airline industry, right?

The same “creativity” is starting to occur in our industry as well.  Case in point?  Most theaters are now charging for “aisle seats” (or what the airlines would call, “seats with more legroom”).  Or my favorite, Ticketmaster’s “TicketsNow” fee that charges the customer for being able to print their tickets at home (insert that strange Scooby Doo sound “huh” sound here.)

In a way, the Producer part of me is proud of us, for trying to find additional revenue streams that help maximize our income, since it is so economically challenging to keep a show running these days, never mind actually making money.  (Important to note – Producers don’t share in the ticketing fee I mentioned above – at least the airlines get to keep the profits from their fees to help write down other losses.)

But at the same time, I can’t help but be a little frightened by our nickel/diming of the audience (especially when we’re not even sharing in those nickels and dimes).

Because, you see, while we may be a lot like the airline industry, there is one specific characteristic that sets us waaaaay apart.

As I mentioned above . . . consumers have to travel by plane.  They have no other choice..

Consumers don’t have to see a show.

And they’ve got a ton of other choices.

Many of them free.


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  • Matt says:

    But the airlines, to their credit (and yes, it pains me to say that) have attempted to nickle and dime their way to cost savings as well. A few million here by eliminating free pretzels. Another few million by doing away with cheap-y blankets.
    What is the parallel to producing? A little less glitz in the sets? Not quite so much glamor on the costumes? More efficient advertising budgets?

  • Doug Hicton says:

    Now, when the airlines are saying they lost $4.7 billion, does that mean that their revenues were $4.7 billion less than expenditures, or that their profit just diminished by $4.7 billion? If it’s the former, then of course they have to find ways to either increase their revenues or cut their costs. But if it’s the latter, perhaps they should suck it up, realize what times we’re all living in, and learn to accept less profit in future.
    The same goes for everyone else, including members of the Professions, the financial and insurance sectors, and yes, theatrical producers.

  • The last thing the theater industry needs is to strive towards the kind of relationship airlines have with their customers.
    Less number of shows, in less theaters will increase demand. More attention to secondary market playhouses to hone the skills of both production crews and talent while building engagement with theater lovers who’ll travel to NYC to see specific shows — not just see what shows are available at TKTS and, if not finding something “that sounds good”, move on to other city attractions — is key to long-term growth.
    And let’s stress out-of-town trials (and their subsequent changes or closings) with opening dates within 30 days of preview start. This is New York City; this is the big time; get your act together before trying to charge $130 a seat.
    Prices are historically high, and rising. The last thing we want is to continually nickel and dime the same audience that’s keeping us afloat.
    ♬… No more bathrooms
    Like in olden days
    You come here and pay a fee
    For the privilege to pee …♬

  • Jason Epperson says:

    This is not New York City. THIS is the Internet, a vast network of data storage an exchange, and those of us in cities other than NYC cringe every time we here a New Yorker chastise a show for not “going out of town” first. Get your act together yes, but nobody in Chicago wants to see your unfinished show for $130 either. Let’s stress what a preview is instead and charge a bit less, no matter where the show is.

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