Markets in everything, virtual reality edition

by on October 9, 2007 at 1:09 pm in Economics | Permalink

An Indian entrepreneur has given a new twist to the concept of low-cost airlines. The passengers boarding his Airbus 300 in Delhi do not expect to go anywhere because it never takes off.

All they want is the chance to know what it is like to sit on a plane, listen to announcements and be waited on by stewardesses bustling up and down the aisle.

In a country where 99% of the population have never experienced air travel, the “virtual journeys” of Bahadur Chand Gupta, a retired Indian Airlines engineer, have proved a roaring success.

As on an ordinary aircraft, customers buckle themselves in and watch a safety demonstration. But when they look out of the windows, the landscape never changes. Even if “Captain” Gupta wanted to get off the ground, the plane would not go far: it only has one wing and a large part of the tail is missing.

None of that bothers Gupta as he sits at the controls in his cockpit. His regular announcements include, “We will soon be passing through a zone of turbulence” and “We are about to begin our descent into Delhi.”

“Some of my passengers have crossed the country to get on this plane,” says Gupta, who charges about £2 each for passengers taking the “journey”.

The plane has no lighting and the lavatories are out of order. The air-conditioning is powered by a generator. Even so, about 40 passengers turn up each Saturday to queue for boarding cards.

Here is the full story, via Kottke.  The crew of six includes Gupta’s wife.  Get this:

Jasmine, a young teacher, had been longing to go on a plane. “It is much more beautiful than I ever imagined,” she said.

Addendum: Here is fun commentary.

raffi October 9, 2007 at 1:29 pm

yep, the bottom four billion do provide endless entertainment, don’t they?

Tyler Cowen October 9, 2007 at 1:43 pm

Uh…the point, as indicated in the title, is that they are not so different than the wealthy…

Person October 9, 2007 at 2:29 pm

I’m surprised Dilbert hasn’t already made an “Elbonian Airlines” joke with this exact premise.

I get the feeling this is a hoax.

Slocum October 9, 2007 at 4:00 pm

That is the difference between a week’s savings post-expenditure and 10 weeks’ savings.

Yes, but presumably it would be possible to do short local flights for an amount in between the two. If people can afford to tour a non-flying jetliner for a couple euros, they should soon be able to afford at least a short flight in a plane.

Let’s look at the relative power of 2 pounds among the “bottom 4 million”, shall we?

I’m not sure why the tendency to be so snarky. I’ve never gone underwater in a submarine, or sailed in a clipper ship or flown a Ford Trimotor or chugged down the tracks at the controls of a steam engine, but I’ve paid a few dollars to tour them in ‘dry dock’. I never flew on the Concorde, but at some point I might pay a couple bucks to climb aboard and check one out.

I’ve also paid entrance to places like Williamsburg where staff put on period outfits and demonstrate crafts. I’m sure people from colonial times would be astounded that anyone would pay to watch somebody spin or weave or churn butter.

Bob Knaus October 10, 2007 at 9:34 am

There is less than a 10X difference between a package tour of Europe and a trip to EPCOT. Yet vast numbers of the bottom 290 million out of the top 300 million make the trip to Orlando.

And… trust me… they do describe their experiences there in terms of a trip to a foreign country. Just in case some of you, dear readers, do not have such amongst your aquaintence.

carol February 16, 2008 at 11:18 pm

Life is all about trying new things. That how we can succeed in life. The indian entrepreneur had his chance to make a difference and do something that no one else ever do. That an entrepreneur suppose to do: taking chances.
Carol Mutanda

dude August 25, 2008 at 12:01 pm

people see life differently when they have less money

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