Adam Ruins Flying

Dec 18 2018

In this episode, buckle up as Adam causes turbulence when he reveals that reward miles drive up costs, revisits the supposed Golden Age of flying and explains how airline mergers are crippling smaller cities. Here are his sources.


“In 2017, United Airlines changed the value of their members’ miles with just a few months’ notice.”

Johnny Jet. “United Award Chart Changes - Everyday Awards Replacing Standard Flights.” Forbes, 3 Jul 2017.

“Surveys show 59% of Americans have NO IDEA how frequent flyer miles work. And 73% of people enrolled in these programs have NO CLUE how many miles they have!”

“TPG Spring Cleaning Contest And National Survey Results - Do You Know Where Your Points Are?” The Points Guy, 10 Apr 2013.

“If you really want to rack ‘em up, you have to buy the most expensive seats - like in first and business class.”

Dave Seminara. “How Much Are Frequent Flier Miles Really Worth?” New York Times, 12 Jun 2017.

“There are currently more than 20 TRILLION unredeemed miles in circulation.”

  David Tykol. “The Value of Frequent-Flyer Miles to Passengers, Airlines, and Other Businesses.” International Travel News, Jan 2013.

“The major airlines generate an estimated 10 billion dollars per year in revenue from

their Frequent Flyer Programs.”

“Funny Money.” The Economist, 20 Dec 2005.

“Visa and MasterCard made $45 billion off their surcharges in a SINGLE YEAR.”

Mead, Tim, et al. “The Role of Interchange Fees on Debit and Credit Card Transactions in the Payments System.” Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, May 2011.

“Close to half of credit card holders carry debt.”

Jessica Dickler. “Credit Card Debt Hits Record High. It’s Time to Make a Payoff Plan.” CNBC, 23 Jan 2018.

“Passengers were nearly 4 TIMES more likely to die in a plane crash!”

 John Brownlee. “What It Was Really Like to Fly During the Golden Age of Travel.” Fast Company, 5 Dec 2013.

“Seatbelts would malfunction, so turbulence would throw passengers straight out of their seats!”

John Brownlee. “What It Was Really Like to Fly During the Golden Age of Travel.” Fast Company, 5 Dec 2013.

“The low altitudes and non-pressurized cabins ALSO meant that you could open doors in the air -- so flight attendants would just toss the barf bags right out!”

Phil Edwards. “How the Vomit Bag Became Part of Every Flight.” Vox, 14 Aug 2015.


 Michelle Higgins. “63 Years Flying, From Glamour to Days of Gray.” New York Times, 17 Mar 2012.

“If they didn’t play ball, they’d be fired.”

Bruce Handy. “Glamour with Altitude.” Vanity Fair, 28 May 2014.

“The smile rule actually inspired the term ‘emotional labor.’”

Hochschild, Arlie Russell. The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. University of California Press, 1983.

“Flight attendants were the first women to file charges of sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

 Barry, Kathleen. Femininity in Flight: A History of Flight Attendants. Duke University Press, 2007.

“And since American, Delta, United, and Southwest own at least 80% of the industry, they don’t have to offer you better services or prices to compete with one another.”

“A Lack of Competition Explains the Flaws in American Aviation.” The Economist. 22 April 2017.

“Aside from a couple or regional airlines, like JetBlue, in 93 of the top 100 airports, a majority of ALL seats go to one or two of the big guys.”

David Dayen. “Unfriendly Skies.” American Prospect, Fall 2017.

“According to a report by a former FAA official, while ticket prices DID drop shortly after the C.A.B. was dissolved, prices are now in fact HIGHER than they would be if regulation had continued!”

David B. Richards. “Did Passenger Fare Savings Occur After Airline Deregulation?” Journal of Transportation Research 46.1 (2007).

“In 1979, there were ten major airlines -- but today, we just have the BIG FOUR.”

Peterson, Barbara. “Fewer Flights and Higher Fares: Is This the Future of Air Travel?” Conde Nast Traveler, 21 Jul 2013.

“Tevin, BILLIONS of dollars have been poured into researching if airships can replace planes to transport cargo.”

Jeanne Marie Laskas. “Helium Dreams.” New Yorker, 29 Feb 2016.

For More On This Topic

This report, co-authored by our expert Philip Longman, dives deep into the history of the airline oligopoly, and the impact it’s had on flyers.

This book offers a thorough, easy-to-read history of flight attendants, their profession and their battles for fair treatment.