Airfare Paradox of Choice

| September 6, 2008
One of the most influential books I’ve read in the last five years has been “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz.  This isn’t to say it is a rip-roaring good read, but I think about it almost every day, especially when faced with the endless morass of choices while trying to find the best deal on an airline ticket. 

The premise is simple: you would think that with more choices, people would be happier, but it is just the opposite.  As a case study, when a jelly company offered three sample flavors, people tried one or two, and then ended up buying one.  When they offered twenty-four samples, instead of trying and buying more, people were so overwhelmed with choices that they blew off the entire sampling and bought nothing.

This is where expedition airfare purchases come in.  There’s an overwhelming amount of choices to be had with endless mixtures of schedules, arrival and departure times, cost, duration, discounts, penalties, etc..  Personally, I hate it, as it is hard to know if you are really getting a good deal, especially when your cheap airline carrier charges extra for each bag, then loses them.

Mike Libecki paying the airfare paradox of choice layover penalty somewhere in
Lost in America. Mike Libecki paying the cheap airfare penalty in somewhere in the midwest.

As the “Paradox of Choice” outlines, people tend to be Optimizers or Satisfiers.  Optimizers will spend an inordinate amount of time making sure they got the absolute best deal, and then be crushed if they find something even slightly better afterwards.  Satisfiers on the other hand spend a set amount of time shopping for an item, make a purchase and then don’t look back.  This is what I try to do with airline tickets – dedicate an hour to it, make a choice, then and don’t worry about it.  It’s the price of having fun.

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Category: 14 Travel

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

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