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Innovation: Waiter, There’s Too Much Pepper on My Paprikash

Correct! That line was spoken by Billy Crystal’s character in 1989’s “When Harry Met Sally,” a film which had among its great themes that life is a menu of choices, and it’s okay to be choosy. The movie’s Sally Albright (Meg Ryan’s character) is the living incarnation of American consumers who “just want it the way I want it.” That is, à la carte.

Correct! That line was spoken by Billy Crystal’s character in 1989’s “When Harry Met Sally,” a film which had among its great themes that life is a menu of choices, and it’s okay to be choosy.

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The movie’s Sally Albright (Meg Ryan’s character) is the living incarnation of American consumers who “just want it the way I want it.” That is, à la carte.

That French phrase is as American as apple pie — and an order of apple pie à la mode, ironically, serves as the fulcrum of one of the funniest scenes of the film, to wit:

Sally Albright: But I’d like the pie heated and I don’t want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side, and I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it, if not then no ice cream just whipped cream but only if it’s real; if it’s out of the can then nothing.
Waitress: Not even the pie?
Sally Albright: No, just the pie, but then not heated.

Sally is a lovable know-it-all (“all bright”) who lives in a prix fixe world. And if we were honest with ourselves, we’d agree that most of us are Sallies, too.

There’s nothing wrong with being fussy or particular. I just wish all of those airlines who aren’t offering à la carte options would wake up and realize we don’t want service out of a can; like Sally, we want the real whipped cream.

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Which is my cue to point out a recent news story, “The Flight? Cheaper. Got Bags? Pay Up,” by Sheryl Jean in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The article tells how two smaller carriers — Air Canada and Spirit Airlines — are “leveraging” the newest airline technology to pioneer an à la carte approach to flying, which I believe is the wave of the future.

Surprise! Flyers are consumers, and consumers have demonstrated they are willing to pay for choice. People like choice; it’s what America’s all about.

When I fly, I want to be the one deciding whether I get an aisle or window position; I’ll pay more for a seat near a power plug and one as far from the “can” as possible.

Price my flight choices according to convenience, and I’ll decide if I want to pay less to take the red-eye or pay more to eliminate connections.

Sure, I’d shell out for guaranteed carry-on storage space in the overhead above me.

And, Mr. & Mrs. Airline, please please please don’t maroon me next to the engine; show me the least ear-splitting seat and I’ll show you the money.

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Because, when you come down to it, like Sally Albright, I just want it the way I want it.

Airline Futurist • Miami • rbuckman@amadeus.com • www.amadeus.com

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