The Airline Industry as a Work of Art

October 16, 2009

in Audience,Entrepreneurship,Thinking

In an excerpt from from his recent project “A Week at The Airport“, Alain de Botton interviews the head of British Airways, and considers the true yield of ‘profitless’ industries:

Considered collectively, as a cohesive industry, civil aviation had never in its history shown a profit. Just as significantly, neither had book publishing. In this sense, then, the CEO and I, despite our apparent differences, were in much the same sort of business, each one needing to justifying itself in the eyes of humanity not so much by its bottom line as by its ability to stir people’s souls. It seemed no less absurd to evaluate an airline according to its profit-and-loss statement than to judge a great poet by his or her royalty statements. The stock market could never put a price on the thousands of moments of beauty and interest that occurred around the world every day under the airline’s banner: it could not describe the sight of Nova Scotia from the air, it had no room in its optics for the camaraderie enjoyed by employees in the Hong Kong ticket office, it had no means of quantifying the ecstasy of takeoff. In order to understand such things properly, society would have to learn to look at airlines as one might consider a work of art.”

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