Social factors have a profound impact on businesses, as well as the overall marketplace. Airline companies alone have had to spend a great deal of time and money revising their policies, procedures and prices to accommodate the ever-changing influences of their customers over the years. As society changes, so must the business if it intends to thrive in the market.
One controversy surrounds the issue of airline companies tightening their seat restrictions for obese passengers. Some companies have gone as far as to charge an overweight individual the cost of two seats because of their size. This has created a stir, as it brings up the question of discrimination. As indelicate as this issue is, airline companies contend that it simply costs more to fly those more portly passengers. According to Newsweek, "A study concluded that the 10 pounds Americans gained on average during the 1990s required an additional 350 million gallons of fuel a year." So it would seem that this issue has less to do with discrimination and more to do with simple arithmetic.
Airline companies have undergone a dramatic shift in the safety precautions they take, upping the ante in security measures due to recent terrorism attacks. And while the increase in security may, on some level, ease the mind of the pilots, passengers and their families, it also increases the anxiety and frustration with the amount of time and effort it takes to get from the airport ticket counter to the terminal gate. Because of the few successful breaches in security that have occurred over the past decade, airlines will never again have the luxury of being so lax in terms of their security.
Perception is a major factor in how we view the world. It is also one of the oldest studies in psychology. How we perceive ethnicity, as it relates to air travel, has much to do with September 11, 2001. Since then the eyes of the world have grown increasingly sensitive to the ethnicity of passengers traveling on airplanes. It has created something of a negative perception for particular races and religions. Bloomberg Businessweek reports, "Airline experts and executives say it's important not to exaggerate the effects of terrorism fears." However, because airline companies have had to exercise increased security measures because of terrorism, and because passengers have grown increasingly aware of possible threats, those perceptions are not easily dismissed.