Managing in the skies

Mixed news this week from American Airlines: On the plus side for most people, American plans to respond to flight attendants’ concerns and ban porn on its in-flight Wi-Fi system. On the negative, the company plans to charge for more amenities once considered part of a ticket price, such as blankets and soft drinks. What’s next as an a la carte item: the SkyMall catalog?

Two recent publications of MIT Sloan Management Review have particular relevance to the vagaries of managing in the no-longer-so-friendly skies:

In the fall issue of the Review, editor Michael S. Hopkins talks to longtime airline industry watcher Thomas A. Kochan in search of The Management Lessons of a Beleaguered Industry. You can guess Kochan’s solution from the title of his new book: Up in the Air: How the Airlines Can Improve Performance by Engaging Their Employees.

Dan Ariely has a book of his own making noise these days, Predictably Irrational, and, in the latest issue of Business Insight, which we produce with The Wall Street Journal, he talks to the Review‘s Alden M. Hayashi about The Irrationalities of Product Pricing. Whether it’s airline amenities or some of the pungent examples Ariely uses from technology (TiVO, iPhone), what we think something is “worth” may be all in our minds.

Remember that next time you need to pay $5 for a two-hour rental of a tiny blanket.