What If Email Was a Low Cost Airline?


I’ve been thinking a lot about how to stay on top of email. My inbox feels like it’s very ‘busy’ all the time. I’ve tried some of the zero-inboxy things and I kind of like some of it. But it’s all a lot of effort on my part. And it shouldn’t be. I want to make it everyone else’s problem.

So I started pondering solutions and I chanced upon a metaphor that I liked. And then I stretched it way beyond it’s natural breaking point.

  • What if email was like air travel?
  • What if our inboxes were like airports?
  • We need email traffic control!

Or alternatively we could start behaving like EasyJet or RyanAir.

If we did…

  1. Different email origins would have different prices. Makes sense doesn’t it? Emails from our friends would be FREE for them to send (excluding taxes), emails from other people may cost them far more.
  2. If you send emails at peak times / or expect last-minute responses that’d definitely cost you top dollar. Whereas if you’re prepared to send an email months in advance (during an email promotional period) you could get it through much more cheaply.
  3. The heavier the email the more you pay. You’d get a ‘standard’ baggage amount (perhaps a few lines) – anything more you’d pay a hefty surcharge.
  4. Excess baggage. If you want to send any attachments that’s going to cost you a handling fee. And if your attachments are too big or can’t be opened properly you may have to pay extra-extra.
  5. Online check in. Please inform the recipient in advance when you’re intending on sending an email so they’ve got a bit of advance warning. If you don’t you’ll have to pay a little bit extra. OK?
  6. Priority check in. Just like with budget air travel you can pay extra to get on board first. For a ‘premium’ fee you can get to the top of the inbox first.
  7. Insurance. Worried about email not getting through? If you don’t get a response you can make a claim in writing. And you’ll be guaranteed to get the response you should have got in the first place. If you don’t require insurance you just have to deselect the box before you send your mail.

In my new world it’d be very reasonable to send emails. A matter of just micro-pence. I know people have talked about paying to send email before. But I think this really is the future.

I guess I’m going to have to take this to Google to get it implemented. I’ll let you know how I get on ;-)

[Update: Stupidly I forgot that tounge-in-cheekness doesn’t always translate well into blog posts. I don’t really think that charging people to receive their emails would be a good idea at all. Just in case you were worried.]

[BTW I have actually got serious ideas for a couple of relatively simple little things that could be added to an email client to make them better, so if anyone who works in that side of things give me a shout]

12 thoughts on “What If Email Was a Low Cost Airline?”

  1. I fear that whilst this idea is a great one, the new wave of russian spam (which seems to have replaced the viagra) would simply refuse to pay, get on the ‘plane’ and arrive in your inbox regardless. perhaps a Quarantine for these would be useful. Kind of like a ‘Junk mail’ rule, but with more sinister, you know, like, Guantanamo Bay? The emails wouldn’t even be looked at, clicked on, just left to rot in a small ‘Quarantine Box’ to electronically die.


  2. This is a terrible idea. Ryanair and Easyjet are really great examples of really shitty services and I would never want my e-mail to be a daily dose of the crap that goes on at Stansted airport.

    The way to deal with e-mail overload isn’t to charge people for it – it’s not to use it as much yourself. E-mail is totally self-replicating in that way – if you don’t respond as much, take longer to respond or only respond once a day, you’ll find your quota goes down a great deal and you’ll probably get more done. In other words, don’t be one of the people that constantly fill your in-box (like me).

    Or just ignore the stuff and don’t answer your mobile all the time. People soon get the message.

  3. I know you’re not being serious but this immediately smacks of the proposed two-tier internet proposed by telecoms providers (the opposite of Network Neutrality) whereby data approved by or associated with the ISP would be prioritised over regular traffic. A very bad idea!

    That said, paid-for email might well be a reality, it could be the only way to put spammers off.

  4. “If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it”

    – Albert Einstein

    Sometimes the best ideas sound crazy at first. I know you were just joking, but you never know where things will be in 20 years.

    I really liked the heading of your post, btw. Not sure why.

  5. I’d pay for email.

    I don’t think that’s a stupid idea. You pay for everything else? There are emails I’d pay for and emails I’d pay not to get.

  6. Haha, “expect last-minute responses that’d definitely cost you top dollar.” I like that. By the way, you can pay for your email even right now, siply by allocating low-per hour paid person to delete irrelevant messages that flood your email box and list those that need a response. ;)

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