More reasons airlines suck

Airlines to Begin Charging for Amenities
Excerpts From Associated Press Article on April 03, 2006 7:23 PM EDT

(My comments interspersed in bold)

Airlines are starting to charge for many services that once were free – such as assigned seating, paper tickets and blankets.

What? They haven’t started charging for toilet paper yet?

Air travelers who don’t fly often may be in for some unpleasant surprises when they reach the airport this summer. Actually, most people who’ve flown since 9/11 already have experienced plenty of unpleasant surprises.

Many airlines no longer serve meals on flights, instead charging for snack boxes and sandwiches. Most people probably don’t miss airline food. However, once your flight is much longer than six hours, any food starts to sound good. People say “oh, but you can bring your own food” — and in theory that’s a great idea. Ever sit next to someone with a foul-smelling curry? Or perhaps some greasy fast-food? Or worse, some seafood that they shove in the seatback when done? It smells wonderful quite a few hours later, let me tell you.

American spokesman Tim Wagner said that passengers have made it clear that their first priority in buying an airline ticket is price. The company offers a la carte services – such as snack packs – for those willing to pay for them. I agree with American Airlines — this is the customer’s fault. Most consumers are not willing to pay more for a better product. Your message is clearly “Treat us like shit and we’ll still fly your airline as long as it’s cheaper.” Enough of you, stupidly, have sent this message that the airlines are, indeed, listening. I gladly pay $20 a flight more to fly an airline I like. The longer the flight, the more I will pay my preferred airline. (I wish American to note, that they are not that preferred airline.)

There are limits to what passengers will pay for. American Eagle, which flies commuter flights for American, experimented in January with charging passengers for soft drinks. “The customer response was, ‘No, we don’t want to pay $1 for a soft drink.” The test ended. Duh. You needed to run a test to find that out. Trapped on a plane with no food and no drink? Um, whomever thought that idea would fly was hopefully fired.

Talking to an airline reservation agent instead of booking a ticket on the Internet will add $5 or $10 to the price of a ticket. A travel agent adds $20 to $50 per ticket. However, I wish to point out, that on many flights the travel agent will beat the Internet. The more expensive the flight, the better your chances with a competent travel agent, especially on transcontinental and international flights. (My travel agent has got me in first-class for less than $20 more than a coach ticket any number of times, not to mention suggested a connection through an alternate city for less money. And don’t forget something simple like a time-change on that return. Most travel sites can’t handle that — and if you want a wait list for an upgrade, forget any discount travel site. Those fares aren’t generally upgradable, and more often now they don’t even earn frequent flyer miles.)

United Airlines charges $24-$99 to sit in the Economy Plus section, which has five extra inches of leg room. Some international carriers also charge for aisle or bulkhead seats. Northwest Airlines in March began charging $15 for exit rows some forward aisle seats. That’s just crap. It doesn’t cost them more to seat you there. Are they giving you a discount when you’re stuck in the middle seat in the last row by the lavatory? I think not. It’s got to work both ways.

Northwest (which now charges $15 for an aisle seat) spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said Northwest has to be able to compete against low-cost airlines like Southwest, which doesn’t assign seats at all. Which is laughable as an argument, because Southwest doesn’t charge more for aisle seats either. This is flawed “logic” at best.

But Southwest doesn’t offer services such as assigned seating or keeping an eye on an unaccompanied child who’s making a connection. If your 14-year-old really needs a baby-sitter to fly from BNA to OAK then you probably should send him on an airline that offers and provides for baby-sitters.

Continental Airlines is one of the few that still offers hot meals on domestic flights. And bless them a million times. They’d be my airline of choice if they actually went anywhere from MIA.

I used to love flying before 9-11 and I could easily love it after — the extra security (as worthless as most of it is) isn’t really all that inconvenient other than an extra 1/2 hour or so at the airport before departure. Yet, flying now sucks and it’s getting worse and worse: even though the ticket costs “less” on the surface, you really are paying more. Most people are just too dumb to see this. As many of the trunk (old-fashioned major airlines) disappear and competition decreases, what do you think is going to happen to your airfares? If you expect them to drop or stay the same, I hope the police know you’re using that crack-pipe.

The saying “Getting there is half the fun” became obsolete with the advent of commercial airlines. — Henry J. Tillman

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