Monday, August 3, 2009
Buy toilet tokens and check your baggage and get 20% off your leg-room.
A couple of years ago, my husband and I flew out to upstate New York to visit my sister for Christmas. In my day, I’ve flown a lot; I was however mostly fortunate to do most of my trans-Atlantic and Domestic flying during the period before airlines started operating with a WalMart attitude, and they still gave people snacks and drinks, did real hot meals with a little fork and knife... handed out hot towels, showed movies for free and provided and those lone-ranger masks to put over your eyes to sleep. Nowadays things have changed quite a bit. Discount airlines have taken the experience of air travel and stripped it down to the skeleton, and are now gnawing at the bones.
That time, we were enjoying the ‘hospitality’ of an airline that has a cattle-call boarding system and charges you for the little snacks and your soda--I was surprised not to find myself seated next to third-world mountain sheep farmers, carrying chickens in cages on their laps; the airline was so ramshackle and bus-like. Humorous flight attendants will never make up for the craptasticness of the airline’s service.
On the plane, we joked about other creative ways airlines could financially gouge their customers. We started predicting what we would see as future charges… we discussed the charge simply to check a bag (which came true), a rental fee for use of their kotex-like pillow and the little shrinking square of fleece they call a blanket; we joked that they would add a coin-slot onto the bathrooms so you’d have to pay to use them on the plane (from what I understand a few airlines are considering this). However this morning, one of our more wild predictions from that day has apparently also come true. My husband used the self-check in for United Airlines, and the little screen began to prompt him through the process. It notified him that they would charge his card $20 just to check his one underweight bag… and then a screen popped up…
“Add 5 inches to your leg room for $39.00 or $79.00 for the complete flight including connections!” I could not help but burst into raucous laughter right at the counter, and if you know me, you know how obnoxiously loud and merrily I can laugh. I laughed all through the check-in process and laughed all the way to the restaurant where we had breakfast. So the gist of it is, you will be uncomfortable unless you pay SUCKARS!! LOL!
Apparently, if you’re tall, you’re screwed. Sorry Aaron! Don’t fly United unless you have some disposable income. If you don’t want to be folded up like an awkward crane, dish out the cash people.
This is out of control! I’m all for good healthy capitalism now and again, but holy butt-rape, Batman! This is too much! The following screens also asked my husband if he was willing to give up his seat for another flight--they are obviously routinely overbooking planes as well. Get their money first, then we’ll deal with the consequences and shift them around when they find out that we never had room for them on the plane to begin with!
Poor Husband. This is his lot… he travels so much that this sort of ridiculous uncaring ‘service’ is what he is destined to face every month, again and again. It’s horrific. No wonder he’s angry at the simple notion of travel. He’s even taken to shipping his stuff to the site before he gets there so he can avoid the astronomical costs of having an extra bag, or an overweight one… $50-$120. It's cheaper to send it via UPS... really. That's funny, isn't it? Maybe people will start shipping themselves in trunks through global delivery services to save a buck when airlines start charging you for the oxygen you're breathing, or the time you occupy a seat in their gate waiting area.
I heard on NPR the other day that a small airline pulled itself out of bankruptcy on the earnings from charging for bags alone. Nice. It’s amazing to me that any of these airlines are permitted to fly without a SUSTAINABLE plan to survive as a business. Fewer flights, fuller flights, angrier passengers… this whole thing is going to implode one of these days--I can see it coming.
Anyway, I wanted to share this little experience, and I was able to today thanks to my husband’s gift to me of a Toshiba Netbook. I am using it at my local coffee place where I can mooch bandwidth, blog, and scarf a tuna sammie. This little guy is SO cute… 10 inch, crystal clear screen, full version of windows, it’s a full-blown PC except it has not CD/DVD in it… who cares!? I can use it to write (I loaded my software on here with a fat thumb drive (naughty me). Have a lovely week, despite it being Monday and all. ;)