Flying à la Carte
Scenario: on the phone:
Moi: Hello, I'd like to book a flight please.
Airline: No problem Ma'am, are you happy with a normal seat, or were you perhaps wanting to book a preferred economy seat?
Moi: Preferred economy seat? What's that exactly?
Airline: Well some people prefer exit-row or aisle seats.
Moi: But they've always been free!
Airline: Not any longer Ma'am. They're "preferred economy seats" and can only be booked at a higher price now.
Moi: My husband has long legs, he'll have to have an aisle seat and I'll just sit next to him in the centre. Is it possible at least to get a seat that isn't over the wing? Or would I have to pay extra for that too?
Airline: Nope (big smile) that's free, if the seats are available!
Let's continue on with the same scenario:
Airline: We have that all booked for you. How many bags will you be checking in today Ma'am?
Moi: Two suitcases and one carry-on.
Airline: We don't charge for checking the first suitcase, but it will be $25 to check the second one in for you. How many does your husband have?
Moi: What? You're charging to check my 2nd suitcase?
Airline: Uh huh - only one suitcase is free from now on.
Moi: He has three smallish suitcases and a carry-on - but between all three, I know he's still under the required weight.
Airline: Ok - well it'll be $25 to check his second one and $100 for the third one.
Let's continue on:
Airline: Will you be wanting to eat and drink on your flight Ma'am?
Moi: We're flying to Australia - it's a 17 hour flight - of course I'm going to want to eat!
Airline: That will be an additional $nn.nn to the price of your ticket Ma'am.
Moi: Otherwise I get nothing but water for the entire trip?
Airline: Yes Ma'am.
Moi: Well don't stop there! You haven't charged me for the bathrooms or movies yet!
Airline: I'll cover those in a moment Ma'am. (Kidding - I hope!)
I haven't made these figures up. These are actual figures given to the original article by various airline companies.
"Airlines are definitely putting an emphasis now on providing plain vanilla service and then charging for extras," said Ray Neidl, an airline analyst with Calyon Securities.
Ryan Air; a European discount carrier has charged for additional checked baggage for a long time - now however, they will be charging for credit card transactions also.
Spirit Airlines; from June 20th they will be charging $10.00 for each checked bag - and joy! Only $5.00 if you book on-line. A third bag will cost you $100.00. Oh! And a coke will cost you $1.00!
Southwest Airlines; are strongly considering charging anyone who wants to choose their seats.
Northwest Airlines; "preferred economy seats" (exit-rows and aisle seats) will be available for an additional $15.00.
United Airlines; They have an "Economy Plus" section (higher priced,) which gives the traveler an extra 5" of leg room. Located in front of coach, elite members of their frequent flyer programs are able to claim them (if empty,) at no extra charge.
United parent UAL Corp., the nation's second-largest airline by traffic after AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, estimated the change will generate more than $100 million annually in cost savings and new revenue.
Currently one in four of its passengers checks a second bag, United said.
* $4 discount if no bags are checked at all;
* $3 discount if a passenger chooses to forgo any frequent flyer miles on the journey.
Staying out of the à la Carte price-hike environment is Continental Airlines who recently launched a humorous but very telling commercial:
2 flight attendants at the front of the plane smiling and saying "buh-bye," as the camera pans out to reveal them tossing pillows, blankets and food out of the plane.
The voice-over says:
"While other airlines are saying goodbye to pillows, blankets and meals, Continental is still everything you should still expect from an airline,"
For those employers who have their staff travel regularly, this pricing change policy is going to hit the corporate pocket hard. It might even mean that they will no longer send their people around the country (or overseas) for various reasons.
Already begun - is an era of on-line meetings rather than travel, to usher in and implement an era with much needed newer technology, faster and earlier than once thought.
Airline price hitches originally came about after the tragic events of 9/11 when everyone realized - and feared, that airline food could easily be compromised, with less effort than ever thought.
It was a solution that the airlines felt they had to take in order to protect their passengers from possible terrorist poisonings - and at the time, it was a great move.
However, after the threat was considered over, the airlines had no intention of returning to the status quo - rather, they began to investigate how much money they could save by not providing food to their customers and upping the costs of other services that were once considered free.
This would also help offset the exorbitant cost of jet fuel today.
However, with U.S. Marshalls riding high in the skies on random flights and tightened security measures, the thought that flying and terrorism go together, has been almost forgotten by the public - and dang it - they want to be fed when they fly!
I've bought those little carry-on cardboard boxes that are offered to you, just prior to boarding a plane. The ones with sandwiches and salads contained inside are interesting to say the least.
Especially when you're unable to identify the contents of your sandwich, even though you can clearly read the label.
Take a look at the photos to see how the richer half of the population will benefit from us paying higher prices for our seats and getting less. Billions of dollars have been spent collectively by airlines to upgrade their business and first class amenities.
FYI: "The World Health Organization is warning that nearly one in every 6,000 passengers on long flights are at risk for developing blood clots. Those who are most vulnerable include the obese, women on birth control pills and those with blood clotting disorders. (Hanout)"
The Wall St. Journal
Another Reason Not to Overpack by Susan Carey
Would You Like Engines With Your Flight? by Scott Mayerowitz