The Even Unfriendlier Skies

I read recently that airlines want their customers to pay extra in order to ensure they are seated with their travel companions.  Yes, that includes your spouse, significant other, and even your children.  This can run passengers as much as $25 a piece, each way, to sit with the person they travel with.  For my husband and I, that means an extra $100 if we want to fly to Florida and don’t want to be sandwiched next to strangers.  $150 if we bring our son.

This is quite a trivial fee, as is having a fee to check a single bag that is not oversized or overweight.  It is absurd to request that I pay additional funds to be seated next to my husband or child, especially when I’m the type of person to book well in advance, not purchase tickets when the flight is nearly booked and complain because I didn’t get the best seats.  It’s absurd to request I pay extra to be able to seat my three person family together on a flight, especially since my son is only six and not yet able to sit alone and fend for himself without pestering strangers.

I honestly am not too surprised that this fee was brought up to charge to adults who travel together, but it boggles my mind that it applies to children as well.  Flight attendants are not babysitters and shouldn’t be forced to care for a child because their parent couldn’t afford/wouldn’t pay the fee and the child is separated from the parent.  Other passengers should not have to be stuck next to an unsupervised child and be forced to either play babysitter themselves or be annoyed for the duration of their flight because the child’s parent is ten rows back.  Flying is stressful enough as it is without adding this nonsense on top of it.  Take a look at the Flights From Hell site and see for yourself how many people have their flight ruined by children or by being separated from their party.

I definitely do see where a fee for seating arrangements would be appropriate.  If you want to specifically request an aisle or window seat or a certain row, it’s reasonable to charge a fee for that privilege, so long as it is easily refunded if your request is not granted on the day of the flight.  If you have an exceptionally large group, a fee would also be appropriate, as it seems to me that it would be slightly extra work for the airline if your group of twenty wish to all be seated in the same area.  These things go above the reasonable accommodations that the airline should provide.

Airlines are obviously concerned with making a profit, but they aren’t realizing that their attempts are counterproductive.  People don’t want to fly anymore if they don’t have to.  Security has gotten worse and worse and prices continue to rise.  Unnecessary fees are tacked on for things that should be included with the price of your ticket and customer service quality declines as the customer becomes more and more irritated with the poor treatment and inconvenient new policies.  Airlines are hurting for money and they aren’t helping themselves by treating their customers poorly and viewing them as their personal piggy banks.  Put fees in place for premium services and make money the right way from people who are willing to pay for a service that is truly an “extra” and not a given.  Tell me I have to pay to sit with my six year old or my husband and you’ll find me quite happy to say to hell with the skies and become a true road trip enthusiast.


About Jamie C. Baker

“Long time no see. I only pray the caliber of your questions has improved.” - Kevin Smith

Posted on May 24, 2012, in News, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Airlines have progressively gotten worse since the recession started. First came all the nickel and dime fees, then came the TSA, then came the tighter schedules and fewer flights and the higher prices.

    What is happening to the airline industry is quite impressive and a great example of the free market when distorted by Government. The recession has caused too many people to cut back on flying which has impacted airline revenue so significantly, in conjunction with the unrelenting high fuel prices, that airlines are merging whenever they can to “stay alive,” increasing fees, creating new fees, cutting costs, and most importantly – eliminating routes and reducing flight volumes thus reducing the number of available seats which means fewer flights to choose from and more packed airplanes.

    All of this means fewer flight options, longer layovers, harder to find seats for missed or delayed or canceled flights and higher costs for the consumer.

    The end result of this is going to be a reversal of 30 years of price declines which allowed more and more Americans of lower and lower income brackets to enjoy a mode of travel that was once so expensive, only the elite and the powerful could afford it.

    I want to make sure we put the blame for this squarely where it belongs, on our Government. Without writing a novel as a comment, the bubble and burst created by The Fed was never allowed to correct, which The Fed and our Government re-inflated into the housing bubble and burst, which The Fed and our Government re-inflated into the current Government Treasury bubble and…eventually the burst. The correction we needed since 2001 has never been allowed to happen.

    Luckily for us, and a sick and twisted luck it is, there will be no way for The Fed and our Government to reinflate this coming burst into anything else, so it will be a painful, and deep, and long correction but at least the economy will get the correction it so desperately needs and has been waiting on for over a decade.

    With all of that in mind, the airline industry was hoping to ride out the recession, as they tend to be short, with some simple fee increases and some cost cutting. As the recession grinded on, and all of the money printing The Fed has done has created inflation that has pushed up fuel prices, the airlines have been under geologic pressure on these costs as well and simple short term solutions won’t work anymore, so out comes the mergers and acquisitions, the labor union disputes, the reduced routes and crowded planes and the unrelenting increase in fare prices and new fees.

    As a side note, fuel prices show no signs of decreasing. Think about it, we have the lowest level of global demand in 10 years (since every country, even China, is contracting) and the highest level of supply (Saudi Arabia just sent us a “tsunami wall of oil” as the news likes to say, to combat high fuel prices)…so with low demand and high supply, shouldn’t gas be dirt cheap? Yeah, it should…unless inflation is pushing it higher and higher, which is what’s happening. Inflation caused every day by The Fed.

    Then you have the wonderful TSA, who I harass everytime I fly, and I fly regularly for work. In talking with them, I have never met a group of more self-preserving, uneduated, pro-government, Pro-Big Brother Storm Troopers. And here is a fact that most Americans don’t know…since the media doesn’t talk about it…did you know that every airport in the U.S. can choose NOT to use the TSA? They are perfectly within their right to use a private security company. In fact, many airports have completed the paperwork and submitted it to the DHS to do just that, and you know why they still have the TSA? Because the DHS sits on the application. They simply don’t process it. As a result SFO is the only airport that has private security at the checkpoints which has been shown, over and over and over at SFO to be faster, better trained, friendler and more liked by the flying public using that airport than the TSA. And why SFO? Well because it is in Nancy Pelosi’s district of course…hahaha. She needs happy voters to keep her in office so there was no way she was going to let the TSA piss off HER gravy train. The rest of us can rot in TSA hell.

    So that is how the government operates…it passes a law that creates the TSA but appeases the American citizen by saying, “it’s okay, there is a way for airports to use private security” but then sits on all the applications to maintain the TSA control. This is BIG GOVERMENT.

    The end result will be a return to the day where flying comfortably is exclusively for the well-off with limited supply and selection and a spattering of “lower” cost alternatives that are hard on your time, on your patience, on your comfort and on your flexibility. The Costco of airline flying, as it were…all while the Storm Trooper TSA rule the security lines with an iron fist, forcing us into radiation ovens every time we want to exercise our “natural right” as humans born on the planet, our “civil liberty,” to move about the nation unhindered as a “free” nation maintains. HA…we lost “free” a long long time ago! Well, outside of Nancy Pelosi’s zipcode.

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