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Air Travel

Airlines continue to search for creative new ways to nickel-and-dime passengers

Jul 26, 2009

As fees for checked baggage continue to increase, airlines continue to search for creative new ways to nickel-and-dime the traveler rather than just raise airfares to cover their costs. In the past week Delta, Continental, United and US Airways all raised their fees for checking you bags with them. What they don't realize, or don't want to acknowledge, is that the more it costs to check baggage, the more people who will choose to take their bags to the aircraft in an attempt to find space in the overhead compartments.

What frequent flier hasn't noticed how many more travelers who obviously haven't reached the elite level where baggage fees are waived, are now bringing everything they own to the gate? These less frequent travelers don't have priority boarding benefits either, so by the time they get onto the aircraft there is a scarcity of remaining overhead space. This, of course, leads to frustration for all involved, from the person who never should have brought their bag on-board in the first place, to the flight attendant who tells the flier to bring their bag back to the jet-way to be checked, to the frequent flier who just wants to get going. It is amazing how little the airlines care about making the air travel experience a comfortable one, especially for those frequent travelers who are paying most of the bills.

Additionally, do the airlines actually think that the traveler hasn't figured out that they can bypass the checked baggage fees by either bringing their bag on-board the aircraft or being forced to check their bag at the gate? There are no fees collected for bags tagged at boarding, so the hassle of taking your baggage through security and to the gate usually far outweighs the ever increasing expense of checked baggage. One would think that by now the airlines would have figured out a way to charge for checked baggage at the gate, too, especially since all they do is swipe a credit card in-flight to charge exorbitant amounts for alcoholic beverages.

A word to the wise. If you want to send a message that checked baggage fees won't be tolerated, book your travels with JetBlue or Southwest airlines, as neither charges you to bring your belongings on a trip.

To add insult to injury, airlines around the globe are implementing all kinds of cuckoo fees in lieu of raising fares, and some of these fees are bound to find their way to our shores. For example, Irish airline Ryanair which flies nearly 30 million European travelers annually is eliminating airport staff and requiring the use of their airport kiosks. They are slashing their operational costs by slashing staff. The traveler will be expected to check-in on-line, print their boarding pass, tag their baggage and place it on the conveyor belt. For most travelers this isn't too difficult, and for those few who need assistance, they will be paying fees for human intervention.

Ryanair also charges a fee of about $8 for on-line check-in even though on-line check-in is required. Got that? Several European airlines are already charging for payments by credit or debit card, though there isn't another way to pay using your computer. Southwest Airlines offers BusinessSelect fares which gives the flier early boarding priority. Of course, the fare is higher than the regular coach price, so for all intensive purposes you are paying for the opportunity to board early.

There are also fees for choosing in advance where you'd like to sit. Other new frequent flier fees are becoming more the norm, where redemption of frequent flyer miles on shorter notice than say, 14 days before departure costs more than if you make your plans a month out. Does this one make any sense to anyone out there?

So get ready, as more crazy fees are sure to surface. How about a carry-on bag fee; continuing free coffee but charging for creamer, sugar or a stirrer; a screaming infant fee; a talking on your cell phone fee for those who just can't wait to negotiate the "big deal" until after they get off of the flight; and isn't it time for a stupid traveler fee to impose on the passenger who boards at the last minute, is sitting in row five, but has to put their two carry-ons in the overheard compartments at rows 14 and 22 and just HAS to jump up when the aircraft parks at the gate to go get them? Of course, these passengers also have tight connections and need to run through the airport like O.J.

Airlines continue to search for creative new ways to nickel-and-dime passengers
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