My Rant on Airlines

This week the price of crude oil reached another all-time high which in turn means that we will be paying more for fuel in the coming weeks. This has not been anything new, this upward spiral in energy prices has been going on for some time. As a result we are now seeing gas prices above the $4 gallon. Where it once cost me $25 to fill the Honda it now takes $60 to do it. And don’t even get me started on what it costs to fill Trina’s Suburban; I about have to take out a second mortgage to get gas. The thing about it is that I understand why prices are the way they are. The cost of crude oil is up. This means that every process or processor downstream of a barrel of oil will see their costs increase hence they pass those costs on to the next step until finally the consumer bears the brunt of the increase. I may not like it but at least that makes sense and I would expect that to happen.

Today in the newspaper I read that local airline US Airways is adding new fees for its passengers. This announcement comes on the heels of establishing fees recently. A few weeks ago US Airways stated that they would now be charging a fee of $25 for anyone checking more than one bag at the airport; this is a per bag charge. This had the effect of increasing the number of people who carry luggage onto the plane. It used to be painful to try and find space in an overhead bin; now it is impossible to find space. The airline also stated that they would only allow one carry-on item. I guess this was to try and minimize the space problem with more bags being carried on? Well that didn’t really work to well. All people are doing is stuffing the second carry-on inside the first carry-on then unpacking them once they get onto the plane. Now it takes twice as long to board than it did before these changes.
Today US Airways stated that they are prepared to go down this path again. Now they are planning to charge for all checked bags charging $15 for the first bag then $25 for each bag thereafter. They had long ago started charging for snacks on the plane that used to be free. Now you can add to that soft drinks. US Airways will charge $2 for a partial can of soda and a glass of ice. Those of you who drink juice or water, welcome to the $2 club. They are also increasing the cost of alcohol to $7. Before you had to wait while the flight attendant had to find change for the one passenger who didn’t have exact change; now you get to fly with a whole plane full of people looking for change for a $5 bill. US Airways will also begin charging Frequent Flyers $25 to $50 to redeem their awards. They are also planning to charge employees and their families when they fly the airline. This is in addition to 1,700 workers losing their jobs. So basically we will have an entire plane of people who are jammed in among the carry-on luggage who are hungry and thirsty and late due to the shortage of workers able to do their jobs.
This doesn’t exactly seem like the way to customer service nirvana. Now here’s where it gets funny. When asked why the airline is doing all of these fees we’re told it is because of fuel costs. Can someone please explain to me what me paying $2 for a half a can of Sprite has to do with the price of jet fuel? Look, I understand that fuel is expensive and getting more so. So instead of trying to fool the customer into thinking that the cost of air travel is cheap, just raise your ticket prices. We would expect that, it happens at the gas station and we can correlate with higher prices of fuel being charged based on how many miles you are flying. What US Airways is suggesting is the equivalent to going to a gas station and seeing the price per gallon at $1.99 but then having them charge you $2 to insert your debit card into the pump, $1 to take your credit card out of the slot on the pump, $2 to choose which grade of gasoline you want to buy, and let’s not forget $2 if you want a receipt.
The reason US Airways has chosen this path is that if we as consumers begin to accept these fees for everything then they can later raise the price of tickets and continue to maintain their fee structure so we’ll basically be paying twice for their inability to adequately manage their business. It is this kind of mentality that drives me crazy. They seem to think we can’t figure this stuff out but we’re not stupid. About the only way we can stop this is to vote with our checkbooks. If US Airways suddenly finds their planes are not filling up and they are losing business they will need to go back to the drawing board and try and figure out a way to make this work without nickel and diming us for every single thing. In the meantime I will be flying Southwest Airlines. At least they are upfront with what they are doing.

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