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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Travel Blues

The airlines continue to complicate things by charging fees for every little thing - food, beverages, blankets, pillows, baggage handling, etc.!  Some of the fees are unavoidable (I guess) and not the airlines company's fault (like the surcharge we all pay for security measures post 9/11 that come to about $12.00 per person), but others they are getting away with because we can't do much about it.  We started down the slippery slope from the days when we enjoyed our travel experience including the transportation itself (pre-9/11), to having to grin and bear the awful experience that travel has become.

I have tried to figure out where all of the fees and taxes come from that are added to you airfare these days to see of there are ways to avoid the more costly ones, but that information is hidden in a lot of legalese and fine print.  The only way you can get a breakdown of what you are being charged is to actually make a reservation!  I wanted to book two round-trip tickets the other day and the airfare quoted was only about $300.00.  As I proceeded to book the flight, I was suddenly faced with a charge of almost $1200.00 - almost 350%  of the flight charge added on as "fees and taxes."  This is getting ridiculous.

On my latest trip, I see how people are getting around the baggage handling charges.  Some people who travel often have credit cards that are "attached" to an airline for which they are allowed at least one free bag per person.  My husband and I have a Continental Airlines credit card issued by CHASE.  But the more popular way of avoiding a checked luggage fee is they don't bother to check their bag and they bring clearly oversized bags through security all the way to the gate.  Either in the waiting room before the plane to depart or as the flight is called and the staff person is scanning boarding passes, these bags get tagged with jetway check tickets and their suitcase, (or stroller or golf bag) are taken from the end of the jetway and stowed in the baggage compartment.  Upon arrival at their destination, their bags are brought to them as they wait just outside the plane in the narrow jetway. 

On this latest flight, I think the majority of the 90 passengers were standing waiting at the end of the jetway for a bag and only about 3 or 4 pieces of luggage came out on the luggage carousel later.
The secret to this is to have a bag that is not so large that someone questions you for bringing it down to the gate.  It is often a smaller rolling bag that might fit into the overhead bin on some of the larger planes, but the front pockets are so over stuffed that the bag is far to thick (and heavy) to squeeze into the compartment.  I think this started with items like strollers and wheelchairs that were needed to get a passenger or child to the gate and would be needed immediately upon arrival to get that passenger back out if the arrival airport, but "savvy" passengers have determined this is a good way to not only avoid the baggage handling charges, but to get their luggage early and not have to wait at the carousels for the three hundredth black bag to spit out of the shoot!

It surprises me that the airline and the luggage handlers agree to this.  The process can only happen because a very strong luggage handler is willing to climb up and down a set of stairs with all of these extra bags!

Remember the "good old days" when you could go to the airport with your family and friends and all of you were welcome to go all the way to the gate to say your good-byes as you board the plane or continue visiting if the plane should be delayed?  You didn't have to strip, be x-rayed, subject your luggage to search and keep track of all of your items that might be classified as "liquids!"  Children who are ten years and younger have never had the pleasure of getting off the plane and having Grandma and Grandpa right there with their arms outstretched to welcome you!  These are the little things we took for granted that we now pay extra for the privilege of not enjoying!

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