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"Creative" Airline Fees Choking Traveling Public

From time to time I like to take a light-hearted look at some aspect of society that raises questions in all of our minds about the appropriateness of a company's or industry practices, and today's flying experience fits the bill. We all travel by plane and experience the overcrowding, inefficient service, and outrageous add-on fees. Back in March 2011, I blogged about how airline fees were gouging America. First, let me repeat my top ten list of recommendations for the airlines to impose more fees on the flying public and how to avoid paying for them -- togue in-cheek of course.

10. Charge if a passenger needs counter help for any reason (use your computer before boarding, blackberry, iPhone or iPad).

9.  Add a service fee for any food ordered on the plane (bring your own food).

8. Charge if a passenger brings her own food on the plane (buy your food on the plane).

7. Charge if a passenger uses the lavatory (pee at home or in the airport).

6. Charge if the passenger doesn't flush the toilet or clean the sink counter in the lavatory (pay a flight attendant to clean it after each visit).

5. Double charge if a passenger tries to go to the lavatory while food cart service is in progress (I can't say it; use your imagination).

4. Charge again when that passenger returns to her seat (take the flight attendant's seat).

3. Charge if a passenger wants to deplane first before all other passengers (push someone off first before you go).

2. Charge if a passenger gets off the plane at the final destination (hide in the overhead bin and deplane while no one is looking).

1. Charge to get a boarding pass from the airlines to get on the plane (go to a new business service that just went IPO -- Forgeries R Us).

My number one recommendation has just come to pass. Spirit Airlines has announced that from now on, those who don’t print their own boarding passes but ask an agent at the airport to do it for them will pay $5. You can still get your boarding pass printed out for free at an airport kiosk until June of 2012, but after that it’ll cost you $1. Maybe Spirit reads my blogs. Sorry, Ethics Sage blog readers and frequent flyers.

Spirit says it’s also dropping the cost of flights by $5, so only those who use the printing service will pay. However, Spirit is well known for being in the forefront of unusual fees. Last summer the U.S. carrier became the first to charge for a carryon bag. According to an article for Wall Street Journal online by Susan Carey, "Spirit imposes fees for checked bags, as many airlines do, but also charges $20 to $35 for a carry-on bag destined for the overhead bin. The only free carry-on is a small bag or purse that must fit under the seat. The company, known for its $9 one-way promotional fares, also sells cruises, hotels, vacation packages and car rentals."

Katie Silver, in an article for the UK publication Daily Mail, points out that baggage fees and other extra charges have doubled to $21.5 billion since 2008 when airlines began charging for services piece-by-piece. The add-on fees now account for up a third of the revenue from some of the smaller airlines, according to Wisconsin-based IdeaWorks who conducted the study on 47 airlines. This revenue source has tripled in the last three years with the highest airline the fees equated to an average revenue of $41.71 extra per customer, according to the study's results. Here are the top five revenue earners:

   1.   United Continental $5 billion
   2.   Delta $3.7 billion
   3.   American $1.9 billion
   4.   Qantas $1.5 billion
   5.   US Airways $1.2billion

I think we all know what's coming next. Most of the seats will be removed so that airplane capacity can triple with new full body harnesses worn by each standing passenger who must hols on to a rail much as is done on subways. You can still eat a meal but will have to pay extra for the few seats set aside to sit down while eating. Of course, no one will be able to use these seats, even if the plane is half-full, unless you pay the "sit for eat" fee.

I discovered a video on YouTube that mocks the airlines. I find it hilarious however WARNING: The video contains some British obscenities.  

Blog by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, July 10, 2011

Video from YouTube