Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
This may come as a surprise to you kids out there, but once upon a time airlines used to let you check your bags for free, and they would even give you things when you flew – things like pillows and blankets and meals made from some indiscernible type of mystery meat.
Sadly, those days are long gone, and now an entire generation of American kids is growing up thinking that having to pay an extra $100 or so for the privilege of bringing luggage on your vacation is simply the way things are done.
My fear, though, is that my own son, who is 3 years old, will be raised in a world where having to pay to use an airplane restroom or cough up 50 clams just to bring a carry-on bag is standard practice. Think I’m kidding? Think again.
Spirit Airlines, a low-cost carrier that I consider myself fortunate to have never flown, announced earlier this week that it would start charging its customers up to $45 for any carry-on items they plan to put in the overhead bins. Of course, members of Spirit’s ultra-low fare club and those who “pre-reserve” their carry-on bags will get a preferred rate as low as $20.
Now, it would be easy to poo-poo this notion as a gimmick that won’t catch on with other American airlines, but unfortunately, it’s more likely that this will be the start of a new industrywide trend. You see, Spirit Airlines and its executives are the soulless bastards who first came up with the idea of charging people for checked baggage, an idea that rapidly caught on with virtually every other airline out there.
So you can expect that very soon United, Delta, American, Continental and most other major carriers will start charging you to use their overhead bins. Just pray they don’t also start demanding a fee to use the restrooms on their planes.
I realize that may seem like an absurd notion, but one airline is already considering the idea. Ryanair, which is based out of Dublin, Ireland, followed up Spirit’s policy change by announcing that it was mulling the idea of charging its passengers a euro or a British pound (about $1.33 or $1.52) every time they use the lavatory on flights lasting less than an hour.
Obviously, this is going to create quite a dilemma for Ryanair’s customers, because if broad, offensive stereotypes are to be believed, we all know that Irish people are always drunk, and drunks have to pee more or less constantly. Actually, viewed from that perspective, Ryanair’s gambit seems brilliant. I’m guessing Ryanair will likely become the world’s most profitable airline in a matter of months.
This idea, however, better not catch on with American carriers, or they can expect some rather disgusting repercussions. I know that I, personally, am so cheap and get so outraged about niggling extra fees that I would probably pee in my little plastic water cup (soon to cost $5 on domestic flights) rather than ante up a buck and half to use the john.
The scary thought, though, is that this might just be the beginning of a race to see which airline can come up with the most obnoxious way of separating you from your money. In fact, CNN.com recently featured a story with the headline “Airline fees: Where will they pop up next?”
Most of the people interviewed for the story were unsure what other in-flight services were left to charge for, but I think they were overlooking a major source of potential revenue: airport terminals.
The way I see it, those chairs at the gates could easily rent for about $2 an hour, and those moving sidewalks? If you want to get around for free, buster, you’re going to have to use your own legs. Sidewalk rides could fetch a dollar a pop easily. And let’s not forget that terminals have restrooms that could charge a user fee as well. How does 50 cents per paper towel sound?
Yes, there’s a whole world of possible fees to be collected on every airport concourse in America, but don’t blame me if my suggestions suddenly become reality. As Colorado-based aviation consultant Michael Boyd said of the airlines and their quest to impose ever more ridiculous hidden fees, “They’re very creative. They’re like squirrels. They’ll get to the bird feeder somehow.”
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Columnist Paul Andersen continues to hope that the moral arc of the universe trends toward justice.