Friday, September 18, 2009

Nickeled and Dimed in the New Economy

Once upon a time people actually dressed up when traveling by plane. It was a big deal, an event, because as traveling went, it was a lot less expensive to drive, or take the train, or even the bus. Commercial flights were more business oriented than the preferred mode of travel for the every day Jane and Jack going home for the holidays. Flying was a horse of another color, so to speak. Unless one were going to jump on the back of that winged Esso horse, it was a damned expensive to take a trip. (Yes, I am dating myself here but I was but a babe in arms back then with a wicked memory. So there!)

Since the golden days of air travel, when you could smoke and drink in flight, when they served real food, even had a menu so you could choose your poison, the experience has had the life sucked out of it, so much so it is unrecognizable as anything other than a big metal tube with wings. It goes up, it lands, the journey in between is more akin to cattle being herded in the chute than taking a trip somewhere.

As gas prices went through the roof in 2008 and the economy went into free fall; as one industry after the other fell off the cliff of prosperity and profits, the airlines scrambled to find a response that made sense, that would act as a bungee cord twirling them back and up from the abyss.

As first one airline then another instituted a luggage surcharge, I shrugged. Hmmmph! Okay, I thought, no problem, carry on from here on out for me. Then it was no food, "let them eat peanuts." Find the food sucked rocks. I had been bringing my own anyway. So there!

Getting through security had become an exercise in frustration and measurement. Exactly how many ounces is 3 ounces? Will it be enough to get me through a week away from home? Take off my shoes on the dirty floor? Just damn, I developed a strategy for that as well, slip off shoes with no metal. Jewelry? Simple earrings that do not set of the alarms.

I was just rolling with it, whatever they through at me, fine, no problem. Until yesterday.

Yesterday I bought a ticket on Air Tran. It was exciting, I got such a good fare at the last moment. I love deals. Then comes the screen to select my seat, and... WTF? I am offered a choice, I can pay $20 for a seat with leg room in the exit row, or $6 for an aisle or window seat! Excuse me? What the hell did I buy when I just bought my ticket, all of two minutes ago?

Mind you, I am still in coach, it's not like I'm upgrading or anything. I bought an airline ticket and now I have to pay for a damned seat? Welcome to today's a la carte culture, boys and girls. What's next, buy a movie ticket then have to buy a seat, one price in front, another for the middle, and different one for the back rows? Going grocery shopping? That will be ten cents for each bag, fifty cents for the express lanes, and one dollar for bagging your groceries. Getting your nails done? That's eight dollars for the manicure and twenty-five cents per nail for the polish.

Seriously though. When I bought the airline ticket, what did it get me, transportation in the bulkhead? (Yes, I'm trying to work something out here because this does stick in my craw.)

All of this to say, it looks like they are going to nickel and dime us to death and we need to advocate on our own behalf before they take us off to the poorhouse, and make us pay for that, too! In the words of that wonderful 70s movie, I am mad as hell and not taking it anymore. Well, yes, I will take the plane but boy will I give those folks a piece of my mind. No! Wait. They'd make me pay for that, too. :)

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