Flying somewhere used to be simple, but recently airlines have begun to implement unbelievably complicated pricing policies. If you ask them, they’ll say it’s because of the increase in the price of oil. But it’s funny how all these special fees only seem to go up, never down. Some airlines are saying that this kind of pricing is a life-and-death proposition for the industry, while other airlines don’t feel terribly compelled to follow suit.
If it’s really the case that airlines can’t make money in the current environment without resorting to these pricing practices, how come Southwest, one of the most consistently profitable airlines in the country, doesn’t charge anything to check a second bag? And how is it that Continental can possibly get away with serving free meals on its flights?
Also: Fifty bucks to check a second bag, Delta? Seriously? Seven bucks for a fruit plate, Northwest? You guys are douches.
Tacking on all these little charges is cheesy. It’s yet another thing (in addition to abusive airport security and interminable delays) that makes me not want to fly at all. Anytime you can’t express the price of something in a sentence or less, there’s nearly always something predatory and possibly crooked going on.
People accept these charges because they have to; by the time you get to the airport, you don’t have any choice but to pay them if you want to get on your plane. But if all these charges were applied at the time you purchased your ticket instead of at the airport, my guess is that we’d see them evaporate (folded into the regular cost of a ticket) pronto.
I actually don’t mind what United and other airlines do with upsells at the airport — they let you pay a few extra bucks (typically under $20) for an exit row seat, which is sometimes worth it to me since I’m a big guy. But this is an option, not a requirement they force on you at the last minute.
This table shows a handy list of a few dozen major airlines and the fees they charge for stuff they used to do for free.
Update: I just booked a flight to London in November and paid an extra $100 out of my own pocket to fly Virgin Atlantic instead of United, la la la.