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Growing fees leave airline passengers annoyed

Discussion in 'The Okie Corral' started by itisbruno, Feb 28, 2010.

  1. itisbruno

    itisbruno Devious Member CLM

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    First, they charge you to take bags on a vacation with you, now $80 for an aisle seat he wanted on a Virgin Atlantic flight

    :steamed:

    SOURCE

    When weather forecasters predicted severe winter storms across the country in the past few weeks, airlines sent their customers a steady stream of e-mail and text messages, giving them a chance to change their itineraries ahead of the bad weather.

    Those who took advantage of the waivers had what has become a rare consolation in air travel: They received a service from the airlines without having to pay for it.

    In the space of 18 months, the concept of a plane ticket has been transformed from an all-inclusive purchase to a pay-as-you-go plan, turning the relationship between airlines and customers increasingly sour.

    Every time a passenger books a ticket, it seems, major airlines have come up with more ways to charge for what once was free, like fees for reserving more desirable seats in the economy section of the plane.

    David Stewart, a commodities trader in New York, was stunned to learn last week that he would have to pay $80 for an aisle seat he wanted on a Virgin Atlantic flight to London. Stewart, who is 6-foot-5, says he managed to cajole a gate agent into seating him there anyway. But ahead of and behind him, an entire section of aisle seats sat empty, apparently because other passengers declined to pay for them. "It's bad customer service," says Stewart. "It would be in their interests to do this better."

    A Virgin spokeswoman called the fee "common practice within the industry."

    Adding to travelers' frustration is that the long-cited reason for the switch to "a la carte" pricing - record oil prices - is no longer the driving force behind the changes.

    Instead, airlines now cite their inability to make money, and consumers' resistance to higher ticket prices, as their reason for thinking up new ways to make customers pay extra. Over the past decade, they lost $55 billion, according to the International Air Transport Association, the airlines' global trade group. And the outlook for 2010 remains glum.

    "We need to return to profitability, and we need to do so immediately," says Mark Bergsrud, the senior vice president for marketing at Continental Airlines, echoing what has become an industry mantra.

    He and some other airline executives offer another line of reasoning for the new environment: the me-too factor. Cell-phone providers, sports arenas and theaters all add charges on top of the basic price of what they sell. Customers are used to it, so why shouldn't the airlines join in?

    "It's something that's happening throughout business," Bergsrud says, "and we're just slower getting there than many others."

    Consumer advocates say the tactic will ultimately backfire. "I frankly think the airlines are going to find out that these unbundling gimmicks do not work," says Paul Hudson, a lawyer and the executive director of the Aviation Consumer Action Project. "People will reach a point and say, 'That's it.' "

    There is disagreement about the practice, even in the industry. Robin Hayes, an executive vice president and chief commercial officer at JetBlue Airways, acknowledges that customers find the charges very annoying. "On the whole, for the last 10 years, the industry has done a really rotten job of looking after passengers," he says.

    While many customers have accepted the changes, that's because "there's very little choice," Hayes says. "But the industry would be foolish" to keep adding new charges for things passengers had become accustomed to receiving in the ticket price. JetBlue has added some fees, but not to check the first bag and it still serves some complimentary snacks. Bergsrud, however, sees the airline industry becoming much more like the hotel industry, which has long charged different room rates based on location and amenities.

    "It's like hotels with an ocean, a garden and a parking-lot view," Bergsrud says.

    He theorizes that passengers having the toughest time accepting the changes are those who fly only a few times a year, while business travelers and those often on the road take the new atmosphere in stride - in part because they earn enough frequent-flier miles to be exempt from many charges.

    Graham Howe, a banker in London who flies often, disagrees. "It's taking advantage of the customer," he says. "It all adds up."

    Airlines say they are not unsympathetic. Daniel P. Garton, the executive vice president for marketing at American Airlines, says its surveys have reflected passengers' discomfort as the airlines take apart their tickets and recalculate what they want to include in the basic price.

    But the surveys show that more than half of customers understand why American has had to charge for things they used to expect free, a response Garton finds encouraging.

    "We're still going through the hardest part of it, because we are unbundling what for the better part of 70 years has been a fixed-price menu," Garton says. "You have to get through this phase so people can get used to it."

    Major airlines have been cutting back on frills for more than two decades, ever since American began reducing the number of olives it served in each salad. Hot meals were among the first to go on short flights, sacrificed in a wave of cuts after the September 2001 attacks.

    But lately, the pace of change has been faster, and made travel more complex, uncomfortable and aggravating.

    Surrender your civil liberties and get raped by fees to fly ... I hate traveling today.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2010
  2. G26S239

    G26S239 NRA Patron

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    Air New Zealand is still good to fly on.
     

  3. Ol Timer

    Ol Timer ↓ hog hunter ↓ Millennium Member

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    Southwest.

    No bag fee. No change fee. First check-in/first seat choice.
     
  4. Bren

    Bren NRA Life Member

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    I choose Southwest when I'm paying for my own ticket.
     
  5. itisbruno

    itisbruno Devious Member CLM

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    That is the only aorline I have flown domestically since bag fees were put in place.

    I flew united to Oz last year, and no free drinks were provided, glad I took my own Wild Turkey.

    But it really sucks if you travel with a firearm, you have no choice but to pay on other airlines.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2010
  6. mesteve2

    mesteve2

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    I will fly SW only.

    Will not fly others.

    The other air lines can go straight to 7734 upside down!
     
  7. kiole

    kiole

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    even with fees i try to fly virgin america. Their planes are top notch, the inflight entertainment is awsome.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2010
  8. Chad Landry

    Chad Landry Cajunator® CLM

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    Hell, for the first time ever, I was charged for overweight luggage leaving Basrah. $180 (US), and "sorry sir, no receipt". The "airport tax" went from $1 to $16. I guess Iraq is moving forward, too.
     
  9. itisbruno

    itisbruno Devious Member CLM

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    $180 and no receipt?

    How ya gonna get reimbursed?
     
  10. Chad Landry

    Chad Landry Cajunator® CLM

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    Not a problem. Employer knows that Iraq is weird.
     
  11. ssfeldjager

    ssfeldjager

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    Gee...

    Crammed and over-priced parking, idiots to deal with at the TSA and airlines raising various fees.

    No wonder I prefer to drive if I have to go.
     
  12. Swiper

    Swiper

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    This kind of news makes me wish USA had a European-style express train-system. Unfortunately, it's cost-prohibitive to build one.
     
  13. Nicky D

    Nicky D CLM

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    It's reasons like these that make me want to travel only by car. Why would I want to fly?? Long, long lines, need to be there hours before departure, incompetent people scanning my wife and kids like we are the terrorists and now increasingly more ridiculous fees, no thanks!
     
  14. jtull7

    jtull7 Pistolero CLM

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    Air travel, with all the TSA bull****, and the government treating nice Americans like criminals and dogs, is bad enough.

    I read that AA was going to charge $8 for a blanky. I fired off an angry letter to the CEO of AA over that. But, guess what: no response.

    The airlines are the only consumer-oriented industry to abuse, humiliate, and irritate their customers. I simply do not understand it.

    I really am about to the point that, if I can't drive there, I won't go there.
     
  15. Chad Landry

    Chad Landry Cajunator® CLM

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    Mainly because I can just chill out and get wherever I'm going with little effort. Just a few inconveniences. I meet a lot of people, and I enjoy the whole travel thing.

    It sucks when I have to drive, and it costs as much in fuel as I would have paid to fly.

    I sit in a chair, up in the sky. That's cool to me.
     
  16. 2afreedom

    2afreedom

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    I have to agree here. Unless the drive mounts up to more than twelve hours or so by the time I get to an "major" airport, board, change planes in another city, and land at my destination I have only saved a few hours. Add in the wonderful experience of airport security I will drive thanks anyway. I can't imagine how some of you guys that fly constantly for your jobs must hate it.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2010
  17. Nicky D

    Nicky D CLM

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    Don't get me wrong, my wife and I have flown many times to go to the islands and loved it. We even went to Jamaica with our daughter who was 1 at the time. It has just gotten worse at the airports and with 2 kids now, we don't want to deal with it. Obviously if we were to vacation outside of the country we would need to fly but anything else we will drive or even take the train.
     
  18. itisbruno

    itisbruno Devious Member CLM

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    I can't drive to OZ

    :crying:
     
  19. Chad Landry

    Chad Landry Cajunator® CLM

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    I guess I'm just glad that I don't have to join a wagon train to cross the country, fighting Indians and everything else along the way.
     
  20. Nicky D

    Nicky D CLM

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    Oh come on, does it not sound like fun. Giddy up!