Friday, April 16, 2010

I'm OK With Airlines Upcharging

Here’s the break down from Spirit: For flights on or after Aug. 1, Spirit said it will charge passengers $45 for a carry-on bag, or $30 if they register the bag ahead of time online or by phone. Members of the airline's $9 Club Fare will be charged $20. Passengers are allowed just one carry-on bag. "Bring less; pay less. It's simple," Spirit Chief Operating Officer Ken McKenzie said in a statement.

The new rules encourage customers to check more of their luggage, which Spirit says will help with efficiency. "I think this is more of an operations move to speed up boarding and deplaning," said Terry Trippler, an analyst with Rules to Know, a travel advisory. "Just get in and sit down. If you shave just 15 minutes off boarding, you are shortening your turnaround time, and that's utilizing your equipment to the maximum."

Obviously this is a ploy to make money for the airline and really has nothing to do with efficiency or faster boarding times. And, of course, I see why travelers are so upset about this idea. I however am perfectly fine with it. Why? Simple. If there’s one place I don’t want there to be a battle for money and/or skimming on services, it’s at the airlines. For those who don’t know: a plane is generally a gigantic vehicle that transports people from one place to the other at an altitude of 35,000 feet above earth. If one little, tiny thing goes wrong while this gigantic vehicle is en route at that altitude . . . well, let me put it this way: you better have a will written. I know plane crashes are rare. Like Lloyd Christmas says, "There's really nothing to worry about. Statistically, they say you're more likely to get killed on the way to the airport." But when they happen it is ALWAYS catastrophic. And, quite frankly, if we have to pay a few dollars to ensure that all precautions have been taken and all services have been carried out preflight, so be it. Maybe some of that extra $$$ can be used to keep dispatcher's kids out of the takeoff towers. What was that all about? Get real.

I do not travel by plane much, but I can tell you there’s no greater moment of mortality than when that plane is ascending after takeoff, the cabin lights off, engines screaming through the clouds. It is total and absolute powerlessness. Even babies are aware of it, I swear. The last thing I would want to be thinking about in that state is what the airline I’m on is doing to save money, where management has decided to scale back due to lacking funds. Of all the areas involved with air travel, if paying extra for luggage will ensure that everything else is attended to at a meticulous level, OK. Maybe the extra money Spirit Airline travelers have to pay for luggage will be used to pay pilots better. Some reports that I’ve read have listed starting salary for pilots at less than $20,000 per year. In fact, the pilots on the plane that crashed in Buffalo last year were heard on recording talking about how little money they made and exhaustion from working second jobs to make end’s meat. A few minutes later, end’s meat was the least of everyone’s problem. There are two types of people who I want completely focused when I’m involved: my surgeon and my airplane pilot. I hold the two jobs in the same regard and want neither worried about anything but preserving my life. $45 luggage fee? Fine by me.

I know people who travel often are worried that other airlines will follow suit and start upcharging all over the place. I respect that position. But, in case you haven’t noticed, there’s a bit of a financial crunch in this country. It sucks. But it’s the truth. Everybody, from health care to education to the postal service, is searching for ways to close the money gap. It is what it is. People are losing jobs by the basketload. Sometimes in life you have to pay to play, I guess. I don’t know whose fault all this money-grubbing is, but of all the places for politicians and consumers to draw the line in the sand, I would hope the industry that drives people at 500mph, 7 miles above ground level, would be near the bottom of the list. But hey, that’s just me.

Brian Huba

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