Saturday, November 1, 2008
Have Luggage, Will Pay
Have you been on a plane lately? If not, you may not know that it now costs you a minimum of $15 to take a suitcase with you! I don't know about you, but I find that preposterous. Add it to the ticket price or call it a "service charge" and lop it in there with all those other mysterious charges that add an extra fifty bucks to the bottom line, but do not penalize me for taking clothes along to my destination! For Pete's sake, what's next? Surcharges for bodies over 100 pounds?
People already abuse the carry-on baggage restrictions to an unbelievable degree; I can only imagine the new levels of creativity this will bring. ("Sir, I don't believe that 300 pound garbage bag will fit in the overhead compartment.".... "It will or I'll die tryin,' girlie!") As it stands, virtually all airlines except Southwest (more on that later) are charging $15 for the first suitcase, $25 for the second, and $100 for the third. Wouldn't it make more sense to make the first one free then charge up the yin-yang for subsequent ones? I would think the idea is to reward frugal, organized travelers and sock it to those who pack everything but the kitchen sink.
So I'm already annoyed about this suitcase charge thing when I arrive at the Northwest counter, right? But I'm trying to keep my mouth shut; it's not the ticket clerk's fault. I hand him twenty dollars cash and he says, "We don't take cash. Credit card only," at which point my resolve to keep my mouth shut disintegrates and I offer up a steely smile and say, "I don't have a credit card, I have cash. You're the ones who levied the charge; do you want my money or not?" (I did have a credit card, of course, but that was so totally not the point.) Thus ensued several minutes of inane remarks regarding the lack of cash at the gate, whether anyone had change, how they would write this up, yada yada yada, before one of the baggage handlers finally said, "Gimme that twenty; I got a five dollar bill and I'll get it back from somebody later."
On the next leg of my travels, it was interesting to note that that airline (there've been so many, I don't remember which it was) accepted only cash. Hello??? Does the word "consistency" mean anything to airline industry? Based on my observations of blank, then annoyed, expressions at the check-in counter, most people don't even know there is a charge for baggage, so it's highly unlikely they'll show up with whatever configuration of cash or plastic is needed to meet every airline's specific protocol.
It's traumatic enough to fly these days without adding convoluted baggage fees to the equation. I'm sure it's no picnic for airline employees, either, but airline executives need to get their act together and take a page from the Southwest manual. I rarely get to fly Southwest (more's the pity) since I'm in the Southeast, but they put other airlines to shame in all categories. Maybe it's just because they get to wear shorts, but Southwest employees are always warm and friendly, they're always having a good time, they make check-in easy, they make problems disappear, and they don't charge for a suitcase. Their attendants even--gasp!--crack jokes inflight. Anyone remember the days when flying used to be fun? It still is, on Southwest.
So here's my travel advisory for any of you unlucky enough to be flying soon: pack light, keep cash and credit cards at the ready, fly Southwest if you can, avoid Northwest at all costs, and beware of overhead baggage that may now kill you if it falls on your head because it's carrying two weeks' worth of clothing, accessories, toiletries, grooming appliances, and souvenirs in its overstuffed little pockets.
Oh, Wright brothers, ye hardly knew we.