The True Cost of Travel

The True Cost of Travel

I’m always amazed at the ways airlines can sneak in extra fees.  From the time you purchase your tickets, to check-in and on-board the aircraft, airlines have found a way to squeeze out extra money from every passenger they carry.  These charges are labeled “ancillary revenue” and according to the Center for Aviation, they will total over 58 billion dollars this year for the airline industry.

That’s big business.  In fact, the business is so big, airlines create “portfolios” of their ancillary revenues.  From traveler’s insurance, to seat selection, baggage handling, blanket purchase and in-flight snacks (and now, even a proposal to charge for use of toilets) all of these service fees make up a good portion of the revenue portfolio of any given airline.  And that’s just what YOU are expected to pay (in addition to your ticket).  Consider all the revenue generated from in-flight commercials, magazine advertisements or hotel and car rental partnerships —  I maybe an outsider looking in, but from my seat, I see the money.

Yesterday, there was a lively discussion on Facebook about Spirit Airline’s recent announcement to charge $45 per carry-on.  That means that if you plan to put a bag, backpack or briefcase in the overhead bin, be prepared to pay a hefty charge.  I and many others found this to be absolutely outrageous.  JetBlue responded by telling Spirit passengers to start wearing their luggage.  Funny, yes, but considering that JetBlue has plenty of charges themselves (like choice seating starting at $25 each) it’s a case of pot and kettle.

While Senator Schumer received confirmation from five major airlines that they will not participate in carry-on baggage fees, I wonder how long that commitment will last?  After all, Spirit is just adding to their portfolio, right?  And if this charge doesn’t boost their revenue, something else will.

The only way for passengers to stop the madness is to stop falling for these “low-price tickets” and “cheap fare” marketing schemes.  Those are phrases that come with a lot of fine print.  A $99 fare could easily add up to $155 by the time you pick a choice seat ($25 for any seat in the first 15 rows) and check one bag ($30).  Add a $6 in-flight snack, $3 headset and an $8 blanket and the price goes up even more.  These are just some examples of existing charges.  I haven’t added airport taxes and fuel surcharges, or any additional charges that are being thought of as I write this.

If there’s anything left in the passenger bill of rights, it should be this — we want bottom line pricing.  Stop with the low-fare schemes and just give it to us straightforward.  As passengers, let’s demand a Truth In-Flight Statement.  Or, perhaps, we can call it a Truth in Gouging statement.  At least we won’t be left wondering what happened to all of our cash.


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