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The Real Reason Fliers Hate the Airlines

The Bad Friend
Good friends and bad friends come in many forms, so let's go with a simple one -- the "heads I win, tails you lose" friend. Missed a connection or late to the flight due to bad weather? Too bad for you! We can't fly due to bad weather? Too bad for you!

Airport Delays: Six Ways to Cope

The Bad Judge
judge gavel angry justiceAnyone who has ever gone to traffic court knows that many are essentially collections agencies; the judge and prosecutor let you out of a $50 speeding ticket that would have had points, and then charge you $240 for administrative fees. They know you'll take the deal so your insurance premium doesn't go up, so they'll reach as deep into your pocket as they can.

The trip to the county court payment window feels a lot like the trip to the airline check-in counter these days -- and the amount it costs to get past that window looks a lot different than the amount you walked in expecting to pay. (These folks think so too.)

The Bad Parent
Since I am a relatively new parent (and because it rhymes), let's call it Bad Dad -- because most of the rules the airlines seem to make up on the fly are the very same types of things I am trying to avoid as a parent. As with bad friends, there is no end to the ways I could figure out how to be a bad parent if I really tried, so here's one example. When there is something I want, I get it; when there is something my kid wants, he often hears that we can't spend money on that right now. So the next time we go to the same store, it's a fair question as to whether we can spend money on something now, since perhaps we had just gone to the bank to deposit money. Now, to cave every time this happened would be to spoil the child, but the essential unfairness of the forced trip to the store remains. He was understanding when we did not have enough to purchase something for him on a specific trip, but now that we're flush, what's the beef?

So it goes with fuel surcharges. When the price of oil spiked skyward a couple years back, travelers were pretty accepting of fuel surcharges on the whole, and cut the airlines slack without too much complaining. But when fuel prices dropped precipitously again, it wasn't unreasonable to ask, well, when are these surcharges going away? But the airlines, like a Bad Dad, found other ways to hold us off, adding on new reasons for new fees, saying they could not afford all these things they had given us for years, while making trip after trip to the bank.

Airline Baggage Fees: A Handy Guide

The Truly Heartless Bad #@$%#$%
It has gone relatively unmentioned in the press over the past few years that airlines have largely eliminated or cut back savings on bereavement fares, which were discounted last-minute fares extended to folks who lost family members. We all know what a same-day flight can cost, but if you have to book an emergency flight for this reason, you will find that your family's misfortune is the airline's small fortune. This really seems like heartless stuff to me.

(While on the subject, it turns out that some funeral homes have relationships with what they call "bereavement travel services" who answer the phone as such and speak in very hushed, sympathetic tones, but when you complete a transaction, you figure out they're merely branches of Carson Wagonlit selling you the same fares you could get on Expedia. Yeesh.)

airplane plane storm stormy skies cloudsTo go back to the title of this article, the word "hate" is not too strong to describe feelings toward those who would profit in our hour of need. The airlines have eliminated every last iota of human empathy and fairness from their transactions -- bereavement, half-price fares for infants, reliable family boarding procedures, sensible change fees, even dealing with the weather. They have learned to rig every game, and increasingly every play in every game, to the house's benefit. When they make a mistake, they get themselves out of culpability in contracts we barely know we accepted.

An important note: Hating the airlines doesn't mean hating everyone who works for them -- we're really directing your loathing at the corporate entities, not the everyday folks who work the front lines and often have to carry out some very unpopular policies. Oftentimes those corporations provide a good product, but when things get tough, they don't play fair ... and that is enough for many folks to -- let's be the good parent and say "really dislike" -- the airlines.

Go Anyway,
Ed Hewitt
Features Editor
The Independent Traveler


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