Sun | Mar 29, 2015

Airlines killing passengers' joy

Published:Wednesday | August 4, 2010

Dennie Quill, Contributor

CHEAPSKATE AIRLINES appear to be on a campaign to dampen the spirits of would-be travelers as they continue to pile on new charges - the latest being Spirit Airlines' charge for carry-on luggage.

Spirit would have us believe that this latest move is not a new revenue stream but is designed to save time, since fewer people would now carry luggage into the cabin it would reduce the time it takes to load an aircraft - from what I have read they estimate that some six to seven minutes would be saved! In order to save seven minutes, Spirit thinks it is reasonable to ask passengers to cough up this additional payment to place their luggage in an overhead bin.

I must confess that I am not really a fan of Spirit. Having flown on the carrier twice, I was simply appalled to see how passengers were treated by the stewardesses. In one instance, it was obvious that a senior citizen had difficult filling out her immigration form and the response she got from one of the stewardess was most embarrassing. And for those who wanted to borrow a pen! Well, they were advised to borrow from someone else because crew members had no pens to lend. Sometimes it is how something is said that makes the difference.

Unsympathetic

The last straw for me with Spirit was the fact that a relative of mine had travelled from New York to Miami, caught a bug and was hospitalised for two days, so he missed his return flight. There was absolutely no compassion from the Spirit crew at Fort Lauderdale. He had to buy another ticket to make the return journey. I decided then that never would I spend my money with a carrier that treats passengers with such contempt and is so unsympathetic.

Based in Miramar, Florida, Spirit Airlines operates nearly 150 flights daily and is building a reputation as a leisure carrier. With each new charge it is sending a signal to Jamaicans, many of whom are known to tote multiple bags and boxes, that this is not the airline for them.

In the post-9/11 era, airline travel has become much more stressful, with the threat of terrorism ever present. But it is the airlines that have touched a nerve with the legion of ways in which they are trying to squeeze more out of passengers. These include charging more for legroom (we are not talking first class) aisle seats, exit seats, pillows and blankets, checked baggage, refreshments, headphones, changing tickets, booking on line, booking at the counter and booking over the phone.

People used to joke around that airlines would soon start charging to use their bathrooms - today that is the reality as some airlines are said to be considering installing coin-operated toilets. There is even talk of charging passengers by weight. After making $13.5 billion in new fees in 2009, one wonders what is left for the airlines to tax - oxygen of course! Don't be surprised if passengers are asked to pay for their oxygen masks on future flights. One more thing, don't count out a charge for using air-sickness bag!

Cost too high

As families make their lives and livelihoods hundreds of miles from their original homes it is a given that people will travel to all corners of the earth. But fewer people are now able to travel because of the added costs to the price of a plane ticket. Soon, only the wealthy or those with buddy passes will be able to board a plane. Passengers are at the mercy of the fee-crazy airlines. In 2009, United States airlines reportedly made $2.7 billion in baggage fees and $2.4 billion in reservation change fees.

But it is admirable that some passengers are fighting back, as we observed in Germany recently, when the Dublin-based budget carrier Ryanair was sued for charging customers more to use credit and debit cards when booking their flights. The court ruled that these charges were illegal. Well what do you know? It is this same Ryanair that is also talking about selling standing room spaces on aircraft.

denniequill@hotmail.com