Every summer, expats on vacation discover new rules and regulations for flying internationally. Many of us fly domestically as well, finding out even more service changes (and charges) from our airline carriers. This year is no different, and these policies are making it much harder to travel for a lengthy summer holiday.
It’s fair to assume that the majority of us have some sort of frequent flyer program with a home-country based airline through which we try to arrange most (or all) of our transportation. Why wouldn’t we? We all have different frequent flyer statuses that we’ve so proudly achieved, supposedly earning us benefits like pre-boarding privileges, extra baggage allowance and perhaps more foot room.
This year? For starters, travelers are discovering that baggage allowances are dwindling. Eight weeks going anywhere would pretty much entail the need for more than one suitcase per person, right? Not unless you want to pay upwards of USD 75 per extra bag – or unless you get pretty creative in your packing. Domestic travel is actually worse in that regard: no bags are free – other than carry-ons – with any major airline. Unless you rate a silver or above in flying status, you can expect to pay about USD 25 to fly anywhere with checked baggage.
When I travel with my two young girls, we each take on the plane two very large bags to save on the fees we’d otherwise pay by checking them in. It wasn’t long ago that I rolled my eyes when reading something about fancy trench coats that people now wear, filled with hidden pockets and compartments that can be stuffed with all your essentials … and it doesn’t even count as a carry on. Now? I’d like to know where you buy those.
While I haven’t run into this new problem yet, apparently airlines are now charging extra for window and aisle seats, making it very difficult for families to sit together without added cost. Surely the airlines don’t mean to be discouraging family travel, do they? Or do they care?
Years ago, we used to joke about the bagged snacks you had to pick up on your own as you boarded the plane. I don’t even see those anymore. Now, of course, on shorter flights you have to purchase any food you might want to eat. We simply bring our own.
There are now service charges for checking in through airline employees, due to the ever-increasing desire to streamline the process online. I try to book my reservations online, but I was annoyed to find this year that my complex, multi-city trajectory couldn’t be booked from home. As a result, I had to call a representative who had the computer capability to process my request. The next thing I noticed were the service fees charged per ticket, simply because I called in and made the reservations with a human. Not only did the airline force me to call for assistance, but they charged me for it as well.
What’s next? Charges for pillows and blankets? Pay-per-entry use of the toilet? Maybe an extra fee for an armrest? It’s getting to be ridiculous.
Of course, none of these airline annoyances will actually stop us from traveling home. There are ways to voice complaints on every website, and we shouldn’t be shy to do so. Airlines need passengers to fly on their planes; if enough of the said passengers say they’ve had enough, perhaps the airlines will listen.
In the end, I’m glad to be home – regardless of how I got here. I don’t look forward to the additional ten flights we have to take in the next five weeks, but I can tell you right now that I’ll be packing accordingly.
Photo: stevebott via Flickr