Dear Airlines, Please Stop Nickel and Diming!

April 22, 2012

Rachel Wimberly

Rachel Wimberly is president of Tarsus Media. Follow her on Twitter - TSNN_Rachel.

I will admit that I shouldn’t be writing this right now because I am really steamed and maybe it would be best if I calmed down a bit. But, forget it. I am going for it.

I am so fed up with airlines nickel and diming every little thing to death to the point where I think airline tickets are higher than they have ever been in a very long time.

Case in Point No. 1

I recently flew from Detroit to Los Angeles on United Airlines. I was leaving on a 9-day trip so I had my purse and computer as my two allotted carry ons and I checked two bags, a garment bag and small rolling bag.

Yes, to those who think perhaps I overpacked, I wore every single thing I brought with me and between two multi-day meetings I attended there were various night and day events.

Anyway, I digress.

I was charged in all for the flights from Detroit to LA and then San Diego to Boca Raton and then Boca Raton back to Detroit $180 for just my bags to travel with me. If you do the math, that’s $30 for 2 bags for 3 legs of a trip. Ouch!

Beyond that, right before the flight was boarding in Detroit on United, I asked if there were any emergency row seats open (who doesn’t like more leg room?).

The gate agent said sure, but it will cost you $29. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather I was so shocked.

Just to check, American Airlines doesn’t charge for emergency row seats and Delta Airlines does, though a very nice gate agent there waived the fee for me (thanks Delta!)

Case in Point No. 2

The charging for actual seats on the plane (and I am not talking business or first class) has also gotten completely out of control.

I thought it was bad enough that basically any ‘desirable seat’, meaning anything that wasn’t in the dregs of the back of the plane or a middle seat, airlines were charging for was bad enough, but I went to book a flight for the very first time on Spirit Airlines today – who bill themselves as a ‘low-cost’ airline and YES they charge for bags, but they ALSO charge to pick ANY seat on the plane at all when you make your reservation.

You are asked to pay a sliding scale fee that starts at $18 for even the very back seat next to the bathroom and goes up to $25 for a “Big Front Seat” in coach.

On the site Web site when you book the flight it says: “Pre-select your seating in order to ensure that you get the seat that is best for you. (footnote 1)

Want a window seat? No problem! Sit next to your traveling partner? You bet! More legroom? Sure thing!

You are an individual. Go ahead, treat yourself as one.”

You know what that little footnote ‘1’ stands for?

Here you go – read it and weep: “1 - If you do not wish to select a specific seat, a randomly assigned seat will be available at check-in at no cost.”

So, basically, unless you pony up the money now, you will (hopefully) get a seat when you get to the airport, and it likely won’t be a very good one.

And, with the overbooking of flights these days being a pretty common occurrence, who wants to wait to get to the airport to get a guaranteed seat?

Now that United and Continental have merged and US Airways and American are possibly doing the same, creating the biggest airline in the world, what’s going to protect travelers from even more petty pricing craziness?

I am imploring the airlines to stop nickel and diming your customers to death.

PS --- on Spirit, what was said to be a $429 ticket from Detroit to Las Vegas with the bag charge ($60 total) and picking seats ($36), not so ‘low-cost’ anymore.

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