Reporting, Recording and Relaying - But Always Telling It As I See It

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Airline Reservation "Option" That Cost Me $12.00. (Or - How the Airlines Are Fully Engaged In The "Very Serious Business" Of Screwing Their Customers.)

In my previous post, I talked about the “very serious business” that my parents summoned me to their house for. They had asked me to fly to Florida at the end of the month and travel back home with them to help drive. This precipitated the unenviable task of getting a plane ticket that did not involve a layover in Kandahar.

I was pleased with the most recent DOT regulation that required airlines and travel websites to include all their fees and taxes in the price of the ticket up front, so that when you get to the check-out page of the website, the price does not escalate from $215 to $3,812.

The DOT regulation, however, had one caveat. The airlines were still entitled to exclude “optional fees” from their pricing. Therefore, AirTran got down to the “very serious business” of screwing me.

I found a flight that did not require me getting to the airport while the bartenders from TGIF’s were still counting their tips from the night before and proceeded to the seat assignment page. You have to admit, it is sort of fun picking your seat – it’s like one last vestige of self-determination. AirTran wants you to pay for this.

Here are the options:

1. Priority Seating - $13 – $15. This not only gets you the fancy, up front seats, you get to board first. Outside of First Class where you can get a cocktail immediately, I never understood the rush to get into a seat that has the plush comfort of a wooden folding chair without the lumbar support.

2. Exit Row Seating - $20. If I am reading this correctly, airline safety stops the second the overweight, drunk guy with an extra $20 decides he wants to park his fat ass in an exit row. Call me crazy, but I think this seat should be given to the person who can do the most pushups in the boarding lounge.

3. Steerage Class - $6. This is every other seat in the plane, including the middle seat in the last row next to the bathroom.  (I have a layover, so that's $6 x two legs - amazing this isn't charged by the air mile.)

Now, this is one of the “optional fees,” because you do not have to reserve a seat. The airline will tell you that you are more than welcome to come to the airport without a seat assignment and you will be given one there – if they don’t overbook the flight.

Would you make a reservation at a restaurant, pay up front and be content if you were told that for only a few extra dollars they would actually guarantee you a seat? Would you pay an extra $20 for a really good seat?

But the airlines have been in the “very serious business” of bilking their customers for years, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. I am just looking forward to my thimble of Diet Coke and a Gold Fish Cracker.


Patty Hoofnagle said...

I just found this out myself, wtf?

Dave Meyer said...

And they wonder why people have no tolerance for hangups!