It’s summertime, which is almost synonymous with vacation-time. This year, however, vacation plans for many Americans has been thrown into a tailspin as rising fuel costs force airlines to raise ticket prices — and tack on additional fees wherever airline execs see fit.
Along with higher costs, long delays are also characteristic of summer travel. My worst experience ever was last June, and it took 36 hours for two friends and I to fly from London to San Francisco. We even slept on the floor of Chicago O’Hare airport for the night in between. Last Wednesday, June 11, however, was a far more pleasant experience. Jet Blue Flight 649 from New York City (JFK) to San Francisco was a relative breeze (aside from some bumpy turbulence along the way). Specifically, there was only a 15-minute delay. Not bad for JFK, and definitely not bad for summer, considering the night before, the flight didn’t touch ground in California until 5:00 a.m. PST. On the subway to the airport, I was nervous that the flight would be cancelled altogether, as many domestic and international carriers are combating escalating fuel costs by cancelling flights for small problems or even at random.
What struck me was the number of fees this flyer, who has always touted itself as a discount airline in the United States, was the number of amenity fees to offset fuel prices. Included meals were thrown out the window on most domestic carriers years ago, and have since been replaced by “food-for-purchase” for $10 or more. JetBlue has unlimited free snacks (tasty ones at that), but one now has to pay $1 to buy a pair of headphones, which were free before June 1. The advertisement on the Digital TV screen said it was about being greener and more environmentally friendly, but we know it’s all about the fuel. Furthermore, for “as little as $10,” you can pay for four more inches of legroom (38” total). This is one of the few times it pays to be short, as I’m quite fine with the regular 34” of legroom.
Rethink how much luggage you want to bring on your next flight, depending on your carrier. On May 21, American Airlines announced it will start imposing fees on even the first piece of luggage, starting at $15, beginning with flights purchased after June 15. This website spoofs that not just luggage, but passengers will be charged based on their weight. It’s hilarious, but maybe not far from the truth the way these fees are going. As much as the airlines charge, however, air travel is too engrained in our culture and we’re always going to need it.
Who knows, maybe they’ll start charging to turn on that little reading light above your seat. Oh no, I think I just gave them an idea.