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Monday, December 24, 2012

The Airline Industry's Fee-for-All

Nearly every airline these days is addicted to fees.

Those who say we should run government like a business must not be frequent flyers.

Flying, which was once a fairly good experience, now amounts to being herded, harassed, barked at, and squeezed — while being dunned every step of the way for onerous fees. Make a reservation? Do it yourself, or pay extra. Check a bag? The fee for that is so pricey that most passengers have had to turn themselves into mules, toting their full load on board — which the airlines view as a new fee opportunity, planning to charge us for storing the stuff we schlep onto the plane.

What's next — a charge to use the toilet?

Yes! Here's the CEO of Ryanair in Europe: "One thing we are looking at again is the possibility of maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door." After all, mused another Ryanair exec, a toilet tax would be voluntary, since passengers have the option of not using the toilet.

Even though the airlines are in the black again and keep raising their ticket prices (three times this year alone), they still keep jacking up fees...because they can. It's free money they can simply lift out of travelers' wallets. "We're all about finding ways of raising discretionary revenue," gloated the chief of Ryanair.

Nearly every airline these days is addicted to fees, and the already huge take is growing — these add-ons will pluck $36 billion dollars from us customers this year, $4 billion more than last year.

Is there a tipping point at which consumer grumbling about these gouges turns to rebellion? A group called AirFareWatchDog.com thinks so. Noting that airlines are making profits again, it reports that the flying public has had it up to here with fees. Delta, for one, has responded. Not by cutting fees, but by excluding from its public reports the full amount of fee revenue it takes from us.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Southwest Airlines just signed a settlement agreement where they promise to provide 5.8 million dollars in free drinks to passengers (valued at approximately $29 million. The lawsuit they settled was over the airline's decision not to honor free drink vouchers it had given customers. Click here for details.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.
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