Featured Column
Week of 8.30.2004
"What's next, pay toilets on planes?"
The way the airlines act
          Frederick is my friend. He’s 83-years old, he doesn’t have a computer and he never wants to have one. A couple of days ago Frederick told me he wanted to fly to Florida to see his daughter and her family. He wanted to go to the airport and purchase his tickets. Frederick doesn’t like to make important arrangements on the telephone and he certainly doesn’t want to make travel reservations on a computer. Frederick wants important transactions to be done face-to-face. As he says, “Only way to get important things done is in-person, face-to-face!”
           My friend Frederick hasn’t flown anywhere in a few years so he doesn’t know the new rules of the game. My friend still thinks you go to a travel agent or drive to the nearest airport and buy a ticket. Frederick is used to purchasing a ticket, taking it home, put it in a safe place and on the day you fly you take out your little packet of tickets and present it to a well-dressed, polite airline employee. Then you get on the plane and a friendly, smartly-dressed flight attendant serves you drinks, snacks and in many cases a tolerable meal.
          Sorry, Frederick.
I’m afraid, dear friend, that those days are gone forever, except if you’re willing to fork out big bucks for a first or business-class seat, which aren’t selling like they used to.
           The latest airline to illustrate that they have eliminated their public relations department is Northwest, which, this week, announced that they plan on charging customers and travel agents extra fees for domestic tickets that are not booked through the airlines web sites..
           Northwest said that the new fees will save them $70 million a year. Northwest will charge $5 for each domestic ticket issued through their reservation offices and $10 for a domestic ticket issued at any Northwest airport locations in the U.S. and Canada.
          Yes, Frederick. If you drive down to the airport, park your car and purchase a ticket at the Northwest counter they will add a $10 fee to your ticket, just because you bought your ticket at the airport! Seems to me that the most logical place to purchase a flight ticket would be at the airport. Sorry, Frederick.
          I don’t want to shock my friend, Frederick, but there’s more. Some airlines charge a fee of an extra $100 if a person flies standby on the same day of ticketed travel. Meaning, if you have a ticket and hop on an earlier flight you get dinged $100.
          Remember when you had a ticket, but for some reason, you couldn’t make the flight and the airline permitted you to use that ticket on a subsequent flight? Whoops. Now if you don’t use your ticket on that day, at that time, you most likely will lose the total value of the ticket.
          American Airlines will charge a $20 ticket fee for all tickets that qualify for an electronic ticket but the customer chooses to purchase a paper ticket. Some airlines are charging $80 for a third checked baggage.
          Northwest has reduced the weight limit for a checked bag to 50 pounds from 70 because of a 27% increase in back-injury claims by its employees. Check a bag that weighs from 50 to 70 pounds and you pay another $25.
          Last year United announced that it will cease issuing paper tickets.
          Tango Airlines in Canada offers fares as much as 80% less than Air Canada but passengers pay extra for amenities, from $10 for an assigned seat to $1 for a cup of coffee. The most popular item on Tango is bottled water for $1.00.
           My friend, Frederick was telling me about his first airplane ride in the 50’s. He flew from New York to Los Angeles on American Airlines. He says the flight attendants were all lovely women, they were extremely attentive and the passengers were all dressed elegantly. Men in suits and ties, women in dresses, some wearing white gloves and fashionable hats.
          I told my friend Frederick to come over to my house and we’ll make his reservation on-line. I could tell he wasn’t too comfortable about that plan – he really wanted to go to the airport and purchase his ticket - you know “face-to-face.”
          The next surprise my old friend is going to have is when he goes to the airport and sees what’s waiting for him.
          Have a nice trip, Fred and bring a quarter with you just in case they’re charging for the toilets
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger