Okay, before I get a bunch of angry comments (or maybe one if I'm lucky) about how I'm picking on United Airlines, I'll be upfront and say I am picking on them. I'm sure almost all airlines nickel and dime their passengers. I don't fly much anymore--maybe just one trip a year, so United is my only experience over the last few years.
I just had a wonderful winter vacation, visiting family in Illinois, then flying to New York City to take in the holiday sights. One thing that struck me about flying is how much the airlines charge for the nice little extras, like sitting closer up on the plane or having a little extra legroom, or checking in your luggage, or carrying on your luggage. You name it, United Airlines has found a way to charge you for it!
Imagine the scene at the airport: my husband has checked us in using the airlines automated check-in station. After we check in, the computer kindly shows us some extras we can get. For a mere $100 each for one leg of our journey, we can sit further up in the plane and have some extra legroom. Um, no thanks. United also offered an option where you could pay a fee (something like $50 or $60, I can't remember) to board the plane earlier. These extras can sure add up very fast for a family that flies.
When we were waiting to board the plane at JFK to return to Los Angeles, the gate agents started to do "pre-boarding." They started with the standard call for first class. They also allowed military personnel to board early without paying. This is new to me and one thing that I did find really nice! They then went through a long litany of other people who could board early including their Premier 1K members, Premier Platinum, Premier Gold, and Premier Silver. At some point, they made the "pre-boarders" go in slightly different way. One passenger observed that this was so they wouldn't go down the "red carpet" entrance, which consisted of about 1.5 foot red carpet that only the people with the most miles were allowed to walk on. Seriously!
After all that, they allowed people with children to pre-board. We excitedly got in line, but the gate agent glared at us and qualified the statement to parents traveling with children under 4. My daughter yelled out, "I'm almost 8! We need to get out of line!" This caused everyone within earshot to laugh. We also started making fun of the stupid pre-boarding procedure: "Anyone under the zodiac sign of Aquarius may now board the plane!"
At the end of the flight, my husband noticed that the overhead luggage compartments were marked with signs that said something along the lines of "For Premier Plus Passengers Only." The flight crew didn't enforce this on our flight, but apparently, in the future, if you want to use the overhead bins, you're going to be paying for that too.
So much for flying the friendly skies.
My husband found this Mad-TV video on no-frills flying. It was made in 2007, but really captures the current nickel and diming environment perfectly! Enjoy!