May 21, 2008

air sickness

Back in the air again today. I'm in Dallas to see my friend Myron for our annual pilgrimage to the Oklahoma City Rodeo this weekend. And no, I didn't get sick on the plane. But today American Airlines became the first major American airline to announce that it will charge a fee for any checked bags. Yup - any. So allow me a travel rant... Several months ago, United became the first major airline to charge for a second checked bag, with USAirways quickly following suit. The rest quietly added the same charge later. While I was annoyed at this, it wasn't that big of a deal. What I usually carried in two bags fits just fine in one, its just nice to have two lighter bags instead of one heavy one. But charging for the first bag is tougher to swallow. It seems counterproductive. The obvious solution for passengers is just to carry their bags on, meaning the long and arduous boarding and unloading times will now be even longer, decreasing the airlines ability to turn planes around quickly and make their on-time departures. I fly a lot, and the very best days I ever flew were immediately after the liquids scare, when for a few days, no one could take any carryons. I was shocked at how quick and easy boarding and deplaning was. Ever since, I've wondered why airlines don't do more to discourage carryons. Instead, its the opposite. But, its a way for American to make a few bucks to account for fuel costs. And they know as well as the rest of us, that we'll keep flying whoever has the lower fares when we search and compare. And you can count the days before the rest follow suit. And to be fair, Virgin America, who I have nothing but praise for, has always charged for a second bag. Perhaps that didn't sting as much because they did so from the start. Plus, the quality of flight and level of service and comfort that you find on Virgin America is beyond what American or the other majors could ever come close to. So be sure to check the baggage policy next time you fly and be prepared to carry it on. It seems they're just not gonna put up with our baggage any longer.

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