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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

ON NOTICE: Airlines

Baggage Becomes Big-Ticket Item

As if the cost of travel isn't high enough. Already, in my opinion, Americans are not traveling enough, whether it is because of fear of travel, issues with taking children, lack of vacation, lack of disposable income, whatever, Americans work too hard and do not rest enough. This is one more road block.

There are lots of ways for airlines to make money, and they have been adding more and more nickel and dime expenses over the past few years. Food that used to be free is not anymore. American Airlines gets snippy about letting you take the whole can of soda with the drink service. Headphones cost money. Sometimes, it costs extra to sit in the emergency exit row. Now, we will have to pay for baggage.

The problem is extra large for me because now that I am scuba diving on vacations, I pretty much always have 2 bags (a suitcase and a dive bag) and I'm always right up on the edge of hitting the weight limit on both bags (scuba equipment is heavy and I am a notorious over packer anyway). Going to Little Cayman, we paid excess baggage fees because they are very strict on the weight for that plane. However, that plane is a prop plane, so that kind of makes sense (and divers tend to go to Little Cayman, so it's a chance for Cayman Airways to make a ton of $$).

What really gets me about this policy is that you are not paying per pound, and your bags are weighed separately. For example, take a look at US Airways' Policy (for the record, this is the airline we're flying on our next dive vacation coming up). If I have 2 checked bags and they both weigh 50 pounds, I pay $25 for the extra bag. If I have 2 checked bags and one weighs 50 pounds and one weighs 60 pounds, I pay $25 for the second bag and then another $50 for the excess weight on the second bag. Now, if I have 2 checked bags and one weighs 40 pounds and one weighs 60 pounds, even though the total weight of the bags is the same as in my first example, I still pay $75 total for having 2 bags and one of them being over 50 pounds.

Cayman Airways had a better policy - they weighed all of your bags in total (including checked bags) and then charged you per pound that you were over the weight limit. So, if I have 2 checked bags and one carry on, if the total weight was less than 75 pounds, I didn't have to pay any excess baggage fees. For the record, if you're going on a dive trip, you're NEVER going to have total baggage under 75 pounds (Todd's photo equipment carry on weighs 30 pounds by itself). But at least then if your total baggage weight is 76 pounds, you pay 50 cents, not 50 dollars because they are charging per pound, not a blanket fee. With the current US Airways policy, even if I only have one bag and go over the allowance by 1 pound, I have to pay $50 - a 51 pound bag costs the same as a 70 pound bag.

This is going to add up to a lot of money for a lot of people, and I hope this policy is re-thought (I doubt it will be). Flying has become such a hassle - with all of these fees, having to get to the airport early, the expense of parking, having someone watch your pet or child or house, TSA restrictions, security lines, check-in lines... It's become almost not worth it to fly in a lot of cases, but with gas prices over $3 per gallon... what else are you going to do?


Nick said...

And people wonder why AMTRAK is seeing a surge in riders.

If speed is not a factor it's worth it. No lines, no bag restrictions (if you're in a room of your own) and you get out of the train right in downtown.

How great is that?

The only problem I would say is summer travel on AMTRAK. There are usually significant delays. But still, what the heck.

Kim said...

Yes, but trains don't go to the Caribbean or Europe (although you can take them once in Europe).

Nick said...

Well...there used to be car ferries to Cuba from Miami and New Orleans. They carried whole trains across the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Straits.

It was all well and good until those damn commies came in.

Can't fix the Europe thing...unless you want to take the Queen Mary 2.

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