Money-grabbing Airlines and you

cartoon of airline printoutAirlines are looking to cut costs and increase revenue where they can.  A range of things are being packaged as ‘value added services’.  Some services are of genuine benefit, such as the ability to apply for a UAE visa via the Emirates web site (which is a lot easier than having to queue up at the visa processing company).

Others of the supposed ‘value adds’ are simply ruthless money-grabbing.  The major airlines are increasingly adopting the approach of the low-cost carriers by charging extra for things that have always been part of the ticket price.  British Airways have been one of the leaders in this dubious practice.

Here are the major cost-cutting and earnings-boosting tricks currently in use:

Paying for an extra seat because you are deemed too large by the airline.  There are two arguments for this, one being that it is the fat person’s fault for being fat and the other that it should be the same price for everyone to make it fair.  One could argue for example that a thinner person should get smaller seats that only fit skinnier folks in.  But that wouldn’t be popular either.  So, the answer from some airlines?  You have to pay for an extra seat if you are over a certain weight.

While some folks really do need two seats, they are in the minority.  The unfairness of charging passengers by weight is that heavy is the new norm, despite what people might think.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on their site that more than one third (35.7%) of US adults are obese.  It is widely acknowledged that the current generation is bigger than their lighter counterparts of thirty years ago.

It should be mentioned that the 35.7% percent of the US population represents huge buying power.  Everyone has a choice as to who they will book with, whatever their shape may be.  Heavy people will gravitate to those airlines that do not make a fuss about their weight.  Also, if people are being charged for being big then they will demand that in exchange for their extra money that the airlines provide a safe amount of legroom, and enough space to open their tray-table properly.

Paying to pre-seat.  When the low cost carriers came out, many of them did not offer pre-seating for all.  Seating was on a first-come, first-served basis.  Boarding a plane was chaotic.  Now some of the major airlines such as British Airways and KLM are exploiting this by also introducing charges for pre-seating on their lower fares.  They will happily sell you an emergency exit row and bulkhead seats, which have a bit more space.

Bear in mind that paying for an exit row seat guarantees nothing if the cabin crew arbitrarily deem you to be ‘unfit to operate the emergency exit door’.  You will then be summarily seated elsewhere.

Paying for checked-in baggage.  Back in the day your baggage was always included.  Now there are airlines that charge for each bag at check-in.  Only your hand luggage is included in the fare.  Be very careful to read the fine print on a ‘cheap’ fare.  It may work out to the same price as a regular airline that includes food, something to drink and standard baggage allowances.

One report pointed out that on one airline the extra bag charge is so high that you would be better off if you bought a ticket for a friend so he or she could carry your extra bag for you, rather than checking it in and paying the extra charges!

Paying for boarding pass printing.  Despite it having been declared illegal, if you fail to preprint your boarding pass on an A4 page and have it with you for your Ryanair flight, they will charge you.  The cost is more than you would pay to buy a low-end printer.

Worse yet – you have to check in online, and they charge for it.

Paying for online check-in.  This is normally included as who rightly expects to pay for having checked in online?  Well a certain rogue airline charges €7 or £7.

Our advice then is to look at the full price once everything has been included.  You may be surprised to see that it is often cheaper to fly with a full-service carrier between, say, Heathrow and Dublin than a so-called low-cost carrier where you have to add on checked baggage fees, online boarding passes, pre-seating, and paying for your onboard snack.

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