Sunday, August 03, 2008

Just Because They Can !!

I have never claimed to be a very sophisticated human being... Never. I am very simple minded and one of those very rationalistic folks for whom white and black exist, but gray is never an option. I don't like to be lied to, and I have trouble with wishy-washy- ness and half truths. With made up excuses, too!

I find it very difficult to deal with our airline system anymore, because of all those. Everything is fun and games till everything seems like highway robbery, you know!! And I love flying... so this took a lot out of me: after my most recent trip, I really, seriously, thought of driving to Canada next time around!

You've read my rants before, when I was annoyed by the $5 charges for alcohol on international flights, and also annoyed at paying $50 for one extra pound of luggage ... Now, every time I fly I find yet another new charge to add to my spending money! It's almost like paying for the trip twice anymore. And it's getting beyond ridiculous ...

And not just the charges, but everything else: the overbooking, the delayed flights for no reason, other than "the pilot is still asleep" or "we're missing a part" ... The uncertainty of it all, the nightmare of always having to deal with "Oh, my meeting is on the 24th, so I have to leave my home town on the 22nd to make sure I make it by then..." - it's crazy! And counterproductive to all!
And this is JUST in the United Wonderful States of America!!

We claim to be the strongest economical power of the world - really?? We treat our own people, our business people who make our money like THIS?? Because our business people commute maybe more than any business people in the world! It's embarrassing!!

My family and I travel on a number of various airlines, internationally and in Northern America: Air France, Lufthansa, KLM, Canadian Air, Austrian Airlines - and we never experience more delays, more expensive tickets, and more unexpected and unjustified charges, more rude staff, more cancellations than we experience with ANY American Airline we travel with. And we typically use Delta, Northwest, United and US Airways - so, not just one.

To make this not too long, this is my complaint list this time:

We all knew about the checked luggage charges. That, to me, is unjustified and ridiculous! People have ALWAYS had checked luggage!!!! People travel for pleasure as well as for business, the customs form of any country will tell you that! If you take a 2 week vacation with two kids, there is no way in hell you're not going to have checked luggage. Especially in the winter! Especially with the restrictions for traveling with liquids on you. You'll need shampoo, and cologne, and who knows what else?? And we all expected it , always, since the beginning of times (or ... when I started traveling in 1998) to be included in the ticket. God Almighty knows: it costs enough!! To say that you're charging for checked luggage because prices of gas went up is a bunch of stinking bologna and nothing else!

Let me give you just a few numbers - as I said: I am simple minded, I can't get into fancy math here:

- my ticket to Romania used to cost $600 when I first came here, 10 year ago... After 9/11, it went up to $800 - for extra security costs... OK!
- After Katrina and The War and "gas prices going up every year", it went to $1000, and then to $1300 , and now they are $1500 - because, allegedly, gas went up! OK! So, you factored that in, right? Well, wrong!
- The weight limit for a checked luggage went down from 72 lbs to 50 lbs! "Because gas is expensive"... OK!
- Now, you're CHARGING for checked luggage ... because ... well, "gas is more expensive"...
- The food and drinks: we used to get pretzels and peanuts on North American flights (Canada included) - not anymore; can't afford it, you see?? It's the darn gas, again ...
- we still get free sodas (for now, I am sure), but if we want COFFEE ... it's $1 a cup! Beer and wine went from $5 to $7! - at least with US Air; how do you justify ALL these??? You guessed it: "gas is more expensive" - how they are related , beats the crap outta me!!!!

This time around, from my own personal travel experience, I have a whole new laundry list of complaints I want to post:

- $25 charge for each lag of my trip for a second suitcase ($50 total) - although I booked this trip WAY before the checked luggage regulations - they came in sometime in June; I booked the trip in April;
- $66 charge for the airport parking - they "forgot" to update the website with the new rate - I read there that it was only $44 for 11 days, if I park in the overflow lot... WRONG!
- I saved on the coffee I wanted because I didn't get a cup , after my flight mate paid $3 for 3 cups of Minnie-Me cups that looked like dentists' rinsing Dixie cups. And he also got the "I am NOT your servant and I don't make the rules. $1 a cup of coffee - take it or leave it" treatment from the stewardess, too! Just in those words!
- and I have experienced a new American only gem: the double and triple booking. In two of my flights (out of 4 - a 50% chance is all we can ask for in a civilized economy!) the plane was overbooked: in other words, you had 20 seats, and 25 passengers with boarding passes!

The gate folks actually came to the podium, and one time they even had printed material to post (this is an often occurrence you see) that told us that we would be rewarded a free round trip on US Airways if we gave up our boarding pass and boarded a later flight! Forget about what OUR needs were, what OUR meeting, or work schedule was like - they were asking us to "volunteer to give up the seats"... I didn't. I made the reservations in April! I think I was entitled to a seat.

And get this: I typically travel internationally to Canada, Holland, Germany, Romania - mostly ... Any of these countries offer "free" checked luggage ("free" as "included in the ticket") AND free drinks and snacks on their flights. EVEN internally, not only internationally! Even Romania !!! Gas in those countries is ALWAYS, without exception, more expensive than American gas! When I talk to my Romanian parents about $4 a gallon gas prices they laugh! Their gas has been $4 a gallon, since ours was $2.50!!!
I just got back from Canada, where the lowest is $5.20 a gallon!!!

And ALL these charges are occurring, people, when the ticket prices are rising!!!! I used to pay $800 for a trip to Europe. Now, in the off season, it's $1200!! I used to pay $300 for a trip to Canada. Now, it's $600, plus all the crap I told you before: checked luggage, weight limit, more parking and such!
I just rest my case, because I hope you get the picture...

Sure, I understand staying competitive, and market economy and cost of living - I am not a complete idiot by all means! But these are triple and double and quadruple charges for the same excuse. These are insults! What is the purpose of travel if you're expected to travel naked, with nothing but the ticket on you?! And you're expected to live on a plane, for hours on end (some trips take 3-4 hours, right?!) with no food - some layovers are as short as 15 minutes. Who has the time for the McDonald's line in 15 minutes??? These are necessities, and not commodities, when we expect our working class to commute this way!

It's become such a decadent industry this airline business... Sure, they can peel off our skin and say it's for gas as well... I mean: why not?? They already strip us of our "liquids"... America, "the Greatest" is great indeed! We must fly, or else we can't get there fast - because the territory is so vast! So, they've got us by the balls, as my ex-husband so eloquently would put it!

I am just ashamed to admit I live in a country that brags about power and sovereignty and polices the world, but cannot keep its sh^t straight when it comes to at least two basic needs: safe and affordable transportation and health care! It's such a shame!!

In my travels, I thought I have seen it all: canceled flights just because it's Tuesday, change of seats in the last minute, at the gate, just so The Police can accommodate a jailed person traveling (don't we pay taxes for their planes, and cars and such?? - who knows??), decrease of weight in the amount we can pack in the checked luggage, gratuitous rudeness, more charges for just the air we breathe ... but I am telling you: I am keeping this list open for the future! Because I ain't gonna stop flying. I might stop flying to Canada, but I can't stop flying. And I will continue to bitch, as I am sure the list will continue to grow!

People hated and judged Clinton's guts because he admitted he did something "just because he could", on a more or less personal level alone, but I see no one boycotting this bull-sh^t of travel industry that we now present to the world and to all our citizens because they're robbing us blind, just because "they can"...

Times have changed. As they always do!

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