10/14/08 - Airlines and airports

Cristi and Makenna flew out of Little Rock Airport yesterday morning to spend the week with Cristi's mom in Florida. I was reminded why I hate the entire airline industry during the entire process.

First, ticket purchases. Granted, her mom was wonderful enough to buy the plane ticket for us, but in general, I have a problem with the business model. Why are they non-refundable, transferrable all that jazz? When you buy a ticket to watch the Razorbacks, they don't care who eventually sits in that seat, if anyone sits there at all. Airlines, though, insist that if you buy the ticket, you are the only person that can sit there. They get there money no matter what, what should they care? Don't tell me it is for security, because the security checkpoint verifies that the person going through is not a terrorist (more on this later) regardless of the name on the plane ticket. Here is where it gets worse. It is my understanding that EVERY plane is intentionally overbooked with the assumption that a couple people will either forget their flight, or just miss it for one reason or another. This happened to Cristi on her second flight yesterday (where she was actually bumped to first class, a nice little perk, but still doesn't make up for everything else). So, the airlines overbook on purpose, and then force people to either pay another fee to cancel/transfer, and then it's possible you might get bumped from a flight because they sold too many tickets (this happened on three of the four flights I was on during the New York trip.)

Second issue. The airlines have a 50 pound limit on luggage. That's fine, I can kind of understand that for safety reasons for people loading the luggage and as my wife mentioned, possibly due to flight weight and fuel usage (but don't tell me a bag 5 pounds over is going to cost the $50 fee for an oversized bag). So before we left, I weighed each of her bags and made sure they were underweight. To reach this weight however, I had to remove some of her toiletries and without thinking about it, put it in her carry on because she had some extra room in there. When we checked in, the attendant walked over and picked up each bag seperately and then told us to take them to the scan place. You are going to tell me that this lady who might have weighted 120 pounds can tell the difference between a 45 pound bag (which is about what her's weighed) and a 55 pound overweight bag? That upset me that I went to so much trouble to fit into the airlines policy, and then they don't enforce it.

Third issue. She checked two bags, that cost us forty friggin dollars. For smaller bags, it would be cheaper to ship the things overnight then check them with the airline. Not to mention, you have a better chance of not having your luggage lost, broken, scuffed or broken by shipping it. I don't know who thought it was a good idea to add the luggage fee, but regardless of the fact the airlines are making money hand over fist, it upsets me greatly because there are no other options. Overnight or weekend trips for a guy can fit in a carry on (with one exception, more on this later) but most females require more than will fit in a carry on and therefore it is almost required they check one bag.

Fourth issue. Clear is a new "feature" airports offer to bypass the security lines. You can pay a yearly fee (I think it's like $50 a year or something), and this allows you to scan your little credit card looking thing, a fingerprint or something and you can go straight to the metal detectors and skip the whole checkpoint line. This means that because of the terrorist fear (again, more on this later), this company, regardless of who they are owned by (airline, airport...whatever) are making money on the sensationalized fear that main stream media has plugged into the average American.

Fifth issue. After Cristi got through the first checkpoint, I went ahead and left since there was nothing more that I could do. When I got to the truck, I checked my parking ticket and realized that I was at 59 mintues so instead of sitting in my car and waiting for cristi to call and let me know she got to the gate, I went to the parking attendant and paid. It cost $2 for one hour of parking. I understand why they do it, obviously to make money, but I feel that that is a bit excessive and somewhat taking advantage of people. Most people who are flying are businessmen and they have to park their cars overnight and stuff like that, but there is also a percentage of people who are dropping off or picking up a loved one. If you want to escort them to the gate, or pick them up at the gate (or at least to the security checkpoint since no one is allowed near the gates because that could cause the country to be blown up) you have to park and pay. I feel the airport is taking advantage of this. I don't like it.

Sixth issue. As I mentioned, I went ahead and left once Cristi got past the first (of several) security checkpoints. I had just gotten on the interstate when she calls and asks if I am still there. I say no and she says, oh...then nevermind. I asked what was going on and she reminded me that I had put...GASP...liquids in her carryon when I moved over the toiletry items. They were, among others, baby bug spray, baby sunscreen, baby lotion and baby shampoo. The bug spray and sun screen were in a 8oz container, no way can this be allowed on an airplane. The other two were in 4oz. bottles...HEAVENS NO...not 4oz. Anything larger than 3.5oz is considered suspect and must be confiscated. I do not blame the people making the decisions that local airports, I do blame the rules in general and the people making these rules. What is frustrating is simply the fact that it will cost us probably $15-$20 to repurchase the items that they took...a small price to pay for the knowledge of knowing the plane won't blow up, but I don't see it that way.

Here's why. The reason, from my understanding, that liquids aren't allowed is because a while back there was a suspected terrorist that had a gatorade bottle filled with a liquid that might have been explosive. I don't think anything was every proven that it was in fact going to be used as a bomb. Right after that, you were not allowed to have ANY liquids in carry-on. They then changed that to be only liquids that fit in a 3.5oz container or smaller and they all must fit in a quart size bag. Give me a break. I don't have any desire to carry explosive materials on a plane, but even I can figure out that those rules means that I can basically carry a quart of any liquid on a plane, as long as they are in seperate small bottles. I can also figure out that if I have 10 friends fly with me, I can get 10 quarts of any liquid on the plane. The rule sucks, there are too many ways around it, and besides that, your bags are "randomly" tested for explosives and if you looked suspect or your luggage looked suspect, you would "randomly" be tested. They need to remove the liquid ban now.

It is because of this rule, it is virtually impossible to travel for more than a day or two without having to check baggage. I don't think you can find shave gel in containers smaller than 3.5oz. If you are on a business trip, how are you supposed to shave? Besides that, you have to have a razor...oh yeah, that's not allowed on a plane either. Were you considering that you might need to file back a nail or cut your nails...forget that, you can't take a file or nail clippers either. That has to be checked in with the airlines, which means you are going to have to pay their checked baggage fee. (except Southwest....they don't have these fees....yet).

Here's another thing, when we went to New York, Chris and Geoffrey both had containers of toothpaste larger than 3.5oz....they never said a word to them. If the rules are going to be there....for crying out loud, actually stick with them.

Another reason. After the 9/11 attack, security got locked down on airlines and airports. Why would a terrorist group even consider going this route again? They knew we would start watching closer. By adding all the security, I truly feel like they have taken away some of my freedoms. That makes me sick because basically (it's a cliche, I know)...the terrorist have won.

Seventh Issue. I got sidetracked, but there is one more reason. Again, related to the above security checkpoint, you can't take in food or drinks (with the exception of baby food and medicine...which seriously, if you are a terrorist, you know these rules, they are TOO EASY to get around). So if you have a long layover, running late and need to eat before or between a flight...you have to buy the food in the airport. Guess what, those places jack up their prices through the roof. Cristi got a sub from Quizno's yesterday and since she was in a hurry, she didn't realize until after she had paid that she dropped $10 for a sub. A sub that would normally cost about $5 and some change in a normal Quizno's. I know that Burger King is the same way. You pay an extra 3 or 4 dollars in an airport BK than what you would at the BK around the corner from your house. I understand companies need to make a profit, but I believe the term for that is price gouging.

Summary: Wow, I didn't realize this post was going to be so long, but apparently I have serious issues with the whole system. Outside of not flying (which I don't do enough to make a difference to the airlines or the system), there is nothing I can really do. It just makes me sick that if you are traveling a long distance, this is basically the only way to go. Because of this, you don't have choices in the grand scheme of things. I guess you could just buy your own plane and build an airfield in your backyard (see: John Travolta) but that doesn't fit in most people's budget. I wish I could say I feel better after typing all this, but I don't, it still make me sick. And it's going to cost another $40 to check the same luggage coming back home, so I'm already upset about that. Not to mention the parking for when I go pick them up at the airport.


4 Comments - Leave one yourself

You can buy refundable tickets, but they cost quite a bit more. You loose some benefits when purchasing cheap fares. I'm sure the transferrable part is because of Federal security regulations.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 14, 2008 at 3:35 PM  

I know you didn't want to hear security, but that's what the DHS and TSA say. Jackasses.They are ruining air travel.

When I have seen people get bumped they usually give out vouchers to people who are bumped. This is only from my own experience though.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 14, 2008 at 3:42 PM  

You are correct, the refundables are quite a bit more expensive, I think that is bogus, they should be refundable by default, and the security regulations are bogus.

As for the vouchers, that is correct, and that is very nice of them, but they only have to do that if everyone shows up for the flight, which they typically bank on not happening which means they usually make extra money by extra booking. When everyone shows up, they don't lose money, because the vouchers were paid for already by over booked seating.

By Blogger DJ Walker, at October 14, 2008 at 4:07 PM  

Wow, very different to the airports here in Australia!

By Blogger babibootiful, at October 14, 2008 at 11:48 PM  

center image