Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Perhaps you can relate?

I sat down recently and wrote about my last flight to visit my brother's family. Perhaps you have had a similar experience with air travel lately?

Hunger Strike

I’m a tightwad. So as I sit here on a flight from Dallas, Texas, to Kona, Hawaii, to visit my brother’s family, I am shocked to discover that the airline no longer provides complimentary meals or snacks.

What? I fume. I pay almost $1000 for this flight, am trapped here twelve
hours, and they aren’t going to feed me?
I refuse to fork over another $5.00 for a mere turkey sandwich. I feel it my personal responsibility to justice and all that is right to stand firm (or sit, as it were). It’s not just the $5.00; it’s the principle of the matter! Where is the lost graciousness of air travel? Where are the perks of a long flight – the two full-length movies and a decent meal? Where, in fact, are a blanket and one of those cute miniature pillows? Thus I begin my own personal hunger strike.

Instantly, my moments-ago full stomach starts to grumble and whine. I sit stubbornly in my narrow seat casting furtive looks at the passengers ahead of me opening their snack boxes. Humph, I mutter to myself. Cheezits and Oreos, who needs them? I have an unopened packet of pretzels in my purse from a previous, more generous flight. I reassure myself that I won’t starve, though pretzels are my least favorite snack. Tasteless pretzels are a fitting companion for the water I’ll order. At least water is still free. Surely.

The rustle of pre-packaged food items and happy munching increases my dissatisfaction. The cart is drawing closer to my aisle. I stare ahead, leaning my chair back a notch. It rumbles closer. I put a piece of gum in my mouth. I pick up the emergency procedures card and diligently study the diagrams. Perhaps I will need to know how to use my seat as a flotation device as we fly over Arizona. Nearer and nearer come the flight attendants and with them my last opportunity for guaranteed sustenance. Can I really let it go by and remain empty handed? The ten hours remaining loom long in my mind. I’ll eat pretzels and then sleep ‘till we get there, I tell myself.

But then another voice inside pipes up, reminding me of the $2.00 I saved when they passed out complimentary headphones since the video projector was broken. Instantly I only have to justify $3.00. My resolve crumbles. “I’ll take one!” I blurt out to the flight attendant, now at my elbow. To eat later, I tell myself. When it’s dinner time, it will be worth it. My hunger strike ends.

Soon the drink cart follows. Great, what will I have to pay for this? However, the flight attendant offers a selection of complimentary juices and sodas. When I select a cranapple juice, she asks if I would like the whole can. I nod profusely, feeling like I have just scored the deal of the century. Wow! The whole can free! Along with the drink, she places before me a packet of pretzels. I put it in my purse for later…just in case.

4 comments:

Dawna Sanders said...

You are a great writer. :) Now I'm really excited for you to do the writing school in Kona.

Thanks for all you do :)

Char said...

Alica,

Hey. It's Char. Good for you to order that sandwich which after the free headsets ($2) , probably 2 free juices ($2.40) was just about .20 cents. But the yummy process that happened in your head -- priceless! You KNOW that is exactly how this frugal girl thinks. It is the principle AND it is my hungry tummy; oh what to do, what to do. Until and alas I remember that great quote we found in college -- "consistantency is the hobgoblin of small minds."

Have fun in Hawaii. It is cold here. But, it is sunny.

Love,

Char

P.S. Everything is in for law school. Oh, I hope they pick me. :)

arienben said...

So funny! I definately can relate! It's Arie (from the Caribben Mercy) by the way. Great to find your website and good to hear what you're up to. Blessings!

allison said...

I figured you'd appreciate this story, as printed on CNN :-)...

Hopefully I won't get sued as per the italicised note at the bottom of the page...

$1 for a bag of airline pretzels?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ask for a pillow and blanket to help get through a long flight and you may be out of luck. Or you may be able to buy a "comfort package" from Air Canada for $2.

Like to check your luggage curbside? That could cost up to $3 a bag.

Airlines are starting to charge for many services that once were free -- such as assigned seating, paper tickets and blankets.

Air travelers who don't fly often may be in for some unpleasant surprises when they reach the airport this summer.

"They're going to be confused and they're going to be somewhat upset," said Kevin Mitchell, president of the Business Travelers Coalition. "Is it going to stop them from flying? No."

Intense competition from low-fare airlines along with high jet-fuel prices have led many established carriers to cut back or charge passengers for amenities.

Many airlines no longer serve meals on flights, instead charging for snack boxes and sandwiches.

Sharon Ansara, a government supervisor from El Paso, Texas, flew an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Washington Monday morning.

"We didn't even get peanuts," she said after the 2-1/2 hour flight. "They offered us a snack pack for $4. It stinks."

American spokesman Tim Wagner said that passengers have made it clear that their first priority in buying an airline ticket is price. The company offers a la carte services -- such as snack packs -- for those willing to pay for them.

Air Canada, which recently emerged from bankruptcy, decided against eliminating pillows and blankets, as some airlines have done. Instead, the airline decided to give passengers the choice of buying an inflatable pillow and a light fleece blanket for $2, according to spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur.

There are limits to what passengers will pay for.

American Eagle, which flies commuter flights for American, experimented in January with charging passengers for soft drinks.

"They evaluated customer response," Wagner said. "The customer response was, 'No, we don't want to pay $1 for a soft drink."' The test ended, he said.

Some services once taken for granted are now viewed as amenities as the burden of ticketing now falls on the passenger with the home computer instead of airline employees.

Talking to an airline reservation agent instead of booking a ticket on the Internet will add $5 or $10 to the price of a ticket. A paper ticket instead of a computer-generated one will cost $20 or $30 for a domestic flight.

Passengers are also finding that the limits on baggage size and weight are lower, and that airlines are enforcing them. For most airlines, passengers are charged at least $25 for a bag that weighs more than 50 pounds. A third checked bag will cost $80 on many airlines.

Some airlines are now even charging to reserve seats with extra legroom.

United Airlines charges $24-$99 to sit in the Economy Plus section, which has five extra inches of leg room.

Some international carriers also charge for aisle or bulkhead seats. Northwest Airlines in March began charging $15 for exit rows and some forward aisle seats.

Carol Mundt, a retiree who lives in the Washington area, travels frequently for visits and vacations. She heard about Northwest's new seat assignment charges.

"I was appalled that they would charge me for my aisle seat," she said while waiting to pick up a friend at Washington's Reagan National Airport.

Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said Northwest has to be able to compete against low-cost airlines like Southwest, which doesn't assign seats at all.

The a la carte pricing approach is working for Southwest, which carried more people in the U.S. than any other airline. With the exception of overweight and oversize bags, Southwest doesn't charge for its services.

A soft drink, a bag of pretzels and a changed ticket don't cost extra, said Southwest spokesman Ed Stewart.

But Southwest doesn't offer services such as assigned seating or keeping an eye on an unaccompanied child who's making a connection.

Continental Airlines is one of the few that still offers hot meals on domestic flights.

Sandy Gorie, 45, a real estate project manager, lives in Cleveland and takes Continental to Washington on Monday mornings and returns on Friday nights.

"I've been doing this since November and my Continental experience has been great," she said.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.