Start with the fact that air tickets are already expensive and so a traveler is already cranky (or at least I am). Add to that, you must either pack so efficiently that everything fits into an average carry-on OR pay an additional fee to check bags. (Meanwhile, I’m still trying to figure out how people are to go to another city without clothing … maybe the airline executives are secretly nudist??) Don’t forget that you must be at the airport 1 1/2 to 2 hours before a domestic flight now because of TSA’s long lines and finally, don’t be surprised if you DO NOT get a seat assignment until after checking in at the airport just to get the best fare.
This no seat assignment policy is what really hit a nerve today. My friend Karen had shared her story of shock in booking a Delta flight last month to go to Fort Lauderdale. She had to wait until her name appeared on the TV screen to know what seat she would be sitting in. I kept asking her “Why? When did that start?”
Then, my husband and I read an article in the WSJ (March 26, 2016) and started a discussion to concluded that this must be the newest way major airlines are trying to compete with discount airlines. In exchange for the traditional assigning of a seat during the reservation, you can get a less expensive fare and be assigned a seat at the gate. I decided to do some research myself and compare fares, flight times, and baggage fees for a week stay, flying in June. Here is what I found yesterday for the best price to Ft. Lauderdale:
Delta $158.20 round trip + $25 1st bag and $35 for 2nd bag (zone 3 boarding)
Southwest $199.96 round trip + 2 free bags (no priority boarding without paying a $22 charge that included a free drink premium and more reward points)
Guess this is a competition war designed around no assigned seats. Also, I guess saving money comes down to how many bags you are checking, as both flights would not be giving me a seat until I was boarding. (The fashionistas always get punished!) I could sign-up for a Delta American Express card so my bag could go free … or not. I will say that Southwest had many more time choices available at these “basic-low” rates than did Delta. I wanted to fly out and back around 10:00 am, but was forced to fly out around noon and home before 7:45 am or after 6:00 pm to get the Delta “Basic” fare (could pay $243.20 and upgrade to the “Main” level price category with a seat assignment-ugh) . Lucky for me the pop-up screen appeared offering a $20 upgrade (a real bargain as airlines have charged as much as $150 according to the WSJ article) to pick my seat now — my how the sarcasm comes through when I get my feathers ruffled. It’s all insanity! Can I vent a little more?
See, as a “tall family” (me, being the shortest at 5’9″) with more girth than the average, being assigned a middle seat would be painful. My position is that if I book far enough in advance, should I really have to pay more just so all three passengers in that row are more comfortable??? And what about the families with children that have saved and saved for vacation to scrape together enough plane fare for 5 passengers, who then get separated upon boarding or have to beg for a “seat-switch” with someone who already paid the premium to get an assigned seat???? (Bet the adult who gets stuck beside someone else’s kid isn’t going to be real thrilled either). According to the newspaper, the FAA has proposed a bill to require families be placed together without fee, but it is still pending. Until then, the gate agents have their work cut out for them and ultimately … the choice is yours.
The article claims there to be some advantage for “status” customers (of which I am one), but it’s really just a new method of money making for the airlines. In fact, if I book a “basic” fare on Delta, I forfeit my upgrade opportunity … that sure doesn’t favor the “best and most frequent travelers”.
Anyone notice that this new sales tactic wasn’t advertised or explained to the public before it was implemented? Or did I just miss it? It’s there now when you are booking, just not sure how many people are reading it or believing it because it is such a change.
I could go on and on and my son is going to tease me when he reads this and say “First World Problem Mom!” I will laugh knowing so many of us are fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of air flight transportation in this country, however it doesn’t seem right. When we book a flight, aren’t we buying a seat? Plus, teaching all these nuances to our kids may be daunting. As adults, we are going to have to walk through the booking process with our young adults several times to make sure they understand what they are getting for their money and make sure ourselves, to be “in-the-know”. Fine print needs to be read and the days of just clicking through screens are gone unless you are a fan of surprises!
Make the most of your day!