I swear to God, that’s next. I’ll start the TRAVEL BITCHING portion of this blog because sooner or later I was going to go down this road. I’ve been out of the travel industry for some time now but I still keep up with the craziness just to keep up with what’s going on. I think the really crazy part is that I’m still interested in spite of the madness.
It’s not enough that thanks to the recent round of idiots wanting to ignite their shoes and cajones, we are left wondering if we have to show up to the airport barefoot wearing a thong, in the middle of winter. But that’s an airport issue and I could build a whole other rant just on that alone. Nowadays, I usually pay only brief attention to the creative tactics of the airline industry and their justifications for charging the consumer silly ass fees on services that used to be included. However, lately I’ve been following two issues that have my hackles up having to do with the airline industry.
Ryanair, the Walmart of the skies in Europe, whom I admittedly used for most of my connections in Europe, is actually thinking about imposing a fee to use the toilet. No Joke. Although it’s quickly becoming the biggest joke in the industry which in my opinion is only surpassed by the notion of JFK Airport being thought of as an efficient airport. But I digress. This bathroom idea is the brain child of Ryanair president, Michael O’Leary who is no stranger to controversy and outbursts in the press, making statements such as, “travel agents should be shot”. Mensa Man wants this operation to be in the form of coin operated toilets, costing one pound to use the loo. Not only will Ryanair passengers pay to pee, but if things go Mr. O’Leary’s way they will have less bathrooms in their planes in order to make room for more seats which means what? All together now…..MORE MONEY FOR THE AIRLINE. His poopy logic also states that with less lavatories on the planes, this will encourage the public to use the bathrooms in the airports instead of on board. So with the possibility of coin-op crappers looming in Ryanair passengers’ future, I’ll ask the obvious stupid question: Let’s say I’m going to repeat the trip I took recently, which would be flying into Italy and catching Ryanair as a connecting flight to my destination. What if I have to use the toilet and didn’t have a chance to exchange my yankee coins into Euros? Having spent a king’s ransom to take this trip to begin with, will I then have to beg passengers for change like a gypsy? So far Boeing, who provides the planes to Ryanair, thinks this is a stupid idea and is not willing to reconstruct their planes for their friend in Dublin, Ireland.
The other one is creating some debate. Spirit Airlines out of Florida wants to impose a carry-on bag fee starting at $20 and could be as high as $45. Some applaud this because it will control the people who try to pass off body-bag sized duffles as carry-ons. So if it doesn’t fit under the seat in front of you, you may have to pay. Bags larger than 16x14x12 will start at $30 and go up from there. How to get around this? Just check it in you say? They’re charging by weight and how many bags you check in now. My feeling is this: I’ve been a pretty conscientious traveler, adjusting, downsizing, packing so that I don’t have to deal with BS like this.
But the traveling public is getting no appreciation in return for money spent on their service nor do I see much incentive. Speaking of which, Spirit Airlines has a club member program and is offering the following incentive to their members: They will only pay $20 instead of $30 for a bag larger than 16x14x12. But they will still get charged. Wow. Let me run out and sign up for this opportunity.
Shocking, right? After all, the airline industry has proven relentlessly that they can and will do whatever the hell they want. Don’t be surprised if eventually we end up only being allowed one sandwich sized see-through baggie where everybody can see your business, just to have the privilege of flying on airlines who keep decreasing services and raising ticket prices. I pray that competitors of the geniuses who come up with crap like the afore-mentioned, actually wise up and give the traveling public the option to get better service on their airline without trying to nickle and dime everybody to death.
For example: When O’Leary took over the helm of Ryanair, he originally modeled the business idea after Southwest Airlines. Southwest Airlines has publicly refused to impose checked bag fees, knowing that the traveling public will burn them in effigy if they do. Honestly, I’m surprised they didn’t start imposing fees considering the other sheep fell right into line after the first one made their move. But good for them. Southwest Airlines isn’t the most comfortable or luxurious ride you’re ever going to have and you can’t get seat assignments but they have maintained and even increased sales during these difficult economic times by staying consistent. People have consistently known what they are getting with them and that brings the people back.
My other example: Virgin Airlines. I have flown Virgin internationally and domestically many times and I have to say that I have had great flights with them every time. The biggest criticism I’ve heard from people over the years is that their seating is a bit cramped but I have always been happy with their service. Richard Branson has consistently found innovative ways to give his customers something new which creates a high repeat clientele. He makes lots of money, we get mood lighting, techno music and your own tv. Everybody’s happy. AND THE TOILETS ARE FREEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!
So what can we do about all of this? We have to get from A to B, right? Well, for all the good it will do, I could continue to talk shit about airlines whose gouging and shoddy services have gone unpunished for far too long. (By the way….Alitalia….you’ll get your very own post later.) But I’d also like to encourage people to support quality service and demand more for your money well spent. In spite of the occasional sale that comes along a few times a year, flying is not cheap nor is it easy to do anymore. I hate to use the old “gee, things used to be better” comment but compared to how it used to be, it now takes a lot of time, planning, arranging, worrying about baggage weight, etc. If I waited all year to take a vacation, I shouldn’t have to worry about paying for my baggie and wearing Depends at this stage in my life.