If you thought you'd seen it all, you were wrong. If you felt, for even a split second, that the airlines had ferreted every single dollar out of your pocket that you could imagine, you were wrong again.
First there was a fuel surcharge, when oil prices rose to stratospheric levels. Fair enough, although I'd feel better if the hard working taxi drivers in New York--who pay for gasoline out of their pockets--received such largesse. (I did suggest this in a letter to Mayor Bloomberg a while back, who had his Taxi Commissioner write me to say, more or less, that the taxi drivers were sufficiently ensconced in the upper socioeconomic stratum and that they did not need this insulting handout.)
Then there was the TSA surcharge, a fee to cover the costs of added protection and screening in our wonderful post-911 world. Again, I can live with that. Who doesn't want to be safe?
Up next was a surcharge for "heavy" bags weighing more than 12 ounces. After all, it takes a lot of work for airline employees to mishandle, lose or simply toss your bag around like a Domino's pizza crust.
Speaking of food, you want food? Well, you'll have to pay for that, too, particularly if you want pre-packaged, week old sandwiches, stale cookies and wilted salads made from vintage, antique lettuces.
Don't forget the surcharge that at least one airline tried to impose for use of the lavatories. After all, it only makes sense that if you're going to charge passengers to eat, and stay hydrated during flights on over-priced booze, you might as well gouge them when they have to relieve themselves. After all, a captive audience is a terrible thing to waste.
Back to baggage. We're now privileged to pay a surcharge when we want to check an extra bag.
God forbid you need to change your flight, because Grandma's funeral was delayed, no doubt because the airlines lost her body for a week while shipping her home from Boca Raton. Pay up. (They found her in a food-service cart in Cartagena.)
Craving some human contact, and want to speak to a live, human reservations agent because you don't have a PC? Again, pay up.
Not enough? Only this week, Spirit Airlines announced that it would begin charging for carry-on bags. As a sop to those of us who are so OCD organized that we plan every last detail of our lives in advance, the charge will be reduced somewhat if you reserve over-head space ahead of time. But after all, why would you think you should be able to take clothes or a briefcase with you when you travel, without paying for the privilege? Silly you.
And any day now, we understand that the airline industry will announce its newest, most innovative and creative revenue enhancer yet: a surcharge on passengers who actually show up and take their flights. Simply charging you for your ticket, and levying surcharge upon surcharge, is no longer considered sufficient by the airlines. If you actually want to board your plane, and take the flight with the non-refundable ticket you bought and paid for, you will be expected to pay an additional fee. After all, the way the airlines see it, if no one showed up to actually take their flights, the airlines could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year on fuel, planes and the myriad other line items in their cost structure. Hell, they might even be able to pay their creative executives more than the ridiculous sums they receive now.
But look at it on the bright side: if you don't show up for your flight, you won't be forced to sit on the runway and starve for hours before they cancel your flight, or for the privilege of arriving at your destination several hours--or days--later than scheduled. Now that would be worth paying for.