In my continuing effort to pull out columns that might be worth reprinting in an e-book, let me share another of my favorites. It’s from 2008, just after the airlines started charging passengers to check their luggage. (Who knew I would be right, and that airlines would start charging to check our first piece of luggage? Really, I should play the lottery more often.)
Anyway, for the record, my brother-in-law, who is both a commercial and military pilot, has tried for years to explain to me how a plane stays aloft. I still don’t get it. Not that that should surprise any of my regular readers.
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That’ll Be An Extra $25, Please
by Joanne Brokaw
I need to emphasize right at the start that I’m not an aeronautical expert. I can’t figure out how a plane flies without flapping its wings like a bird, so it will come as no surprise that I don’t understand the new airline policies about luggage.
If you’ve traveled by plane recently you know that most airlines, in an effort to offset rising fuel costs, are now charging passengers anywhere from $25 to $100 to check a second suitcase.
I thought perhaps the airlines were encouraging passengers to pack lighter so the planes would weigh less and therefore use less gas. But on a recent flight, our take-off was delayed so the crew could add ballast to the plane because, as the pilot happily informed us, the passengers “didn’t check enough luggage.”
Excuse me. Did you want me to check a second suitcase or not? Because I had a lot of stuff I could have packed if I knew you needed more weight. I just didn’t want to pay an extra $25 to haul three pair of black boots, two jackets and four pair of jeans through the friendly skies, just in case I changed my mind about what I wanted to wear while I was in Ohio for 48 hours.
I’m not sure what the charge for checking a second suitcase is intended to accomplish, if it’s not to make the planes lighter. Sure, the airlines will generate some additional income – for a while at least, until passengers learn to stuff everything into one suitcase. Then they’ll be forced to start charging us for the basics, like checking our first suitcase, using the lavatory during a flight, and breathing pressurized cabin oxygen.
First, though, the airlines are trying to save a few bucks by flying more slowly. One airline expects to save $42 million this year [at the time of this writing] by extending each flight by two or three minutes.
So let me get this straight. First you make me cram everything I need into one suitcase (and still keep it under 50 pounds) while you turn around and add extra weight to the plane? And now you’re going to fly slower (as if being suspended magically in the atmosphere for hours isn’t nerve-wracking enough already)?
How about a compromise? I’ll agree to pay an extra $25 for a suitcase filled with shoes so that your airline staff doesn’t need to add ballast to the plane, and I’ll be patient and wait three more minutes to get to my destination. In exchange, you’ll have let me collect tips as I undress in the security line. If I have to remove half of my clothing just to get to my gate I might as well get something in return.
Think about it. With a long enough wait going through security, I could make enough money to pay for that extra suitcase.
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