Skies can be friendly, but it’s going to cost you

Aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright never could have envisioned how the flying public would become so attached to their bags of peanuts.

The history of flight will duly record that in the middle of this decade, the free peanuts, pretzels and pop that were standard for so long were no more. Oh, you could still get them. But for a price. They were no longer in-flight amenities, but cost-saving measures. Ditto for meals, the tiny pillows and blankets.

Competition from low-fare airlines and high fuel prices have led many airlines to cut back or charge for what used to be free services. They are right to do so. There’s no reason why snacks, meals and non-alcoholic drinks should be free.

Some money-saving efforts, however, go too far and it remains to be seen if the paying customer will abide or revolt.

For example:

* Charging $20 to $30 to receive a paper ticket. Ridiculous. Why alienate older, wealthy customers who simply want a ticket as they have always known it. Either eliminate paper tickets altogether, or charge a nominal fee.

* Charging $5 to $10 for making reservations by phone. Sorry, but it’s wrong to discriminate against people who may not have access to a computer.

* Fees from $15 to $99 for requesting an exit row, aisle or window seat. That’s painfully wrong, like most seats. So do you get a discount if you ask for a middle seat? Or if you volunteer to sit in front of a seat kicker? How about a discount and a free alcoholic drink if you volunteer to sit next to the crying baby? How about a rebate for not getting up and using the bathroom?

* $10 to $50 charges for booking your flight using frequent flyer miles. Hahahahahaha, that’s a good one. How about a kick in the backside when you board, too?

* Charging $40 each way for a child traveling alone. Who would airline attendants say is in more need of supervision – a little shaver, or an adult who’s having some adult beverages? (Which is not to suggest a drinkers’ fee.)

* $2 to $7 fees for curbside check-in of bags and/or checked bags. Hmmmm. This is the fee most likely to cause revolt, since people will now be charged for the privilege of having an airline lose their luggage.

In 2005, 30 million bags were temporarily lost by airlines, and 200,000 of those were never reunited with their owners.

Those numbers aren’t peanuts and lost luggage is certainly no amenity.

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