Airline Fees: Just The Tip of the Iceberg.
With the summer travel season upon us now, you can hardly watch more than thirty minutes of any newscast without some mention of airline fees which, according to every source pandering to public perception, are skyrocketing and unfair.
I’m all in favor of fairness. So, if this problem of added fees is to be eliminated for the sake of the consumer, it needs to be eliminated across the board. Because airline fees are just the tip of the iceberg.
First, and perhaps most egregiously, we need to eliminate the outrageous gouging the average consumer must bear every time a restaurant feels like charging for “extras.” To do that, everything on the menu should be included in one price. This business of charging a fee for an “appetizer,” a “dessert”–it’s nothing more than a money grab. Coffee, too–all beverages, really–should be included without an extra charge. When you order a meal, just like buying an airline ticket, everything the business has should all be included in the price. In the food service industry, that must include the bar as well: just like the ideal check-in at the airport, you should be able to tell the bartender (and of course, the business owner) “one, please.” Whether that “one” is beer, wine, liquor, a milk shake or iced tea–that must be one un-itemized or variable price, which probably needs to be set by the government to be fair.
Same goes for the auto industry: when you go into any auto dealership, every option available on all models should be included in the price. Basically, like an “airline flight,” there should be the specification “vehicle” designating that any option (or all options, at the consumer’s discretion) must be included in the sale price. This blatant price gouging involved in up-charging for “leather interior” makes as much sense as a restauranteur charging for “dessert” or an airline charging for “baggage” and clearly, the whole trend needs to be stopped.
And musicians have been getting away with this scam for too long. The business of selling songs via iTunes or other piecemeal on-line media is yet another abuse of the consumer: if you buy the Aerosmith song “Walk This Way,” you should be awarded the entire “Toys In The Attic” album, period.
Finally–and this really hits home–there’s the housing industry. When a consumer contracts with a builder, there should simply be one commodity, “a house,” like an “airline trip,” a “restaurant meal,” and a “vehicle,” with one set price including all possible options. The traditional builder “amenities package” which includes various prices for different components, materials, appliances and fixtures runs exactly counter to the basic consumer right (certainly, “passenger rights”) to have a product produced at an all-inclusive, fixed price, announced up front and encompassing every possible choice a builder could offer.
Which brings up another relevant analogy: everyone loves to decry the high price of medical care and often, doctors fees which ultimately is a thinly veiled resentment over how much doctors make.
That consumer right, however, seems to get short shrift in the emergency room or god forbid, on the operating table. There’s no one complaining about price to their anesthesiologist or their surgeon, never mind the hospital providing and charging item-by-item for the services required to provide medical care.
Clearly, the problem of “fees” is a universal plague that extends far beyond simply the airline industry. But kind of like the emergency room mindset, I seldom hear griping in flight about prices or fees when the weather is down to minimums, the winds close to limits, or the jet experiencing some type of mechanical problem.
Regardless, if one industry–in urban myth, the airline industry–is getting out of line with other commercial enterprises, maybe in fairness there should be some pricing regulation. But until the other ninety-nine percent of the for-profit industries join the one-price-fits all fairy tale espoused by those in the media, the government and ultimately, the public–we’ll just have to deal with the reality of product, price and choice that has defined free enterprise since the concept was first introduced in this country centuries ago.
Now, go to your favorite restaurant and tell them how unfair the menu is. Be sure to insist on their finest champagne to toast the deal, and it better be included in the single “meal” price. After all, that’s fair, isn’t it?
“Living the Dream:” Cathay Pacific 747 Pilot Jeremy Giguere, Live from Hong Kong.