Tom Ungar and his wife spent $128 to fly from Venice, Italy, to Naples, which is a ridiculously low fare. But when their checked luggage tipped the scales at just over 20 kilos, their airline demanded an additional $152.
A luggage fee that exceeds your airfare? Welcome to the wacky world of a la carte fees — a world filled with consumer “benefits” that airline apologists believe you’ll love.
Ungar’s case is something of an extreme example. He was flying on easyJet, an airline known for its preposterous luggage policies. But ignore his cautionary tale at your own peril, because this is the world the Big Three legacy airlines aspire to, if we, their captive customers, would just let them.
Ungar’s misadventure began when he checked in for his flight in Venice recently. After placing their baggage on the scales, an easyJet employee informed the couple that their luggage was “a bit” overweight and pointed them to another representative. That person said their luggage was free to fly for an additional fee of $152. Read more “Total fee absurdity: when your luggage costs more than your airfare”
I came to that somewhat Magrittesque conclusion after hearing from Julie Eisenberg, a loyal United Airlines customer who last year spent $1,700 per ticket to fly her partner and herself from Washington to Sydney.
For just $600 more, plus 30,000 miles, United promised her a chance to upgrade into a slightly roomier seat. But the ticket agent she spoke with failed to mention that there were no guarantees and that the money and miles would be deducted from her account then and there, many months before her flight.
When you spend most of your waking hours advocating for consumers, it’s easy to lose your sense of perspective. Complaints pour in, often hundreds per day. I can’t help but feel like the customer-service apocalypse is imminent.
My New Year’s resolution is simple: Stop Servicemaggendon by putting what really matters in my consumer advocacy crosshairs and keep the discourse civil and fair.
What matters? Well, from my point of view, it’s obvious that we’re halfway down a long slide into the customer-service toilet, with only a little pipe to go before we’re flushed out to the sewer. How we approach this precipitous decline matters. It requires a clear-headed, well-reasoned and polite discussion — otherwise the problem could get worse. Read more “How to stop the customer service apocalypse of 2014”
The intoxicating combination of junk fees and loyalty programs seems too powerful for even the most consumer-friendly airline to resist.
At least that’s what passengers like Peter DeForest are discovering when they try to change an award ticket.
He’d saved up enough frequent flier miles on Virgin America, an airline with a stellar reputation for taking care of its customers, to fly himself and a companion from San Francisco to Las Vegas. But shortly before the trip, his companion fell ill. He asked Virgin if he could cancel the trip and get his miles back.
Sure, a representative told him. If he paid the airline a $100 per reservation “redeposit fee.”