A glimpse of ‘what could be’?


Well-Known Member
A glimpse of ‘what could be’?

I board the airline of the future and swipe my debit card through the card
reader at the door. It prints out a receipt for the $5 boarding fee.

"Welcome aboard FuturAir," the smiling flight attendant says, holding out
her hand.

I fumble for a dollar bill and place it in her hand, “cabin crew courtesy

I make my way to my seat, as a growing sense of dread washes over me.
Traveler's remorse. Why didn't I pay the extra $50 to board first? I fear my
fellow passengers will have bought up all the overhead bin space. As I
approach my row, the guy on the aisle stands and pats the bin door.

"Too late. But I'll sublet the front corner for $25," he says.

It's airway robbery, of course. He only paid $35 for the whole bin, but it's
cheaper than paying for early boarding. I fancy myself the master of frugal
travel. I slip him two twenties and tell him to keep the change. Keep your
binlords happy, that's my motto. He opens the door and clears a spot for my

Seat belt fee: I squeeze into the middle seat “no aisle or window premium
for me” and drop a quarter into the armrest to pay for the seat belt.

I fasten the buckle, then extend my arms and press my elbows together,
drawing in my shoulders in the traditional Egyptian mummy position of
middle-seat travelers.

I swipe my debit card on the seat-back reader, and it brings up the host of
options for the flight. I select one hour of the reading light, air for the
whole flight, two cups of coffee, a cookie and “what the heck, I'll splurge”
a pillow made of "eco-friendly, recycled material." It prints out the
receipt: $37. Folded over, it becomes the pillow.

Pressurize and pay: The flight attendant closes the door and the cabin
pressurizes. $28.

"Good afternoon, I'd like to give you a short safety briefing, sponsored by
Taco Bell." She refers us to the cards in our seat-back pockets, but I
didn't pay the pocket fee. It doesn't matter. I always waive the emergency
exit and flotation device charges ($3.50 waiver processing fee).

"Should there be a loss of cabin pressure," the flight attendant was saying,
"an oxygen mask will drop from above your seat. Pull the mask toward you to
start the flow of oxygen. Once you have your mask securely fastened, be sure
to swipe your credit, debit or FuturAir Frequent Buyer card to ensure oxygen
continues flowing. Otherwise, the plastic bag will inflate, and you'll have
to make do with that.

"Please remember that should we lose cabin pressure, your pressurization fee
will not be refunded.”

"As a reminder," she continued, "the use of portable electronic devices is
prohibited unless, of course, you'd like to rent them from us at an hourly
rate. A list of leasable electronic devices and their prices are printed in
the back of your in-flight magazine, which is available for $7.50 per copy.”

"Now we ask that you sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight, all for the
nominal relaxation and enjoyment fee of just $25."

The screen on my seat back registered the charge.

We came to the end of the taxiway, and it blipped again.

"$15 air traffic control fee."

The plane began to zip down the runway, and soon we were airborne.

"$20 successful takeoff fee."

Altitude surcharges, maybe: In a few moments, the intercom crackled. "Good
afternoon, this is the Captain speaking, brought to you by Merrill Lynch.
Using our AccuWeather forecast, we predict good weather for our trip to New
York, which is sponsored by Home Depot.

"We'll soon be at our cruising altitude of 30,000 feet, some altitude and
turbulence avoidance surcharges may apply, and we expect to arrive at the
gate in time for you to pay your arrival charges without incurring any
additional late fees."

Annoyance charges Fortunately, the flight was uneventful. I dozed, and I
must have snored. There were minor annoyance charges on the screen when I

As we pulled to the gate, I paid my landing fee, deplaning fee, "buh-bye"
fee. I added a tip for the captain and co-pilot. I knew they'd been working
without a contract for 6 1/2 years. I'm frugal, but I'm not heartless.

I waited patiently to exit, careful to avoid any BPFs “belligerent passenger

As I walked up the jetway, I looked at my receipt: $2,000 for the flight
reservation, and I kept the in-flight fees to less than $250, including the
side deal for the overhead bin.

Not bad.

Loren Steffy is the Chronicle's business columnist. His commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Contact him at "loren.steffy@chron.com"


Whatever. . .these guys have it all figured out now don't they.

That's probably not that far from the truth barring some form of reregulation. Not that you'll have to pay for your safety, but that fees and surcharges for everything will continue to sky rocket, and eventually the ticket price will have to climb to keep up with operating costs.


Staff member
Not that I'm in favor a la carte, the average (not all, have you) consumer buys a ticket based on price, price, price.

An example, Midwest Express had single-class, 2x2 all leather configuration, first class meals served on china on even 1 hour flights and if they could save $15 on a flight from MKE to MCO, they're going to save $15, even drive down to ORD/MDW and hop on a lower-priced carrier.

At the MDW/ORD, compared to MKE, they're paying higher parking fees, instead of being fed a first class meal, they're buying the gang $3 cokes, $9 sandwiches, $4 bags of chips and $2 bottles of Atlanta Municipal Water sold in a pretty plastic bottle, of course strewn across the aircraft in middle seats.

Personally, I think looking at the spending habits of many consumers, they want a la carte pricing but they're just too chicken poop to admit it. They can't say, "The airlines are ripping us off!" when they simply click the lowest price, don't read the fine print, but are more than happy stocking up in the terminal on $1.50 newspapers, $4/cup coffee, $7 breakfast burritos, $2 bottles of water, tipping the skycap $5 for bags and $5 movies on the airplane in order to save a few dollars and tell all of their friends 'round the watercooler about the great deal they got and how travel-savvy they are.

Hey, if they weren't bitching about this stuff, they'd be bitching about us being overpaid and how we're what's standing between their family and a cheap Disneyworld vacation.


Well-Known Member
People are okay paying expedia $300 for a round trip ticket, then at checkin they get dinged for $150 dollars of fees. . .well. . .fine, so be it.

If that's the way my company will need to operate to make money, fine. I'll hate it, and I will honestly feel bad for the customer who is getting misled at expedia. . .but they are the ones to blame for their woes. They are unable to recondition their minds to the fact that for the past few years/decade they've been getting an essentially free ride for transportation.

Tough titties. ;)


Staff member
BTW, my previous post wasn't well-thought out, probably full of holes, etc. Stream of consciousness so don't go all Bill O'Reilly on me.


Staff member
Nor was I! :) I figured that my previous post wouldn't have made sense because there was one in between.


Well-Known Member
Wanna know whats funny?

We always talk smack about the airline customer choosing the lowest price on expedia, etc. when us pilots do it ourselves.

When a new person joins and asks about getting his/her PPL, the typical response is "go to the place with the lowest rates." Nevermind that the next door FBO may have ex-fighter jet pilots and only charge $5/hr more.

Yes we accuse the public of seeking out the lowest airline fares but we turn around and do the same thing for airplane and instructor rates.


Well-Known Member
The lowest price has a cost, they usually just don't know it... It reminds me when I would be flying out of a place like Tyler, Texas to Houston. We would always have no shows because they were late on the inbound Eagle flight from DFW (normally be taxing in as we are taxing out). I am sure they saved 20 or so bucks, but at what cost... Hmmm... Of course, not to say that I am not a cheap bastard either.


9-5 Ruins Lives
Wanna know whats funny?

We always talk smack about the airline customer choosing the lowest price on expedia, etc. when us pilots do it ourselves.

When a new person joins and asks about getting his/her PPL, the typical response is "go to the place with the lowest rates." Nevermind that the next door FBO may have ex-fighter jet pilots and only charge $5/hr more.

Yes we accuse the public of seeking out the lowest airline fares but we turn around and do the same thing for airplane and instructor rates.
More truth could not be told :) Quality is worth something and we all forget that sometimes.


Well-Known Member
Sightseeing fee...$3 ($5 in certain markets where there's scenery worth looking at)

Engine starting fee....$5 (per engine)

Thunderstorm avoidance fee....$1 per minute during deviations (tracked
by ACARS and automatically billed to your credit card upon landing)

Captain's gratuity fee....$25 (payable to airline management)

Terror watch list identity validation fee....$10

Overhead reading light fee....$2

Flight attendant call button usage fee....$10 ($20 if she comes)

Runway utilization and airspace access fee....$15 (per airport)

Cruising altitude maintenance fee....$1 (per thousand feet)

Window shade operation fee....$2 ($5 if the sun is in your face)

fee payment convenience fee....$3 (per fee)

Aircraft pressurization fee....1 cent (per breath taken)

Armrest usage fee....$2 ($1 armrest availability fee//if not used)

No smoking health improvement fee....$10

Seat reclining fee....$1 (per inch of recline)

Tray table unlatching fee....$1

Seat belt sign observation fee....$3

Employee communication fee....50 cents (per word spoken)

Lavatory waste processing fee....$5

Lost baggage claim fee....$10

Attempting to avoid a fee fee.....$5

Safety briefing performance fee....$3

Emergency exit door availability fee....$5

Employee pension termination court appearance and attorney's fee recovery fee....$7

Customer satisfaction improvement fee....$50

Executive golden parachute bankruptcy fee....$10

Streamlined workforce reduction productivity fee....$8

Late departure and flight cancellation cost recovery fee....$5

In-flight emergency and diversion customer processing fee.....$5

Bait-and-switch online advertising fee....$6

Flight status notification fee....$2

Refundable ticket refund processing fee....$300

Customer complaint initiation fee....$4

Overbooking 'volunteer' compensation processing fee....compensation amount + $10

Smooth landing fee....$3

Rough landing fee....$3

Employee morale enhancement fee....$6

fee schedule monitoring and modification fee....$2

Cloud penetration fee....$1 (per cloud)

Overweight passenger fee....$1 (per pound over "ideal" weight)

Weight and height measurement convenience fee....$15

"Turn off your cellphones" passenger announcement fee....$2 ($5 if your phone is still on)