I love to fly, but I hate flying. And on this current round trip from Madison to Salt Lake City I really hate flying Frontier. Perhaps the anger I feel should be directed toward all airlines. For all I know the fucked up and frivolous fees they charge for the most basic travel amenities are common to United, Delta and the rest. But with every add-on purchase I’m inclined more and more to travel by car and high-speed rail can’t come fast enough.
I’m prepared to take a fair ration of blame for the burden I impose as a passenger. On the way out I just barely packed a bag under the 50 pound maximum for checked luggage. I pity the handler who likely strained their back lifting it on the conveyor. And even though I checked-in online from home I neglected to let them know I was bringing the equivalent of a small child in extra weight. For that they charged me an extra $5. It was then I noticed the add-on fees piling up.
Shortly after take-off I fell asleep. Tucked cozy between two gratefully thin fellow travelers in a middle seat (despite my frequent flier profile preference for an aisle) I managed to wake up just as the beverage cart came rattling to my row. As it was morning, with more than enough coffee already and too early for a soda, I asked for a glass of orange juice without ice.
“That will be $1.99,” said the flight attendant. Had I taken a sip I would have done a spit-take! Apparently while I was sleeping Frontier started charging for beverages. More indignant than thirsty I asked for a glass of the “complimentary” water. That’s really what he called it.
Fast forward six days and on the way home I wizened up a little as any seasoned flier should. I checked in for my return flight making sure to pay for my checked bag in advance, a $20 fee I’ve reluctantly grown to expect. But after working the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market for 5 days I managed to collect a bit of extra weight in swag and a few thoughtfully selected purchases. I was pretty sure I was over the 50 pound limit so I planned to carry along a small shopping bag as carry-on in addition to my laptop backpack. After making it through security without hitch even with two titanium lawn darts crammed into my femurs where my hips used to be, I arrived at the boarding gate to hear a disappointing announcement.
“A fee may be required for your carry-on bag,” said the amplified voice over the PA.
Looking down at shopping bag I muttered a curse.
It always pays to smile. As the gate agent took my boarding pass she smiled back at me. With vivid green eyes she looked at the bag in my hand, then at the straps of my backpack. As returned my documents she smiled again and said “Have a nice flight.”
Relieved to have avoided the fee I was still more than a little pissed. I had snapped a photograph of boarding passengers while in line at the gate and in my aisle seat I tapped out a message on Tumblr that went to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“Say What? Boarding announcement Frontier flight to Denver “There may be a charge for your carrier-on luggage,” the message read.
Slightly self-mollified I powered down my phone, put my seat and tray table in an upright position and settled in for the 50-minute flight. I couldn’t wait for my complimentary glass of water.
When we arrived in Denver I powered up my phone the moment the wheels touched down. Within seconds I received a Tweet in reply to my last message
“@JoyTripProject If you didn’t buy your ticket via Frontier, a carry-on fee applies, since August 2013. ^KH”
As a social media professional I couldn’t help but be impressed by such a prompt response. I’m guessing KH is one busy hombre, and working on Sunday! But I also felt angry again. The message had the unapologetic tone of bureaucrat who has you over a barrel, bent over with no sympathy or remorse. I was hereby informed of the policy and was expected to take it, whether I like it or not. So here I am with a 3-hour layover, free wi-fi, a laptop and an online following of loyal fans. I wrote back to KH via Twitter.
“@FrontierCare that doesn’t mean your policy isn’t fucked up and frivolous Assume everyone is going to carry-on and set your fees accordingly.”
I know that airlines have to cover their costs. As the price of jet fuel continues to rise along with other fixed expenses it’s certainly a pricy undertaking to transport millions of passengers around the globe every year. But that doesn’t mean we should be taken for a ride at every turn. Isn’t the good will of weary travelers worth a can of soda and bag of pretzels? Can’t we carry-on a reasonable amount of luggage to avoid the additional fees of a checked bag? Is it too much to ask for these simple courtesies to be included in the price of every ticket as the cost of doing business? I for one would much rather enjoy the miracle of modern transportation without worrying about whatever new surcharge is around the corner.
As much as I love to fly I hate flying. The experience has grown so unpleasant and seemingly hostile often I’d much rather drive. Airlines like Frontier have adopted policies that fail to consider the best interests and expectations of its customers. Little things do indeed matter in the creation of a positive experience. As a traveler for many years it’s disappointing to feel nostalgic over peanuts and I miss the days when I used to walk through airports around the world with a smile. But it doesn’t take much to make me happy. I can buy my own meals and I’m prepared by pay for an in-flight movie. But with price of my ticket at the very least I want a soda, a light snack and free carry-on luggage. It’s not too much to ask. And when I arrive for an on-time departure I want the gate agent to smile back, had me my boarding pass and say “Have a nice flight.”
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