OK, I’ve mentioned this several times over the past months and I’m finally endeavoring to do something about it. This morning, I opened my copy of USA Today and right there was an article about the airlines charging rinky-dink fees for things in order to offset the higher cost of jet fuel (I’m sure they saw my blog articles since I griped first, and were inspired)! They list 19 different fees being assessed by over 15 major airlines.
1. Ticket Change Fee
So you want to go home early (or later). Don’t be foolish and call the airline and ask, “Can I go home early?” They’ll be happy to tell you, “Sure!” Then charge you $100 just for rebooking your ticket. Nice, huh? Within 24 hours of your departure, you can elect to fly standby. If seats are available, you can secure them for a $25 charge. You can gamble if you want, forgo the fee, and possibly fly home on a standby seat for free. Standby seats can now be secured on-line as well.
2. Fee for Beverages in Flight
Ah, this is one of my favorites. You have to pay for the privilege of having a drink of water while you fly. My grandmother would have said, “Poppycock!” I was so angry about this one that I came up with a way to smuggle alcoholic beverages in flight to get even with them. First of all, every frequent flier should have a good quality water bottle (Nalgene makes some really good ones). Make sure the one you buy isn’t metal because you don’t want to rile the TSA fools any more than you have to. Take the bottle through security, empty, then fill it at a water fountain or better yet, ask a bartender to fill it with ice and water for you before you board. If you want to take some booze with you (and who doesn’t, these days), just empty several of those trial sized mouth-wash bottles you can find at Target or Walmart. Empty them out and replace them with the spirit of your choice. 3oz of “liquid” is allowed through security, right?
3. Headset Fee
If you have an iPod, you have some headphones. You may not have the airplane adapter for them, however. Radio Shack does. Buy one for $3 and slip it into your travel bag somewhere… you’re covered.
4. Meals and Snack Boxes
Actually, the $5 snack box isn’t so bad! A box with Oreo cookies, a bag of granola, some salty pretzels, a slim-jim, and a small stack of potato chips for $5 isn’t the worst idea. If you want something more substantial however, you can certainly bring your own snacks but be careful, if it’s perishable, crushable, stinky, or required re-heating, think twice. Delays in scheduling and other things can render your delicious snack a nasty surprise in your luggage. Also, think about your fellow passengers; chocolate covered peanuts in a zip-top bag – good… warm pizza with extra garlic – bad… You’d be surprised how often I smell ethnic food, Italian subs, and/or pizza on the plane. Unless you bring enough for everyone, bring something simpler.
5. Preferred Seating Fee
Most airlines release all of the remaining seats on a plane exactly 24 hours before departure (sometimes they only release for elite status passengers, so it helps to be elite). When I say “exactly 24 hours,” I’m talking about the atomic clock time transmitted from Colorado! If your flight is at 1:07pm on Thursday, then set your watch by the exact atomic time and log into your airline’s website at 1:06pm on Wednesday. Look at the seats, pick one (check seatguru.com if necessary) and wait. At 1:07 precisely, reset the page in your browser, pick your seat and click CONFIRM. Do it as quickly as possible because someone else will be after that same seat! When I lose a seat by two seconds, I always give the seat winner the “evil eye” when I board the flight. It doesn’t fix the situation, but it makes me feel better!
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please send an email! Your questions will be recorded and Ken will answer the best ones in his Ask the Expert podcast show.