Things That Tick Me Off . . . Also Tick Off The Times

I have repeatedly taken to this blog to complain about wi-fi charges and other added fees placed on travelers today by hotels, airlines, and other companies (here and here and here). Now the New York Times has run an excellent Sunday article written by Stephanie Rosenbloom. Rosenbloom, who has a wry sense of humor, interviewed me for the article and details how passengers are fleeced while traveling today.

I just returned from speeches in Florida and Utah and faced the same gauntlet of charges, including what I call the “misery index” on Delta and United where you are given not only charges for leg room in coach (coach plus) but different charges for different seats in coach. You decide the level of discomfort or misery along a pricing menu.

What was equally annoying is that most airports not only charge for wi-fi but actually allow their private contractors to capture your wi-fi. If you try to use wi-fi, the company seizes your computer so you are locked into their page. You have to go into the preferences on your computer and turn off wi-fi to break free from the company. Yet, airports like Orlando and Salt Lake City offer wi-fi for free. Thus, some airports to their credit offer this basic amenity to travelers while others like the airports in our nation’s capital — Reagan National and Dulles — fleece travelers with a charge for the service. One would think that Congress, which exercises a fair degree of influence over Reagan National, would insist that our nation’s capital would at least offer this free service when airports like Orlando and Salt Lake do so.

Yet, there continues to be absolutely no effort to accommodate travelers. This includes security lines at both National and Dulles that are absurd. Even the premier lines now stretch for a block at National. On a flight last week, numerous travelers missed or almost missed their flights because of these lines. Those lines are the result of a failure of TSA to support sufficient machines and personnel. It is also due to airlines charging for bags, which has resulted in the majority of people taking their luggage through security (with the inevitable delays). The complete disregard for the interests of passengers has made air travel a punishing and degrading experience. I work hard to avoid air flights today and either drive or take trains to retain my sanity. Rosenbloom’s article is worth reading to see just how far we have come in just a few years in terms of expected services and care in travel.

Source: New York Times

26 thoughts on “Things That Tick Me Off . . . Also Tick Off The Times”

  1. Moderator, self-induced

    Malibu? Haven’t been there since went with my girl friend to consider renting a subterranean apartment on the beach. A long way from Mumbai India. Better food in Mumbai, but cleaner waters in the ocaan 30 steps away from the apartment balcony.

  2. Just one more reason for high speed rail. I have to admit that when I flew into Reagan National in March, the lines were reasonable and our trip was very smooth. Of course, we flew from Milwaukee to miss the lines and hassles at O’hare.

  3. Idealist707,

    I have a AWD Volvo, candy red, willing to give you a ride. I love Malibu. Gotta watch out for the speed bumps.

  4. Anyone for hanging on the outside of a three-wheeler in Mubai? Lots of leg room. No extra charges, many departures.

    Chinese-American water torture: Drops from above and creeps slowly up the neck. Enhanced. Cost 50.00 extra.

  5. Extra charges on my utility bills for sending me a bill. All the extra fees and taxes on my cell phone bill and I can’t figure out what they’re for and the customer complaint/service (clever name change) people give gobblety-gook answers.

    I really want to go to one of the Virgin Islands but haven’t figured out how to get there without being assaulted by TSA.

  6. A similar scam is put on by the New York Times on line. The on line version is riff with ads. As one trolls through trying to see what some schmuck in Mongolia did to a dog one has to read dog food ads from America and have to put up with flashing pictures. Yet, this so called website wants you to subscribe and pay them a monthly fee to read their dog articles and put up with their garbage ads.

  7. It’s easy to pile onto this topic except many of the complaints seem anachronistic (people complained about minibars in the article comments, yet minibars have almost entirely disappeared. Airline seats shrank to their current size about 25 years ago. There often are work arounds or people can change their habits, but many are loathe to do so.

    I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the security lines on recent trips out of DCA and have left at hours that sometimes have been problematic in the past. BWI is a different story. The work around I’ve used at Dulles is the entry way in baggage claim that is supposed to be for crews and premium fliers but seems open to anyone. the real problem with Dulles is the design of the concourses and the compromises made with the new security and train system–too much walking.

    Many of the changes that make travel miserable seem impervious to “markets” in part because large employers/inviters of business travelers will pay for a lot of them. (e.g., baggage fees, wifi in business class hotels), which limits options. The airlines do tolerate a lot of oversized carryons which seems to be an exception to all of this.The actual “maximum legal size” for bags is much smaller than the typical rollerbag.

    Travelers do have some recourse although it requires adjustments that many are loathe to consider–many 3 star hotels (e.g., Hampton Inn class) are just fine and offer freebies like wifi and a breakfast which has edible components. I go for some place fancier when I can , partly because my frequent stayer benefits get me out of the wifi chargers and often include breakfast. The carryon situation would be better if people didn’t feel compelled to fill the typical rollerbag for a one or two night trip. I amaze my colleagues by using a bag that actually is the maximum “legal” size and nothing else except a computer bag or sleeve–it’s not difficult and I’ve lived out of a bag like that for long work trips in Asia.

  8. I used to love to travel, but these days, I prefer beating myself about the face and neck with a ball-peen hammer. Tis much more enjoyable AND less painful.

  9. Arthur, I fly Southwest quite a bit these days. It beats 15 hours in a car. The only problem is that in Dallas we have the Wright Amendment. I do prefer the train but out here in flyover land, there are not to many passenger trains.

  10. JT,

    I understand that given your career air travel is vital. Luckily for me it isn’t. I deeply loath what it has become and I will drive, or take the train, to anywhere under 1,500 miles. I know I’ll be criticized for this, but it is my opinion that air flight should be run by (HORRORS!) government. It is a necessary service and also a lousy business model, which requires the airlines to add fees for what shouldn’t cost extra, to improve their profit margin. As for the TSA, for years, because I had an internal heart device, I had to go through a personal pat down. Beyond being demeaning, I couldn’t keep my eyes on my luggage.

  11. I stopped using air travel years ago. I prefer train travel, especially the sleeper suites. Yes, it takes longer but one arrives rested, content and usually very close to the center of town which means no rental cars … use taxis.

    I talked my daughter into using the rails for her last business trip and the experience was so positive that she has now specified to her travel department that trains are her preferred mode.

    Just remember that freight trains take precedent over passenger by law so there are slight delays once on the rail which can create a few minutes delay on arrival times but that beats having some TSA fool frisking you and sticking you in a room for hours or long TSA lines causing you to miss your flight all together.

  12. My favorite is the $10-20 per day plus several one-time fees on car rentals that are designed to soak business travelers. Interestingly enough these all are “airport” fees of some kind but the rental agencies add this same amount to rentals not at the airport so they get the extra.

  13. Jonathan: equally annoying is the standard voicemail “intro” everyone has to listen to, which includes instructions fit for 1990, like, “to leave a call back number, press 5”, etc etc — all intended to unnecessarily lengthen every phone call by 5 or 10 seconds, to increase income for the cell carriers.

  14. Yes, I won’t travel by plane for those reasons. Possibly the degrading treatment comes from the prevailing securit state attitude that all passengers are considered guilty until proven innocent (and those who seem to be innocent may be guilty, too).

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