Fly the Not-So Friendly Skies
August 28, 2008 2:33 PM   Subscribe

It started earlier this year with airlines charging fees for checked baggage. Then came charges for pillows and blankets, not to mention paying for bottled water or an inflight meal on international flights. Now one carrier has decided to remove life vests to save on weight and fuel. What's next? Fees for overhead storage, reclining your seat or access to a restroom?
posted by ericb (67 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Don't most US flights already use seat cushion floation devices? I only remember encountering vests in international flights.

Also, has a life vest on an airplane ever saved anyone? Honest question. It seems like survivable crashes are rare, let alone survivable crashes over water.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:37 PM on August 28, 2008


Fees for reclining your seat would be awesome.

Can we also have a fee for grabbing onto the seat in front of you to help you get up?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:39 PM on August 28, 2008 [12 favorites]


Hey thanks for the informative videos on SouthWest Airlines! I did not know that they give you stuff for *free*! I will totally choose to give them my business from now on.

Double Plus. Extra Good!
posted by oddman at 2:39 PM on August 28, 2008


'Sir, Would you prefer the Economy Body Cavity Search™, or the First Class Body Cavity Search™ - billable to your credit card of course.
posted by isopraxis at 2:40 PM on August 28, 2008


It seems like survivable crashes are rare, let alone survivable crashes over water.

Oceanic Air Flight 815.
posted by ericb at 2:40 PM on August 28, 2008


When you're in a tube 30,000 feet above the ground, you become a captive consumer. Many in the industry are proposing re-regulation.
posted by netbros at 2:44 PM on August 28, 2008


Don't forget that air doesn't get circulated as much since the smoking bans. So instead of lots of fresh air, you get too little fresh air, which of course isn't good for you.
posted by bjrn at 2:48 PM on August 28, 2008


Why is this a surprise to anyone? Airlines are taking a massive hit from rising fuel costs.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:49 PM on August 28, 2008


Many plane crashes are not fatal.
posted by proj at 2:50 PM on August 28, 2008


Restroom charges should be by the pound or liter, and the amount should be shown above the door when a customer finishes. They should also start charging for the overhead "air" and lights. Crying kids should be charged based on decibels produced.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 2:51 PM on August 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Not coincidentally, this just in on my BBC newsfeed.
posted by gompa at 2:52 PM on August 28, 2008


bjrn, I think I read somewhere (may have been here) that the risks associated with DVT weren't actually due to the long period of inactivity, but rather the poor quality of air associated with long haul flights.

The charging for checking baggage isn't new in Europe - Ryanair and Easyjet charge you as much as they can for things like this. Checking a bag? Extra £10. Skis? Extra £50. etc. etc. Thing is, they're self-described budget airlines - you can fly from as little as £5 to some places, and during their sales they don't add on the various taxes etc. as well.

I've noticed a trend to charge more on long haul as well recently. I guess fuel prices really are impacting on airlines.
posted by djgh at 2:55 PM on August 28, 2008


It seems like survivable crashes are rare, let alone survivable crashes over water.
Rare, yes, but not unheard of.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:55 PM on August 28, 2008


It seems like survivable crashes are rare, let alone survivable crashes over water.

If Neil Young says it's do-able, I'm in.

Before anyone steps in: I've read Shakey and I know Neil's being ironic.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:58 PM on August 28, 2008


Amending the Railway Labor Act so that unions and management both "adopt more moderate positions"." Translation: Make strikes by unions illegal and force them into binding arbitration.

This is really what the call for re-regulation is about. Management will still have the same power to dictate profits as before, but now unions will be made de facto illegal, or at least pointless.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:00 PM on August 28, 2008


To quote the Economist,

"In the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero."

That is not to say that I don't think the airlines suck right now - they certainly do. I'm just not sure that the removal of life vests (as opposed to say, the draconian procedures required to board an airplane) is what I'd get excited about.

And notably, it appears that most of the survivors of Ethiopian 961 (the second comment in the Lifesavers thread) were hanging on to the fuselage. There were actually a few passengers that became stuck in the cabin and drowned because they inflated their life vests before they exited the plane.)
posted by god hates math at 3:01 PM on August 28, 2008


This is really what the call for re-regulation is about. Management will still have the same power to dictate profits as before, but now unions will be made de facto illegal, or at least pointless.

Sure. Because if there's one thing the management of a North American airline can do, it's dictate profits.
posted by Kwantsar at 3:06 PM on August 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think the next time I fly I'm going to demand that they sedate me and transport me in the hold wrapped in a blanket and wearing an oxygen mask.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:20 PM on August 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


Why not just set a maximum weight for each passenger plus their luggage, and then charge more for anyone that exceeds that weight? That would probably better cover the airline's fuel costs than removing life vests.
posted by gyc at 3:20 PM on August 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


It started earlier this year with airlines charging fees for checked baggage.

Earlier this year? Lucky you. (Though, personally, I sort of like travelling light, paying a few quid for my flights, and watching people subsidise me as they lug three cases up to check-in, then blow a tenner on a couple of drinks and some peanuts during a one hour flight.)
posted by jack_mo at 3:31 PM on August 28, 2008


I think the next time I fly I'm going to demand that they sedate me and transport me in the hold wrapped in a blanket and wearing an oxygen mask.

That kinda sounds like fun.
posted by adamdschneider at 3:32 PM on August 28, 2008


The only thing you should need in the event of a water landing is the ability to bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.
posted by basicchannel at 3:36 PM on August 28, 2008


They could save even more money if the passengers had to run to make the planes take off like they do on the Flinstones.
posted by hojoki at 3:46 PM on August 28, 2008


The cost of fuel affects all airlines. So, why don't they all just raise the price of a ticket accordingly? Yes, I know, competition blah blah blah. All of this nickel and diming the passengers to death is getting a bit ridiculous.

Since the "nickel and diming" isn't going to cost me nearly as much as a serious rate increase due to the cost of fuel, I'd rather pay the fees.
posted by me & my monkey at 4:00 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


sedate me

I have long wished for this mode of air travel.
posted by everichon at 4:13 PM on August 28, 2008


"In the history of aviation the number of wide-bodied aircraft that have made successful landings on water is zero."

Well, yeah, because you don't "successfully land" in water. That's called a "crash".
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:17 PM on August 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


I can think of another reason for removing lifejackets from planes. All lifejackets have a light (which will come on automatically in the water, etc). This means an awful lot of batteries, which as part of lifesaving apparatus all have expiry dates, and a legal requirement to replace them when that expiry date is reached. This obviously takes time, money and a lot of annoyance. I'm guessing seat cushions aren't required to have lights. If an airline can legally avoid carrying lifejackets, and thus avoid having to replace all those batteries, I can see why someone doing a financial cost/benefit analysis would like it.
posted by Lebannen at 4:21 PM on August 28, 2008


For most of this year I flew 4-8 times per month from Canada and around the southern US. Of course, this was on my company's dollar.

Biggest pain in the ass was not really the airplane, but the airport, generally. It took way too long to get service, get boarded, get from one terminal to the other. I'd pay a few bucks for speedy and efficient transportation from one place to another inside the airport.

I would also pay a few bucks more for a little more space in the seats. Certainly removing one or two rows and spacing out the other seats accordingly, while at the same time raising tickets by a dollar or three would not be overly painful for the companies.

And, as stated above, a human-plus-luggage charge-overage-by-weight ticket fare would not be all that bad either. And I say that as hefty guy at nearly 6 feet tall and well over 200 lbs.
posted by Kickstart70 at 4:28 PM on August 28, 2008


What is next is the mass layoffs of the folks that handle bags.
posted by buzzman at 4:31 PM on August 28, 2008


Crying kids should be charged based on decibels produced.

This is just wrong.
Decibels is a logarithmic scale, so a kid that was screaming ten times as loudly than another would only incur a slightly higher fee. An inverse logarithmic scale would be better, but as this could rapidly impose a financial burden above what many are willing to pay, there should be also flight attendants available who are qualified anesthesiologists.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:41 PM on August 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


The first airline to pull off charging people according to their weight wins. They have to do so in a manner that survives legal scrutiny, but I'm holding out hope that someone comes up with it. Eventually the additional revenue from charging per weight will outweigh the inevitable legal battle in court to defend it as a reasonable pricing scheme.

I travel light. I should be paying less to fly than the guy next to me with huge girth and a packed carry-on. Either cut to the chase and start weighing everything, and pricing accordingly, or cut out the "weight-saving" measures.
posted by CipherSwarm at 4:43 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe they could try not spending money on irritating TV ads trying to convince me that they don't hate me and I don't hate them.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:47 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Budget airlines are the way to go, in terms of paying for all those extras.

In Australia, tickets on the "traditional" airline, Qantas, can cost double the price or more than tickets on a budget carrier like Virgin.

So what I get when I pay $250 for a flight to Melbourne on Qantas, instead of $80 for a flight on Virgin?

On Qantas I get a shitty breakfast for free...remember when they were hot? Now it's a bottle of water, a tiny bowl of cereal, and a miniature banana. And I get to watch an out-of-date morning news broadcast on the tiny TV screens overhead in the cabin.

On Virgin I can pay $10 or so for a coffee and a ham and cheese croissant, and I can pay $10 or so for access to their back-of-seat TV system that picks up a variety of live cable channels. And I swear the seats on Virgin have more room.

No contest, "budget" airlines for the win.
posted by Jimbob at 4:49 PM on August 28, 2008


This is ok by me, so long as the nearest air marshal is clearly marked so I can use him as a flotation device.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:10 PM on August 28, 2008


Sure. Because if there's one thing the management of a North American airline can do, it's dictate profits.

Sure. Because all these surcharges management put into place will magically disappear if there is re-regulation. Because they don't dictate profit margins.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:18 PM on August 28, 2008


The vast majority of aircraft accidents are minor or moderate ones that occur during take-off or landing. A large number of airports are near water or even have their runways extending into the water. It is NOT unheard of (I can think of three recent incidents just off the top of my head) for a botched arrival or departure to result in a large aircraft in the water, with the passengers having to carry out a water evacuation.
posted by randomstriker at 5:24 PM on August 28, 2008


This is ok by me, so long as the nearest air marshal is clearly marked so I can use him as a flotation device.

There will be a surcharge for this service.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:26 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't charging for the use of a bathroom that is the only one available be explicitly illegal? Would you be expected to barter your posessions if you didn't have any cash on you? Shit on the floor?
posted by tehloki at 5:40 PM on August 28, 2008


Crying kids should be charged based on decibels produced.

This is just wrong.
Decibels is a logarithmic scale, so a kid that was screaming ten times as loudly than another would only incur a slightly higher fee. An inverse logarithmic scale would be better, but as this could rapidly impose a financial burden above what many are willing to pay, there should be also flight attendants available who are qualified anesthesiologists.



C'mon.
posted by Zambrano at 5:50 PM on August 28, 2008


Would you be expected to barter your posessions if you didn't have any cash on you? Shit on the floor?

"Ladies and gentlemen, in the seat pockets in front of you you will find a copy of our in-flight magazine, High Times, attached to the floor by a little chain. You will also find two paper bags. Their purposes are clearly marked. Please insert a quarter to disengage the locking device from these bags before use, or you will be charged a nominal cleanup fee."
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:54 PM on August 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


What's next? Fees for overhead storage, reclining your seat or access to a restroom?

Actually, next will be charging for headphones and inflight entertainment.
Start Your Outrage Now!
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:08 PM on August 28, 2008


It started earlier this year with airlines charging fees for checked baggage.

... And I said nothing, because I was not a checked bag.
posted by eritain at 6:22 PM on August 28, 2008 [7 favorites]



Actually, next will be charging for headphones and inflight entertainment.
Start Your Outrage Now!


You're kidding, right?
At least in Australia, inflight entertainment is already fee-based on the budget carriers. And although Virgin now gives out headphones for free, I'm pretty sure I can remember them costing $2 or so a couple years ago (when the radio itself was free).
posted by jacalata at 6:32 PM on August 28, 2008


My brother works for Virgin Australia, and he confirmed that the rising fuel costs are having a huge impact. I'm sending him this (partial) transcript from The Games, season 1, episode 9 (full transcript available here).
Thursday, 2.48 p.m. At a café. Bryan is at a table with Hal Parkinson and Shauna McEwan. Shauna is head actuary of a major insurance company.
BRYAN: Okay, homework for today: how do we get some more money? We need extra money for a Lacrosse Centre. We can’t ask the Minister. How would you do it at the bank?
HAL: Well, how many budgets have you got? How many project budgets have you got?
BRYAN: About forty.
HAL: And you’ve got a Development Budget, a Project Budget, and a Management Budget for each one?
BRYAN: Yes.
HAL: So, 120 budgets. How much do you need for this lacrosse thing?
BRYAN: About half a million.
HAL: Okay. Well, you add three or four grand onto each project as an over-run and that will give you four hundred grand. Then underpay all your suppliers on all projects by as much as you need to make up the other hundred K.
BRYAN: Well, hang on a minute, you can’t add money onto these budgets. (John walks in at this point and takes a seat) Oh, hi John.
JOHN: Sorry I’m late.
HAL: You don’t add it all on in the one go. You’re only adding little amounts. No-one will even notice.
JOHN: (To Bryan) This is how you’re getting the money?
BRYAN: Yes.
HAL: I’m just saying, you go through all your budgets, you add a few cents onto each and every item. It’s all electronic. So no-one will even notice.
SHAUNA: Typical banker.
HAL: Well, what would you do?
SHAUNA: Insurance is much more subtle than that.
BRYAN: What would you do?
SHAUNA: You’d sell services that you are not going to provide. Are you selling corporate packages?
BRYAN: Yes.
SHAUNA: Ticketing packages? Do they get a box up in a stand with drinks and food and so on?
JOHN: Yes.
SHAUNA: Make them pay extra for drinks and food. And make them pay extra for a guest.
JOHN: But it’s for guests.
SHAUNA: You’ll make a few bob then.
BRYAN: What? Charge them for the boxes?
SHAUNA: Yes.
BRYAN & JOHN: They’ve already paid for the boxes.
SHAUNA: They think they’ve paid for it.
JOHN: What have they done?
SHAUNA: They’ve purchased the right to pay for it. They’ve prevented anyone else paying for it. We’ll stick it on the back of the ticket in a microscopic font. No-one will notice.
HAL: You take a little bit from here, a little bit from there. You look after the pennies, the pounds take care of themselves.
SHAUNA: No. You need to get money from a service you subsequently aren’t going to provide.
BRYAN: But why would people want to buy a service that’s not going to be provided?
SHAUNA: You tell them you are going to provide it.
JOHN: But how can you not provide a service that you have undertaken to provide?
SHAUNA: You provide part of it. If they want the rest they’ve got to pay extra.
John looks at Bryan
JOHN: It’s no wonder they’ve got more money than we have, is it?
posted by Ritchie at 7:00 PM on August 28, 2008


From the remove life vests to save on weight and fuel link:

Transport Canada spokeswoman Maryse Durette said Jazz was going "above and beyond" the regulations before.

"It was extra, above and beyond what was required under the Canadian aviation regulations," she said.


You know who else went above and beyond regulations?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:05 PM on August 28, 2008


Crying kids should be charged based on decibels produced.

There are worse things than crying.
posted by rodgerd at 7:06 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


"My Airline" by David Owen in the New Yorker: "If you wish to attempt a Sudoku puzzle during the flight, you must demonstrate to my satisfaction that you realize that the nine spaces in every row and column must each contain a unique digit, and that the nine squares that make up the over-all Sudoku square cannot be completed without consideration for how they fit into the entire puzzle. Do you understand this? No? Fifty dollars."
posted by xo at 7:13 PM on August 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Shit, Jet2 charges you for the seat. That's cold, man. Or at least, it was out on the fucking wing.
posted by bonaldi at 7:50 PM on August 28, 2008


PepsiBlue.
posted by lunit at 8:10 PM on August 28, 2008


No contest, "budget" airlines for the win.
posted by Jimbob at 7:49 PM on August 28 [+] [!]


Unless you just booked on Zoom, which is apparently having its planes repossessed right now.

I just got back from a Zoom flight about a month ago. It was actually pretty dire - the food most of all. I'm not picky, so I've always kind of enjoyed airplane food. But not on Zoom.
posted by jb at 8:11 PM on August 28, 2008


Charging for lavatory use is absurd. Instead, the toilets should just discharge into the open air, and then they could encourage passengers to go to the lavatory as much as they can to save on fuel, the earlier in the flight the better.

I also want to get a receipt from the airport restroom if I go immediately before I get on the plane, so I get credit for reducing weight before boarding.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:22 PM on August 28, 2008


What are they supposed to do?
posted by gjc at 8:35 PM on August 28, 2008


They have to do so in a manner that survives legal scrutiny

Shouldn't be difficult. X weight takes Y fuel at Z cost. Weigh more, pay more (that is, between you and your luggage.. so skinny soccer mom Paris Hilton wannabe with eight thousand bags pays the same as Joe Sixpack Beer Belly with a carryon).

Oh wait, America. Someone will sue.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:07 PM on August 28, 2008


Shouldn't they pay you for using the toilet on the plane? I mean, you are helping to lighten the plane amirite? I could probably drop a few pounds if properly incentivized...
posted by donkeymon at 12:51 AM on August 29, 2008



This is just wrong.
Decibels is a logarithmic scale, so a kid that was screaming ten times as loudly than another would only incur a slightly higher fee. An inverse logarithmic scale would be better, but as this could rapidly impose a financial burden above what many are willing to pay, there should be also flight attendants available who are qualified anesthesiologists.


No, this is just wrong! True, decibels are a logarithmic scale, however, it closely matches the human perception of "loudness." A kid who sounds twice as loud will "have" twice as many decibels also, roughly. A quick perusal of the wikipedia article will back that up.
posted by no1hatchling at 1:34 AM on August 29, 2008


there should be also flight attendants available who are qualified anesthesiologists.

Well, yes. How else am I supposed to get sedated?! I'll bring my own blanket.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:34 AM on August 29, 2008


The removal of life vest link is a red herring; the aircraft in question is a Dash-8. I've flown on Dash-8s several times in the UK and around Europe, and been surprised to discover that they use the seat cushion as a flotation device instead of a life vest. I'm pretty sure I've run into this on some small Embraers as well -- it seems to be a not-uncommon practice on small turboprops (where parasitic weight counts for a lot more than on a bigger and more powerful jet).
posted by cstross at 2:47 AM on August 29, 2008


Shouldn't they pay you for using the toilet on the plane? I mean, you are helping to lighten the plane amirite? I could probably drop a few pounds if properly incentivized...

Except that everything stays on the plane, so people don't get hit by turds dropping from the skies.
posted by bjrn at 3:59 AM on August 29, 2008


I would pay extra for decent air.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:18 AM on August 29, 2008


Maybe this will encourage SCIENCE! to finally get off its collective ass and develop the teleportation systems they've been promising us forever. I mean, Jeezus, what's taking so long? If they can do it in the movies, it can't be that hard.
posted by kcds at 4:52 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Except that everything stays on the plane, so people don't get hit by turds dropping from the skies.

They should just start charging people under their flight path for not being poobombed.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:54 AM on August 29, 2008


thank god for singapore airlines

sure its a premium of 2 to 3 hundred bucks in economy over cheapo carriers, but if you're gonna be sitting in a plane for 10 to 20 hours every so often, wouldn't you rather have ample legroom, unlimited snacks, great food, interactive games, tv, movies, music and a nice blankie and pillow?
posted by infini at 6:36 AM on August 29, 2008


Maybe this will encourage SCIENCE! to finally get off its collective ass and develop the teleportation systems they've been promising us forever.

I think teleportation is a bit unrealistic, but I know that in science fiction* I've also read about these vehicles that move very quickly across long distances on top of rails. We should look into that. I mean, the friction is reduced by the rail, and you could make them electric or oil/diesel, and also they could stop off at each city along the way, so you could just have one vehicle for several locations and take a lot more people at one time. I'm sure they would take a little longer than a plane -- but not much longer than the flight + security time + delays + taxi-ing around JFK for an hour (the last time I was there), and there would be so much less stress - you just get on, sit back in your seat and relax.

*mostly in steam punk. I don't know why.
posted by jb at 11:58 AM on August 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


oh man, life should not ever imitate urinetown. not even on an airplane.
posted by beefetish at 4:34 PM on August 29, 2008


I've taken a page from the "eat local" movement.

I only travel as farmer as a local farmer will take me, on his back.
posted by oddman at 8:40 PM on August 30, 2008


Actually, next will be charging for headphones and inflight entertainment.
Start Your Outrage Now!


You're kidding, right?

No, I am Deadly Serious. Here in Canada charging for headphones and inflight entertainment is next on the agenda. There Will Be Grumbling, oh yes, There Will Be Grumbling.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:26 AM on September 1, 2008


I've flown a discount Canadian airline where you could rent a DVD player instead of watching the boring overhead film. Or maybe it was Air Canada, I don't remember : )

Truth is that we can bring our own entertainment - we can even pack our own food. It's not like bus companies provide any of these. But I think that what should be mandatory for airlines to provide are a) toilets (obviously) and b) water, because dehydration can be very bad in the air. Charging for water is just seriously wrong.
posted by jb at 1:09 PM on September 1, 2008


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