I'll have to do the same on the way back, too. I suppose I could have crammed a week's worth of clothing and gear into my carry-on -- stay tuned for more on my time at Sun Peaks, Kicking Horse and Revelstoke -- but then I'd have to ski topless or bottomless, or go the full monty like our friend pictured above, and nobody wants that. (Canada's ski industry can't be thrilled about new airline fees that make ski vacations less affordable, but that's another story.)
I have spent years bemoaning the rise of airline fees for previously complimentary services like in-flight meals, movies, blankets and pillows. Then came charges for checked luggage, first on flights to the States, and since November on WestJet's and AC's domestic routes as well.
All these extra fees once seemed understandable: Airlines were getting hammered financially in the wake of 9/11, jet fuel was relatively expensive, and passengers, for the most part, shopped for tickets based on price and little else. In short, carriers were looking to make a buck wherever they could, causing fees to jump by 1,200 per cent since 2007.
These days, however, I'm feeling a lot less sympathy. Oil prices have plummeted, yet many airlines have stated that there will be no corresponding reductions in fares or even in fuel surcharges. U.S. airlines, meanwhile, are projected to post a profit of around $20-billion in 2014. Air Canada, for its part, recently reported the best quarter in its history.
Then there was my own ridiculous run-in with Air Transat earlier this year, and outrageous traveller tales like that of an Edmonton woman who faced a $1,000 fee when her Air France flight to Ebola-ravaged Sierra Leona got cancelled. Crazy, right?
So I was already feeling decidedly surly towards air carriers before reading Tim Wu's brilliant story in the New Yorker. Wu calls out airlines for the “calculated misery” that degrades basic free services to the point where people want to pay to escape it.
It's sad that economy airline service has fallen so far since the turn of the century, but it's truly contemptible that airlines are using these low standards to introduce more fees.
January is a time for idealistic resolutions, however, and in that spirit I propose that airline fees become a two-way street. Flyers pay for non-essential goods, services and upgrades, and airlines pay -- in the form of vouchers, cash credits or frequent-flyer miles -- when these "extras" fall short. A few examples:
WE PAY: For checked bags (insert sound of teeth grinding here).
THEY PAY: When those checked bags arrive late, not at all, or badly singed.
WE PAY: For a deli sandwich mid-flight.
THEY PAY: When said deli sandwich possesses the taste and texture of a boarding pass.
WE PAY: For blankets and pillows.
THEY PAY: When a flight attendant wakes us up more than, say, five times to tell us about the in-flight duty free shopping. ($105.99 for a camera pen? Sold!)
WE PAY: For in-flight movies.
THEY PAY: When the only options are Jack & Jill, New Year's Eve , or anything directed by Michael Bay.
Will this ever happen? Will I complete an Olympic triathlon? Such is the nature of resolutions...