Paying money to use the toilet on a plane; paying for a carry-on bag. They’re not just for nightmares or SNL skits anymore, they’re the reality of airline travel today.
Ryanair, a low-cost British airline, announced yesterday that passengers who wish to use the restroom onboard will have to pay for the privilege. That is, if they get a chance to even use the thing–the airline will remove most of the onboard bathrooms on the planes in their fleet and leave just one toilet on each. The 189 passengers onboard the plane will have to duke it out for a turn, I guess. Ryanair’s spokesperson Stephen McNamara had this to say about it:
By charging for the toilets we are hoping to change passenger behaviour so that they use the bathroom before or after the flight. That will enable us to remove two out of three of the toilets and make way for at least six extra seats on board.”
Mr. McNamara should have been more bluntly honest in his statement and explained that the airline is actually trying to force humans to act like lap dogs. Bathroom breaks OUTSIDE the plane? Puh-leeze. I don’t usually use airplane lavatories, but this is just demeaning. Airplane travel is uncomfortable enough–they ought to be offering you a free drink just for fitting inside that Smurf-sized bathroom. So a pregnant woman who needs to urinate more often than usual (as is common during pregnancy) is gonna shell out dough because of her condition? A guy who needs to whiz several times during his flight because he’s dealing with an enlarged prostate is gonna pay every time he has to relieve himself? At least the spokesperson stated the ugly truth that the airline will remove three-quarters of the bathrooms and stuff more passengers into that space. An extra six or seven people you’ll have to fight for the porcelain throne.
But while that’s bad, I don’t think it’s as insulting as Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza telling the public that there is a “beauty” to the airline’s new policy of charging money for carry-on bags. Apparently I’m supposed to believe there is something beautiful about paying $30 for a carry-on item placed in an overhead bin. Spirit passengers who are enrolled in the Fare Club (a $40-a-year club) will pay $20 for their carry-ons. The surcharge is just for stuff you want to put overhead though; you won’t have to pay for something that fits under the seat in front of you (you can kiss whatever little leg circulation you had goobye now that you have to keep your stuff at your feet). Baldanza’s colleague, Spirit Chief Operating Officer Ken McKenzie also talked up the new policy in a statement, explaining that the new rule will make flights more efficient and safe because reducing the number of carry-on bags will speed up the boarding process and the deplaning process. “Bring less; pay less. It’s simple.” Simple for you Mr. McKenzie; I doubt you even fly Spirit.
CEO Baldanza, however, issued the statement that broke the camel’s back for me:
The beauty of it is they will do what they think is best for them and will now have the choice.”
Paying for the damn carry-on is bad enough. Telling me that paying for the carry-on is the best thing ever since sliced bread is insulting to my intelligence. So these airlines not only want to screw you, they want you to love every second of it too.
Airlines are looking for a way to speed up the boarding and deplaning process? Here’s an idea–load the plane back rows to front during boarding, and actually stick to that rule; don’t allow front-of-the-plane passengers to wedge their way in. Makes boarding much easier. And by the way, deplaning doesn’t take that long–it’s waiting for the airplane doors to open that adds time to the process, essentially an airport/airplane issue that has little to do with the passengers. I’m not bothered by the wait anyhow; if you can’t cool your jets for five or ten minutes to make your way off the plane, go see a head doctor. Once passengers start exiting, it only takes a couple of minutes to leave anyway.
Airlines are out of control with their fees and surcharges. And it’s not like you can complain at the airport–they’ll treat you like an enemy of the state. I remember a time a few years ago when oil prices were high and cruise passengers were sometimes forced to pay a fuel surcharge on top of their fare. But when oil prices dropped, cruiseline fuel surcharges went away. For whatever reason, they never left the airlines.
I’ve never had a fear of flying. I don’t hate aiports. I always loved traveling. But it’s harder for me to love traveling when I have only one way of getting from point A to point B, and that one means is nickeling and diming the hell out of me just because it can. And don’t tell me to pack lighter. First of all, the industry standard was two suitcases for decades–they’re just taking advantage of passengers now because our options are limited: it’s not like we always have time to take a roadtrip from Miami to San Francisco. Secondly, how does packing light help my situation? I’m supposed to pack light for my three week trip and buy a whole new wardrobe when I get to Point B?
At risk of sounding like a grounded teenager on a Friday night, it’s just not fair. We need a viable alternative to air travel in this country. We need a good-quality high-speed train system here. I told my husband over breakfast this morning that I’m considering doing most of my US travel by car now, even if it means tacking on a few extra days to allow for driving. I know this won’t always be possible, but this South Florida gal has grown tired of giving the bully her lunch money.