Flying somewhere? You’re not going to like what’s next

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I’ve seen the future of air travel — at least the kind of future the airline industry wants — and I don’t like it.

You won’t either.

It’s a world in which flights are “free,” but they’ve never been more expensive. A world where airlines take your money in large increments and small ones, depending on where you’re sitting on the plane — but either way, they’ll get your money. It’s a world where meaningful competition doesn’t exist anymore.

We’re closer to this world than you can possibly imagine.

The airline industry and its influential lobbyists yesterday tried to strong-arm Congress into putting its cleverly-named airfare “transparency” bill to a vote. The law would allow airlines to quote a price that doesn’t include any taxes or mandatory fees.

If it’s passed, the bill would give airlines the green light to quote a “base” fare and then add all of the extras as a subtotal before completing your purchase, leaving you with the impression that your ticket is far cheaper than it is. It may be one of the most customer-hostile pieces of legislation proposed by Congress in years, essentially giving an entire industry a license to lie about its prices.

But it’s only part of the airline industry’s bigger game plan.

Wanna know what that looks like? Let’s take a look in my crystal ball. If airlines get their way, here’s the troubling flying experience that awaits you in a few short years:

You’ve made the right choice – the only choice.
At the rate things are going, there will only be one domestic airline left. All of the smug executives who claimed that consolidation is the only way to survive will have long since pulled their golden parachutes and bought a tropical island. They’ll never fly commercial, because it’s an affront to their dignity and pride. The rest of us will be stuck with an Americanized version of Ryanair. Imagine that.

”Free” flights.
In just a few years, the cost of an airline ticket could drop to zero. But airlines will make money like never before. Seat assignments, checked bags, carry-on bags, boarding passes, drinks – they’ll all cost extra. Airlines will still skim a little off the top by adding a mandatory “fuel surcharge” and “insurance surcharge,” which technically isn’t part of the base fare, but is still required as part of your purchase. So much for “free.”

You-get-what-you-pay-for class.
Meanwhile, conditions in the back will go from bad to truly intolerable. Seat pitch – the space between seats – might well shrink to 26 inches, a full 10 inches less than before airline deregulation. Sure, some seat technology innovations have meant thinner seats, but you get virtually no personal space, all while being assaulted with ads and come-ons for “frequent flyer” credit cards. Then again, what are you complaining about? Your seat is “free.”

Here come the personal cabins.
Meanwhile, for those willing to pay for their ticket, it’s not too hard to envision a world in which the major airlines still flying have fitted their first class sections with personal cabins, which feature convertible sofas, conference tables and a modest living area. Elite-level customers, the flying Pharaohs of tomorrow, would be divided into more than a dozen elite levels, one more special than the next. They’d be attended to by gourmet chefs, masseuses, even onboard entertainers, who cater to their every whim. And yes, these exclusive areas are as inaccessible to the average passenger as Versailles was to a 17th century peasant.

Don’t worry – they’ll pay, too. Or at least their employers will.
Even the elites won’t get anything “free,” even after they’ve shelled out $12,000 of their company’s money for a personal cabin. Airlines will take advantage of a slew of other ancillary revenue opportunities in the front of the plane. The “best” customers will pay for the opportunity to redeem their “free” miles every time they fly. There’ll be hefty membership fees at the top level, because, you know, membership has its price. They’ll spend their employer’s money for the opportunity to be wait-listed for one of these über-luxurious seats. Wouldn’t you if you had a choice between a personal cabin and a sardine can?

Meanwhile, airline apologists will continue to insist this is the only way for the industry to be profitable. Pay more, get more, they say. I don’t want to subsidize your luggage, your drink, your package of peanuts, they’ll complain.

This is fair, they’ll insist.

And inevitably, there’s this line: If you’re flying “free” then shut up and take your seat in the back of the plane.

You’ve heard this kind of rhetoric before, haven’t you? (Scroll down to the comments if you want to see more of it.) But has anyone stopped to think of what happens when we take these deeply-flawed assumptions to their logical conclusion?

If you’re as troubled by this dystopian vision of the future as I am, I have some good news: It’s not too late to stop it.

Instead of offering the airlines a license to lie about their prices, we should nudge them toward charging fair and sustainable airfares. Rather than letting them reward only their best customers – the elite-level frequent travelers – we should insist that they treat every paying passenger with a minimum amount of dignity and respect.

We can all agree, for example, that today’s airline seats are getting precariously close to torture. How much more can they take away? How much more should they be allowed to take? We love those lie-flat seats, but how much more room and amenities can they strip away from those in the back, and give them to the “best” customers, before the cries of revolution are heard from steerage class?

What happens when United Airlines decides to merge with Delta Air Lines? Will we let them?

And how much more can they “unbundle” from a ticket before it’s not a ticket anymore? Haven’t they gone too far already?

We have a choice.

Straighten up and fly with dignity or remain on this course toward a dishonest, unfair and ultimately unsustainable way to fly. Now is the time to decide what kind of world we want to fly in. Let your elected representative know. And join our new advocacy organization, Travelers United.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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  • emanon256

    I did vote worse, but I think this article is mostly hyperbole. At least I hope is it.

  • polexia_rogue

    the “free” part will be so funny.

    because people will be lining up for the airline that Expedia/travelocity/kayak/etc pulls up as “free”.

    “I am so smart! i am not going to fly the good , smaller airlines line Virgin I’m going to fly americanUSairwaysDeltaunited- for FREE! I’ll save so much money!”

    the only reason the “transparency bill” even exists is because the airlines know people ARE that greedy.stupid.

  • kbiel

    Better to be upset that it takes an act of congress to change what should only be a corporate policy decision. Allowing taxes and fees to be split out from the initial quoted price is standard practice in states that have sales tax or other onerous taxes and fees. Why is the airline industry different? It’s because it is over regulated. At every turn, the congress and regulators make changes that have negative consequences (such as the original law requiring the airlines to quote all-in pricing to hide the government confiscation) and then they decide it takes even more laws in regulations to fix the problem they caused. And worse, anytime you have such a regulated environment, the regulated entities become the masters because they need to to survive. Then they find the power to quash their competition and blame their incompetence on laws and regulations too enticing.

  • omgstfualready

    ‘They’ are doing what the public says they want; cheap fares and let them decide what extras they want to pay to have. ‘They’ still have to turn a profit for their shareholders, ironically most of the public will have airlines in their mutual funds. This is the tail wagging the dog.

  • William_Leeper

    Here’s the thing. When I buy a ticket that has a published fare of $800, I expect to pay $800. The difference between a store purchase and an air fare is that in a store I have at least a general idea of the tax. When it comes to air fare, I have no clue what tax rate I will be paying, no idea what the passenger use fee will be, and those surcharges differ daily.

    Now can I find this information? Sure, does it take hours…yes. So it is a bit dumb to allow airlines to break out those fees. But…everyone needs something to complain about.

  • James Gerber

    You are 3/4 full of crap. Sales tax is a well known amount. The many charges airlines add are not and many of them are just charges that should have been part of the fare. On many international flights, the extras total more than the base fare. Cruise lines are allowed to advertise free airfare but, for example, Oceania does not include the fees and taxes and a mandatory $600 “transfer fee” (for a half hour ride in a smelly non air conditioned bus) so the free airfare winds up costing you $3K/couple.

  • kbiel

    I never said that I preferred low-ball pricing. I merely believe that the market would sort out the problem better than the government will. In a less regulated world, if you do not like how American or some other carrier presents themselves, you will go to another carrier. If enough people agree with you then the other carriers will stop the bait-and-switch tactics.

    Instead of getting upset about the tactics used, get upset that it is being set by law and regulation. You like the all-in pricing, but there are people who are as equally upset about it as you are at losing it. But because it’s being set by law and regulation, either you or they will lose instead of a market solution where you patronize the carriers that give you all-in pricing and they patronize carriers who show them exactly what government fees and taxes are doing to their wallet.

  • kbiel

    I don’t care what you prefer. I never said what I preferred. I am, instead, urging you to be upset at the real problem, the government over-regulating and regulatory capture. If the laws and regulations on this were gone, you could choose the carriers that give you all-in pricing and others who prefer to see the taxes split out could choose different carriers (or airports) that please them.

  • VoR61

    The issue with fees, taxes and add-ons is not the what but the how. Include them in the base fare or break them out – don’t care. But when they separate them in such a way that a search for the cost of a ticket or hotel is deceptively low until I purchase or after I get there (see resort fees) that should be prohibited.

    After all, what can any of us do if they have 26 fees that are more than their “base price”. Answer: nothing. It’s the “hiding” of said fees that we all hate as it emulates a bait and switch.

  • VoR61

    “carriers that give you all-in pricing” may not exist. Once one carrier artificially lowers prices during a search, they all tend to follow suit to remain competitive.

  • kbiel

    Is that your experience with car rental agencies? I have recently searched for a rental car and Avis had all-in pricing on their search. I did not search other agencies directly, but the few aggregate sites (i.e. Orbitz) all had all-in pricing? Why aren’t they low-balling? Do they not have the same pressure to compete and, at airport locations in particular, the same ridiculous taxes and government fees?

  • James Gerber

    Unfortunately, this is another example of Gresham’s Law where bad money drives out the good. People will buy from the vendor that quotes the lowest price even if the final price is much higher. For example, some unscrupulous camera stores started advertising lower than cost prices in the photo magazines and adding all sorts of charges. Soon, several of the more honest stores went into bankruptcy and the rest had to go along with the practice. Too many people are buying from dealers on eBay where the item is cheap but the shipping and handling add over 100% to the price.

    Your claim that people will stop buying from these vendors is not borne out in practice. Misleading pricing has got to stop.

  • jsiess

    my solution? go back to regulation. at least we knew what we were going to pay, that the airline had to continue to serve our city, and that the airlines were going to make a profit (albeit a small one). we could also go to one national airline and one international one (and a low-cost one perhaps) like most of the rest of the world. why we always have to be different from everyone else, i don’t know.

  • VoR61

    Actually we did. On a recent trip price was $11/day but upon checkout increased to $21/day with all the taxes and fees.

  • kbiel

    Really? I can go to Best Buy today and buy a high-end camera without extra charges. A quick search for “canon eos dslr” in google shopping gives me a top response of $649.99 from B&H Photo. The items in box seem include everything needed, lens, battery, dust cap, camera. I click through to their listing of cameras and they show quite a few over $1,000 and $2,000. Adding one to a cart, I do not see any fees or charges tacked on and the vendor is guaranteed by Google.

    I’m not saying that the stores that you refer to do not exist or are not slimy. I’ve been in NYC and seen the electronic stores selling PanasoAnic and SonNy products. They hardly crowd out the more reputable sellers though. Caveat emptor and sue the ones breaking the law out of existence. I do not need a law telling the airlines or anyone else how to present their prices. In this age, we have a world of resources helping to guarantee the reputation of vendors that previous generations could only dream of.

    And remember, as upset as you are about splitting out fees and taxes, there are people who are just as upset that the law forces airlines to only show all-in pricing and that they have to click through several screens before seeing what the airport and federal government is charging them. The solution is not to force your preference on them, but to let the market decide and if there is enough money to support both, then both will exist.

  • kbiel

    So both kinds exist. You choose the one that you like better and patronize them.

    I presume that you did not book the car with the bait-and-switch company? If you did, shame on you.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    “It’s a world in which flights are “free,” but they’ve never been more expensive.”

    __________________

    Sorry, Chris, but I zoned out after that line. To reach levels where they’d be the most expensive in history the cost would have to basically double. Adjusted for inflation, the average cost for a round-trip domestic ticket has fallen by almost 50% since 1980. That comes from from a very interesting article The Atlantic did on this last year. (Another tidbit that amazed me from that article: Airfare used to be so insanely expensive that even as late as 1965 only 20% of Americans had ever flown.) So, things could get worse than they are today, but almost certainly not as bad as you’re trying to claim.

  • AndTheHorseYouRodeUpOn

    I don’t understand…..for the past 4-5 years there have been nothing but complaints and controversy about the airlines needing to be transparent; especially with fares, codesharing and on-time accuracy – now they want to go back to the opposite end of the spectrum ???. “Let the customer decide”……..you have to be a Philadelphia lawyer to figure it all out. If that’s the case, do the same thing with trains, buses, taxis, toll-booths, hotel rooms — just quote base fares and tell people the rest (taxes, surcharges, etc.) is a crap-shoot – so just have extra money in your pocket (x1, x2, x3, x4 etc depending on how many people in your party). As someone already said here, GO BACK TO REGULATION – across the board; domestic, international, matters not.

  • VoR61

    Yes, we booked through that site because it was 50% cheaper. But more to the point, I just went to Avis to “book”, and same result. Initial pricing was $311, but when you choose that option, the fees are added to make it $431.

    Granted, in both cases I didn’t have to buy, but the initial search was artificially low, which is considered deceptive practice by some (of which I am one).

  • jerryatric

    Recently flew some Russian airline from St. Petersburg to Amsterdam. NO space between seats, rude on board & on ground people to deal with. Want a drink? good luck, & when you do finally get it, it’s almost thrown, as if to say don’t trouble me again. On the ground don’t bother asking directions, your just ignored. Welcome to what’s ” Coming to America”
    You want something for “free” go look for the tooth fairy – ain’t no such thing.
    The public always looks for “best, cheapest” deal, & the airlines are responding in kind!

  • bodega3

    Bingo! In the early 80’s, most of my clients, who flew, were buying their first ticket to fly. This year, airfares are up dramatically in many destinations but not nearly where they could be based on inflation.

  • bodega3

    Free airfare is different than a free airline ticket. Airfare is base without the taxes, fees and surcharges.

  • Dutchess

    Yep, and when they show up at the airport, despite many many warnings about all the incremental fees they’ll be charged, they’re going to send emails to Chris demanding a refund for those fees because their flight was supposed to be free.

  • MarkKelling

    Everywhere in the US, gasoline and diesel (all auto fuels actually) are always sold at an all in price due to the multiple layers of taxes imposed. And nowhere on purchase receipts is the tax broken out from the fuel cost. No one is complaining about that.

    Air fare is sold currently in the US as an all in price so that it is easy for the purchaser to tell that the flight they are buying really is lowest cost if they want the lowest. Is it interesting to know how much of your ticket price is taxes and fees? Of course. And you see that on your receipt after purchase today. But I don’t know of anyone, other than those connected to airlines or those who are anti government, asking for the prices quoted in advertisements or elsewhere to be just the cost of the airfare with taxes and fees quoted separately. How does that actually make things easier and better for the consumer?

    The regulations airlines find forced on them are there because the airlines don’t do anything that would be beneficial to the average customer unless they are forced to do so. This is an unfortunate leftover from the days when everything all airlines did was tightly regulated by the government before the so called deregulation that happened in the 1970s. It is almost like the airlines are 2 yr old children who need a firm hand from a parent to control them or they do stupid things.

  • kbiel

    If you think the regulations on airlines are there because it’s good for the consumer then let me sell you a bridge. It’s called regulatory capture. Any time the government starts regulating industries wholesale, then the industry starts lobbying. Since neither you nor I have as much interest in fighting the industry players as they have in bending the regulations and laws to their purposes (keeping out competition, enforcing policies by force of law to claim innocence, etc) they will always win. Think about how long the electronics ban at takeoff and landing has been going on when no evidence supported the need for it. That ban continued because the airlines wanted it but they were fearful that their customers (the market) would dictate otherwise. But if they could claim it was the FAA and make all airlines comply then we consumers would blame the FAA and would have no other airline to patronize that would cater to our preferences.

    Of course you are correct that very few companies would do anything beneficial for the customer when profits are at stake. What keeps them in line is the market. When you and I avoid disreputable companies they either change to our benefit or die. Look at the companies that have the worst reputation in past and present. In almost every case they were in highly regulated industries: phones, airlines, health insurance, etc.

  • SoBeSparky

    Why is air travel getting better?

    Two important and decisive reasons: First, air fares are cheap. Undeniably cheap when adjusted for inflation. Second, air travel is safe, far safer than driving in your car within five miles of your home.

    Safe and cheap. You want other things to have a higher priority? Re-regulation, the ultimate solution for those who yearn for yesteryear’s leg room and free baggage, is the road to ruin.

    Truth in advertising is a given. In a market-based economy, wise consumer decisions can be made only when there is pricing transparency.

  • Stereoknob

    What I would be curious to see addressed is when something like air travel, internet access, etc.. and so on is changed from a benefit to a necessity. If the companies are privately owned, publically traded, etc.. where does their obligation to provide what started as a posh extra but then became a modern day necessity/utility while also trying to make a profit for shareholds. If Airlines were non-profits and worked to sustain costs rather than worry about earning as much profit as possible, would that improve the situation?

  • John Baker

    I’ve said it before… Airlines are like most businesses. They spend a lot of money to figure out what is the most important to us in our buying decision and then work to meet that expectation.

    As long as we as Americans continue to choose to shop for flights almost solely on price, airlines will continue to do whatever it takes to reduce costs. That includes but isn’t limited to, reducing service levels, packing more seats into the airplane, making it harder to redeem air miles and adding fees.

    Until we, as a whole, shop on experience and value instead of price, the airlines are going to do whatever it takes to drive down fares.

  • Daddydo

    Most of the comments are correct, the taxes / fees are going to rip you apart. Example of fares from NYC to Rome this fall:
    fare 219.00 extra taxes – 2.50, 35.00, 5.00, 4.50, 7.00, 5.50, 13.80, 2.80, 10.30, 32.20, 1.20, 3.50. total tick started at 219.00, ended at 720.90. It was almost free.

    The thrill of flying, being take care of, may I assist you sir / madame is GONE! Last week while my wife was flying on USless air, she overheard the attendant say “we are going to be late again because of the oversized overweight carry-ons. I’m not going to help them” Unions and travelers have created a deep dark hole that makes me cry when I have to fly. I have accumulated over 10 million miles in a 40 year career of touring and travel, 10,000 the past 18 months. Flying just is an inconvenience.I sell these damn tickets, and just don’t where this will lead in the future. If this bill is passed, I guess John Q Traveler will be on-line for days at a time to find the lowest fare from DC to NYC.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Perhaps you didn’t type the numbers correctly? When I added your numbers, I didn’t get $720.90. I see your point, but would appreciate some editing so that you can prove your point a little better. Thanks.

  • Dutchess

    yeah, your math doesn’t work. Your $219 fare…which I’m assuming is each way is really $438 and those taxes are for the round trip ticket. So your $438 fare plus about $123 in taxes is $561. Let me know what day you selected because that’s a damn good deal to go to FCO.

  • whatexit

    That’s typical with car rental companies.
    For example, in Charlotte, NC there are a myriad of taxes and fees.
    Just for the purpose of comparing prices. I booked a car at a neighborhood location . Then I booked a car with the same company, same vehicle class same term. The airport location was around $100 MORE than the neighborhood location. Plus, I would pay $7 per day to park my personal vehicle at the airport or inconvenience a friend to drop me off and pick me up at the car rental facility. The neighborhood location is 10 mins from my home. The airport is 35 miles distant.
    The only drawbacks are that the neighborhood location is not open on Sunday and only half a day on Saturdays. But it has a key drop box.
    The other is the prepaid fuel option is not available. But who cares. I just return the car full and be done with it.

  • TonyA_says

    This must be ASTA travel agent addition :)

  • whatexit

    Taxes are easy for the savvy consumer to understand. It is the fees that are fixed which are not publicized or are a pain to research..
    Why air carriers wish to have Congress allow them to “hide” taxes and fees is the issue.
    IN a perfect world, air carriers would just show the darned price with the taxes and fees broken out for all to see.
    Consumer get pissed when they are told their ticket is $250 and end up paying $375

  • whatexit

    Not extras. Unless a passenger is flying out and back the same day, they need to bring changes of clothing and other personal items.
    Those passengers pay a fee to bring their stuff with them. Some carriers such as Spirit charge a fee to carry on one bag.
    Look, I did some math using 1985 dollars vs 2024 dollars. if the price to fly kept up with inflation, a $200 fare would now be over $430. add in the additional cost of fuel which some 6 times the amount paid 30 years ago and that fare may be in excess of $600.I may get flamed for this but, leisure travel fares are too low.

  • TonyA_says

    You flew an average of (10,000,000 / 40) 250,000 miles per year for 40 straight years? No kidding? But you only flew 18,000 in the last 18 months. Damn.

  • whatexit

    Nope….Prior to deregulation, carriers had protected routes. There was no competition. Any fare sale a carrier advertised was always accompanied by “subject to Civil Aeronautics Board approval”….
    That simply means, federal bureaucrats would decide how much a carrier could charge for a seat. Of course the once powerful airline worker’s unions had a say as well. And the bureaucrats did what the unions told them to do. The carriers had their own powerful lobbyists and other influential people bending the bureaucrats’ ear.
    Federal regulation worked great for the carriers and the airline employee’s unions because prices were fixed. The carriers were in support of this and so were the unions.

  • TonyA_says

    I thought Chris invited Alex Jones over for drinks.

  • MarkKelling

    Do you speak Russian? Did you try and speak Russian on the Russian airline flight and on the ground? I find you get treated better if you at least know a few words in the local language.

  • omgstfualready

    People have said they prefer to have it ala cart so they are not subsidizing the person next to them via the seat price. That’s what they got. Most people are short sighted immediate gratification types. Give me a cheap seat now and when I fly I’ll deal with the extra cost then. Wait, I have to pay to sit with my family? Wait, I have to pay for my checked bag? Wait, I have to pay to board early to fit my obscenely fat carry on bag in the overhead? Customers are as ‘greedy’ as the big bad companies.

  • omgstfualready

    What if we got rid of the fat cat called UNIONS? Then everyone wins. People are hired/fired/promoted/demoted on merit and paid a competitive wage based on performance not tenure. The costs to run an airline decrease significantly so ‘they’ don’t have to scramble for profit.

  • omgstfualready

    And those that flew sure as he$$ didn’t wear sweatpants and flip flops.

  • omgstfualready

    Ebay has a sort that lets you go from Low to high price+shipping so that isn’t the best scenario for your example.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Kool-aid?

    (Sorry, CE, couldn’t resist.)

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I shouldn’t have snickered at that, really, I shouldn’t have.

  • bodega3

    You sell your tickets/miles? I didn’t think that was allowed by most frequent flyer programs.

  • bodega3

    Don’t be impressed with the ASTA part. However, I believe he had mentioned that he leads groups.

  • bodega3

    I get upset because I have to pay sales tax on shipping when I have to order something. So we all have issues we may not like.

  • bodega3

    I would agree, except it isn’t misleading. It may be confusing for the uneducated traveler. None of this is new. Fares have always been advertised with the note that taxes/fee/surcharges are extra. Macy’s will advertise a certain shoe for a price, but it won’t include taxes or shipping and will note that as extra. So what is the difference?

  • John Baker

    @MarkKelling:disqus You brought up my biggest fear in the current state. Once something goes to a single “all in price,” the government seems to be really good at taxing it at a high rate. Gas is the perfect example. People screaming at oil companies for the high price of gas at the pump but not realizing 30 – 72 cents of every gallon (10% – 20% locally) are taxes. Imagine how many people would be screaming to lower sales taxes if they were almost 20%. No one does that for gas because you can’t see it. So, what happens when the government starts to double / triple security fees and no one can see it because its hidden in an “all in price”?

    Trust me I like the pay what you see… scared to death that its a blank check for Washington

  • Christina Conte

    I have been searching for weeks for a “decent” priced flight to the UK from LA for both July and September, and the prices continue to rise. Extortionate prices of $1600 -$1800 are the norm, and I must say, I have never seen overall prices this high before. Soon, some of us won’t be able to travel internationally at all.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I tend to lean towards free market, but deception serves no legitimate economic or free market purpose. Even stalwart champions of free market, includes Forbes, draw the line at that point.

    They do not defend Bait and Switch or other deceptive business practices. Part of their basic economic philosophy, one which I share, is an informed consumer makes rational choices, which is condition precedent for the market forces to operate efficiently. If consumers are unable to easily become informed, they make irrational choices which leads to the dreaded result of market inefficiency. Alternatively, they will have to hire persons to assist in making rational choices, choices that they should be able to make themselves.

    Thus economic waste.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Except, that you can elect to bring a carry on instead of checked baggage and avoid that cost on most airlines.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Agreed. Anyone who wants a single national anything, should merely spend a few minutes dealing with the DMV, IRS, etc. Always a model of efficiency and customer service. ;-)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Indeed. My family made exactly one round trip annually back in the 80s, and we were the “Road Warriors” amongst my friends.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Twice in the same week we agree. :-)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s something that some folks don’t get. Business listen to our wallets, not our mouths, and give us exactly what out wallets ask for.

  • kbiel

    Do you need to hire a person to help you decide what to buy at the supermarket today? How about when you buy a car?

    Deceptive practices are already illegal. Why do the airlines need congress to tell them whether they should show all-in pricing or split out the government taxes and fees? As for all the extra fees, either the market will decide on that or we can prosecute them if the fees are deceptive.

    Look at checked baggage. At one time the first two checked bags were free. Then the airlines decided to charge extra for checked baggage. Almost all of them stampeded to charging for bags. Then a few decided to capture more market share by again allowing free bags (2 for Southwest and 1 for Jet Blue). Now consumers can decide which to fly depending on whether they want to pay for the baggage in the ticket or as a separate fee. Sometimes is overall cheaper to fly the airlines that charge for checked bags and sometimes its cheaper to fly those that don’t.

    As for market inefficiency, that happens all the time. The market cannot become more efficient without experimenting with ideas that might turn out to be inefficient. What is wrong is when inefficiencies are set in stone by collusion or regulation.

  • JH

    Well, that’s maybe enough, Kbiel. You have earned your salary, now get back to your cubical. You either work for the airlines as a PR flak or else you are a low level employee in an airlines’ lobby group.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Alas, although certainly not a fan of unions, they are the best example of that old adage “reaping what you sow” We business owners abused our employees (child labor, unsafe conditions, payment in company script, etc.) and thus unions were formed. And like any other organization, as soon as they get big and powerful, they become as greedy and corrupt as the companies they were fighting. Vicious cycle.

  • bodega3

    Airfares are higher this year but still under what inflation would have had them be.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Some deceptive practices are illegal, some are not. Think Payday loans. When those practices are realized, they should be made illegal. Incidentally, California has restricted these loans.

    Yes, people hire experts all the time to assist in transactions. That’s why I’m employed. The difference is, they hire me because the matters are complex, not artificially murky.

    An example of murkiness is auto repairs. Because of the concern that some car repair shops were doing unnecessary repairs, there was an experiment with a shop that didn’t do repairs. it did the diagnosis but not the repair. The idea being that consumers would use their service because of the greater confidence level, i.e. they have no incentive to suggest unnecessary repairs.

    It ultimately failed because it was inefficient as it extracted a cost in both time and money to consumers.

    I have no problem with the fee to check a bag. That fee is both transparent and avoidable. Thus I can make an informed decision. But even someone like me, who has been buying his own airline tickets since college, couldn’t tell you with precision how much a particular flight will ultimately cost from merely knowing the base fee. Thus transparency is absent.

  • kbiel

    A cogent rebuttal if I’ve ever heard one. You refuted all of my arguments with your deft use of ad hominem based on facts not in evidence.

    And just what exactly was I arguing for? Not for this law, but also not for the law as currently on the books either. So, why are you so afraid of letting the market decide how to handle this? At what point do we decide the market distorting laws and regulation cannot be remedied with more market distorting laws and regulations?

  • Daddydo

    I donated my miles I was really trying to say the heck with flying US airlines unless you are desparate

  • kbiel

    As to your last point, I don’t disagree with you. I only ask why we need a law to make the airlines do your bidding? (Or a law to do the opposite as this one prescribes?) In almost every other market we are able to make sellers conform to the wants and needs of the consumer. Why not air travel?

    Now, to address your larger point; yes some transactions are complex or opaque to the layman. There are a few ways to handle that: 1) hire an expert (attorney, consultant); 2) educate yourself if you are able; and/or 3) go by reputation. For example, I do not have to be a car mechanic to read the reviews and find out that one car dealership tends to rip off people and another tends to be honest.

  • Daddydo

    I have escorted tours to over 60 countries through my agency. It is easy to rack up miles with 6 tours per year or so. And another 5+ alumni football charters per year

  • Daddydo

    Oops. Lets make this easier as i cant add 219 air 501.90 taxes on Turkish 11/10-11/20. That is exact thank you

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Fair questions. In order

    We need a law because deceptive practices will continue unabated, By definition they are deceptive because the consumer doesn’t know about them prior to the purchase. The consumer often doesn’t even know enough to know that he or she doesn’t know. Consider a simple loan. The two choices, truth-in-lending laws to ensure that the consumer makes a rational choice, or each consumer has to hire an accountant to parse through the financial mumbo jumbo. The former is far more efficient, and the only entity burned is that one who wishes to be deceptive. Can’t really feel sorry for the scammer.

    The same with the mechanic. Consider the three options

    1 Hire an expert: Inefficient and expensive. You’re going to hire an expert before taking your car to the shop? You’re going to hire an expert to give you the nutritional profile on your breakfast cereal?

    2) Educate yourself: Usually not reasonably possible. You have no way of evaluating whether the legal advise I give you is good or not, short of going to law school and passing the bar. A bit of an investment.

    3)Reputation. The best of the three but still is woefully inadequate. Short answer. Yelp lies.

    By contrast, if you hire me, I have to make certain fairly innocuous disclosures, e.g. insurance, how your case is billed, etc. Most attorneys use a simple template.

    In balancing the equities, the cost to me is zero to make the requisite disclosure, but huge to you to discovery on your own. The law mandating disclosure leads to substantially greater market efficiencies.

  • TonyA_says

    250k miles is about 16x R/Ts from NYC to HKG (other side of world) a year.
    What kind of tours do you TC for? Are you charging a bunch of tickets (Not you as pax) on your credit card that earns miles?

  • TonyA_says

    Have you checked Norwegian (DY) or Iceland Air (FI) fares (even to other US cities first)?
    How about doing ex-Dublin or ex-Paris so you don’t pay the UK APD tax?
    Finally, have you tried other ways to lower your fare?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Translation please on “ex-Dublin or ex-Paris”. I think I understand what you’re saying, but would prefer to profess ignorance and learn. My husband and I really loved our trip to London and would like to go back, perhaps as soon as next fall. Thanks!

  • Alex and I usually drink martinis when he’s over.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    LOL. Shaken or stirred?

  • TonyA_says

    “ex” means FROM. So for her to avoid the UK tax on “departure” she goes to DUB or PAR first and then start her INTL journey there.
    For you, an open jaw USA-LON / DUB-USA (or PAR-USA) might be cheaper than a simple R/T USA-LON ticket.
    There are other ways to lower your fare (which I cannot discuss here).

    .Correction: I misread. She is coming from LAX not LON (she said to UK from LA). So she needs same strategy as yours. She can return from another city outside UK.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I would like to see unions “deregulated” in that employees should have the option to not join the union and a vote in every union election to disband it. That would go some way to improving the conduct of the unions.

    Heck, they should do that in politics as well: Provide an option for the electorate to kick out the incumbent from the ballot and require a new election with a set of new candidates from either party instead of getting stuck with a bad incumbent and a bad challenger.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Jetblue, Virgin and Southwest appear to be very popular and profitable airlines that offer a better product than Spirit airlines or the legacies. But the problem is that they aren’t in every market or region. I get the impression that the legacies charge more for extras because they can. They carefully match each others’ models.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Checked baggage is an option, but seat pitch is more difficult for many to ascertain when choosing (although search engines are getting better at helping to search for them.) Considering that some portly passengers are stealing space by “overflowing” into their seatmate’s space, this is one I’d say should be regulated.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    The term “deregulation” is bandied about without a full understanding of what it means. I don’t recall that seat pitch was every regulated and then later de-regulated allowing the airlines to shrink seats. I don’t even think that a free bag was ever included by regulation in a fare. Regulation applied to protected routes to allow monopolization for the airlines. That’s about it. The regulations of the past are still in effect such as seat belts, etc.

  • FQTVLR

    I am a recovering union member. I joined right out of college when I started my first career (teaching). Little did I realize that I was required to check my freedom of speech and freedom of thought at the door. The order of importance was the union first (including the leaders), membership second and the schools and students were a very distant third. Not what I expected as a member and it only got worse from there. I think they had their time and place but unions now seem to contribute little of substance to any industry with which they work. It is no surprise that the only unions really gaining membership these days are government employee unions.

  • TonyA_says

    Christina, nowadays you’ve gotta play smart with the airlines. You need to take advantage of their pricing “inconsistencies”.
    For example you want to go from LAX to LON and stay 2 weeks around Aug to Sept.
    Here’s a sample of what you can do.

    You fly open jaw LAX-LHR-YVR (yes return to Vancouver) for $912 (Lufthansa codeshare of UA and AC)
    LAX – LHR 26AUG2014 Lufthansa 9343 nonstop (operated by UA)
    LHR – YVR 10SEP2014 Lufthansa 6840 nonstop (operated by AC)
    The flight is scheduled to get in YVR at 11:35am

    Then you buy a separate ticket on Alaska Air YVR-LAX for $192
    YVR – LAX 10SEP2014 Alaska Airlines 702
    Make sure you pick a flight that departs many hours later (since your tickets are not connected) like Alaska Airlines 702 which departs YVR at 5:45pm

    912 + 192 = 1104 instead of $1.6-1.8K.
    Thanks to CODESHARE, your fantastic savings is possible.

  • Cybrsk8r

    “Welcome aboard Deltamerican Airlines flight 666. In the event of a sudden change in cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from a compartment above your head. To start the flow of oxygen, swipe any major credit card thru the card reader on the seat-back in front of you. Always swipe your credit card first before helping others to swipe their cards. In the event your card is declined, you better really suck-up to your seat-mate.”

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Sales taxes are fairly transparent and shipping is often optional when ordering from a brick and mortar store with a local presence and even waived under the right circumstances which are boldly advertised

  • TonyA_says

    Jeanne, check out the open jaw sample (above) I made for Christina. You can do something similar to lower your airfare.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I remember I was on a union conference with my parents. I stopped to buy a USA Today paper. The union president nearly lost his mind. He scolded me for purchasing an anti-union paper. I respectfully reminded him that I wasn’t a member of the union.

  • bodega3

    They aren’t that transparent. I just ordered new window coverings. I was being charged the wrong sales tax. We live in the unincorporated part of our county and our sales tax is lower than the tax within the city limits. It is often an issue as programs base the tax on zip code and city name which we have both due to mail service but we live outside the city limits.

  • bodega3

    For July, you are months late booking. You say the fares keep climbing. Is the lowest priced APEX fare climbing or are you seeing higher fares each time because the lowest class of service is sold out and the next one available is what is being priced? Two very different situations and ones you don’t know the difference of by booking online.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s an error issue, not a transparency issue.

  • bodega3

    It is still not clear when ordering what you will be charged.

  • Flaflyer

    Stirred… Like he’s doing here!

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Why not? Sales tax is the easiest tax to figure out.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I agree that JH’s comment added nothing to the discussion.

    But as to your point, how does a transparency law distort the market? The issue here is comparison shopping. While knowing how much taxes the government adds might be meaningful to some, it doesn’t affect rational purchasing decisions insofar as which airline to fly.

    Would you purchase a more expensive airline ticket because the government mandated taxes were smaller?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Lol. As a 6 year old, I wore a clip on tie when I flew

  • jsiess

    it might have cost more, but everyone was treated fairly. and the small markets were guaranteed they’d have air service.

  • Is there any other way?

  • bodega3

    Not in my area…I know as it just took two days to get it straightened out before I paid this morning. I had shipping and installation along with the order and the tax wasn’t coming out correctly. The sales person who came to the house couldn’t get us a correct price. It kept changing and never pricing correctly. She finally discounted the blinds trying to work it out and in the end, the tax was lower than what should be collected, but we went with it. Too much time wasted. We have to deal with this more than we should to know what our final price will be.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Small markets get service, few people can afford to fly. Is that a good trade off?

  • whatexit

    And here’s my take on these so called small markets….Eliminate the federal subsidies.
    The only reason these small cities have scheduled passenger service is federal subsidies.
    I say, skip the small cities. Save for a few remote areas of the country, most of the population is within a 90 minute drive of a major airport.

  • bodega3

    I agree and they take away from the quality of life in the rural areas that some of us like.

  • whatexit

    Quality of life? Yer kidding right?. Is having a market that sees little passenger traffic eliminated affecting quality of life? I don’t think so…The problem is actually not the service to and from these small cities. It is the subsidies.
    Passengers flying through or flying to and from larger airports are paying additional fees so that small cities can maintain their ATC towers and airport facilities. That’s not right.
    it is not the fault nor is it the responsibility of these passengers that they chose to live near a major airport.

  • bodega3

    With the subsidies, the airport grows. That is happening in our area and people move here to get away from city life, but then bring it with them. GO AWAY!

  • Helio

    Be happy – in Brazil the taxes for gas are “only” 53%…

  • Helio

    Now is my time to thank you for the lesson!

  • TonyA_says

    Helio, you know what I think is missing here in Elliott dot org?
    It is the ability of fellow travelers to ask questions and help each other.
    I assume access to collective knowledge should easily make one the smartest traveler.

  • I love that idea! Do you know of any WordPress-compatible plugins that might allow me to do that? If I can find something, I’ll be happy to try it. Somehow, I don’t think Disqus is the right platform for it.

  • TonyA_says

    I suggest you ask this question to our more Web-savvy system folks (like Emanon, etc.). Maybe Travelers United can run a (vbulettin or reddit like) forum where people can post a new topic about their travel problem. Then other users can come in and help ala crowdsource …
    Let’s do it ! Call it the World’s Smartest Traveler’s forum

  • TonyA_says

    Added: if we do this the forum MUST have PRIVATE MESSAGING functions.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I’d be happy to underwrite a little more to help pay for that feature.

  • TonyA_says

    Jeanne, I think the site can be self supporting.
    I have an idea I will propose to Chris and will email to you and others who want to hear about it.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I miss the post office in my hometown of Wilkes-Barre. I wonder if it’s still there. It was a classic building with a large foyer and they had a blind^H^H^H^H^^Hvision impaired guy who ran a kiosk and sold coffee and snacks. You took a number and then could sit down at a table and enjoy a cup of coffee and read the newspaper while waiting.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    You can also almost always avoid Spirit. Go to AirlineEquality dot com and look at the reviews.

    Another option is to learn to pack light. When my wife and I didn’t want to pay for the checked bag, we became experts at determining what we really needed. Before, my wife practically packed the kitchen sink.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Rental car taxes are amazingly high. I think the reason is that the cities decide that if some whale is visiting for a business conference and wants a car, they’ll just expense it. In addition, as a visitor, it’s not like you can vote the politician who passed the tax out of office (same reasoning behind speed traps…)

    For that reason, the best market decision is to avoid rental cars when possible. How often will you drive on vacation? Is it to the resort, to a few restaurants, and back to the airport? How much would a cab cost? Or even, gasp, take public transportation.

    Total public transportation costs for my Florida vacation at Pompano was $30. Waiting for the bus added about a good 4 hours of total wait time to my transportation BUT I saved about $300.00 In addition, I was relieved of the worry of dealing with potential rental car damage. Plus I got a bit of exercise to boot walking sometimes.

  • Helio

    It will be very helpfull. I remeber several clues the posters gave here, but it is a pain to search inside Disqus…

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Travel taxes, both lodging and car rental, are often substantially higher that other comparable taxes fo rexactly the reason that you mentioned, but, the utility in renting a car is very specific to the individual. Personal preference, destination, vacation activities, all make it very personalized.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I have to admit, I do prefer to travel to/from a smaller airport if possible. Burbank/Long Beach/Ontario. So much easier than LAX

  • Christina Conte

    Yes, checked Norwegian/IA and I’m sure I’ll find something more reasonable for me in Sept., however the July flight is for my 16 year old daughter traveling alone and I want it to be a non-stop, so I have no choice but LAX-London. I’m with Jeanne in NE, what does ex-Dublin mean? And I also don’t know what you mean by trying to lower my fare in other ways? I would if I knew how, trust me!

  • bodega3

    Contact a travel agency or travel consultant. They can assist you. Did you know there are student fares? At this point, you are VERY late for booking a summer ticket from the USA to Europe. What you are finding is what is available for published fares at this late date.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Shaken – as in shaking up the status quo! Prosit!

  • bodega3

    I like smaller airports, just not where I live :-) Smaller airports grow. Look at SJC, although apparently they are not doing that well in number of passengers as people are preferring to drive to OAK or SFO.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    For my travel, SJC is often the most expensive option

  • bodega3

    When we flew to Costa Rica, SJC had lower fares on AA than SFO, so you just never know until you price. But something is happening at SJC, as the report I saw had dropping numbers out of SJC, so perhaps fares are the cause.

  • Helio

    If possible, I’d like to hear about your idea too.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Hello Carver. Thanks for asking a question that I pondered for a day before composing a response. Here it is: I wouldn’t base my purchasing decision upon that factor alone BUT it would probably factor in how I make my purchase whether I know the information or not. Allow me to explain:

    Let’s consider if a ticket on Jetblue was more expensive than Spirit. I’ll buy Jetblue for obvious reasons. Behind the scenes, it’s likely that the taxes are the same but Jetblue spends more on base and hence that’s where the “free” bag and drinks come from. Which is fine with me. But at least it helps explain where the money is going. Also, if I see that the taxes are the same but the base fare is larger, I can ask myself where that money went to.

    Hmmm, it gets me thinking: Wouldn’t it be great if companies had to disclose how much the CEO compensation costs per ticket? :-)

    The airlines have a point that transparency helps to educate consumers in the long run. Sure, you have to do more work to figure out what the “real” fare is after you add bag fees, taxes, etc. but then you become educated and perhaps more political about tax hikes planned. If sales taxes were hidden on people’s receipts, it’s likely many wouldn’t notice when the governor tries to raise them but in most states, there’s a pitchfork mob ready to tar and feather the guy for a slight increase. Same with gasoline taxes. When oil prices go up, so do the taxes proportionately.

    Back to airlines: The baggage fees and others are not taxable (apparently) while the regulate base which is probably why they’re also looking to separate them out as a kind of tax loophole (in essence, saving customers money.) Maybe. I imagine if that was the case they’d already have made a public argument to that effect?

  • Ward Chartier

    Waiting for the day that airline seats are made out of molded fiberglass and there are straps hanging from the ceiling for standing passengers. Was on a Canadian Regional Jet yesterday. The seats reminded me of the folding chairs that accompany folding card tables.

    I have read of, but have not seen or otherwise verified, airlines flying within Russia that the seating consists of wooden benches running the length of the plane. The article went on to describe goats on the plane and bottles of vodka being passed from hand to hand.

  • Well, kbiel, how can I put it gently? When bait-and-switch is at the heart of a corporate policy, that’s not really a policy, It’s thievery. And you’re right, Congress should not take care of these issues, but it appears that bribing lawmakers has never been easier.

  • bodega3

    Please advise how you show a full price for a ticket from ALB to PHX without knowing the routing? There is the fare, the tax, the fees and surcharges (which should be part of the fare) that all can’t be calculated until you know the flights you book. So that isn’t bait and switch, that is reality.

  • Somehow, every airline and travel agency have no problem showing you all routing options the moment you send the request. If you’re talking about TV ads then simple “from” and “to” must suffice. Provided that you don’t advertise the ticket from NYC to MIA via SFO. So, no, it’s bait and switch, alright.

  • Adjusted for inflation, first IBM computers cost monstrous amounts of money compared to what we are paying today in terms of quality and efficiency. First brick-sized cel phones used to cost so much, no one could afford them. Think about it in terms of the number of people who used to fly 30 years ago and those who are flying today, making that much more money to airline owners. Sorry, but this “cheapness” argument that airline apologists love to bring up whenever they have a chance, do not hold water.

  • Guest

    The total sounds about right. I’m sure he forgot $400 YQ charges give or take.

  • bodega3

    I never see any TV ads in our area any longer, nor are there printed ads in the newspaper due to the law that can’t be followed. You don’t send a request, you have to book the flights to get a full price. Some routings are nonstop, some have one to multiple connections. No advertised ticket price is possible…never has been, just the base fare. You can’t do to and from, even with nonstop because someone is going to sue when then have to connect. It certainly IS NOT bait and switch. It is uninformed bookers of airline tickets. Use a professional who can get you the full price, but they won’t be advertising them due to the current stupid law.

  • bodega3

    Your comparison doesn’t hold water either.

  • Helio

    An actual home computer can process thousands more operations per second than an 60’s IBM mainframe. An iPad Air has more power than Nasa had for Apolo project.

    But a brand new 737 has almost the same capacity than an first generation 737, not several times more. It is more fuel efficient, but not several times more. The airlines are using smaller crews, but not several times less.

    The costs reduction for flying didn’t match the reduction for IT.

  • kbiel

    You don’t have to put it gently for me, especially since we seem to be in agreement. As for bribing lawmakers, that has always been an issue (as well as with the executive branch). The only remedy to that is to limit what power they have, through regulations and laws, to make the bribery less effective.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I don’t understand. When I get on the internet, I ask the price from Point A to Point B and I get a total, out the door fare. It shows me numerous options. Perhaps it defaults to certain routing?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    AA out of SJC used to be much cheaper than SFO. Then they built the new terminal and my price out of SJC became much more expensive. It used to be that I only flew SFO internationally, but that has changed as it was much cheaper than SJC, at least on my routes.

  • bodega3

    Online you may not see all routing options and where you connect, how many segments you have affects the final price. How can a carrier advertise a final price without the exact flights being known? Nonstop they could, but once you add another segment, that price may change. That would certainly have people calling it a bait and switch.

  • kbiel

    No need to put it gently for me, especially since it would seem that we are in agreement. As for bribing lawmakers, that has been a problem since the beginning of this republic. It hasn’t gotten easier (or harder) either; it’s just that with more and more federal regulation and control the stakes are higher.

  • Every major online booking engine gives you a choice of non-stop, one connection, or two and more connections. That in turn determines the options and fares on the next screen. There is no reason why it should be difficult to come up with the accurate final price that would include all taxes and fees.

    However, advertising an IMPOSSIBLY low fare that cannot be achieved with any number of segments even if you fly on a broom, is a classic example of bait-and-switch. Just the way the system has been working for the last 3 years is perfectly fine, and today’s record-high airline profits will attest to that fact.

    Pulling the wool over the eyes of corrupt or clueless lawmakers may work for the industry (when was the last time they booked a flight for themselves?) but not for those of us who have even the slightest idea how things really work.

  • As I said in my post, many more people are using air transportation today compared to the 60-s or even 80-s. It’s not unlike a new piece of technology. First adapters pay higher prices, which go down after it gets into mass production. Even if airlines have a smaller profit margin on every single plane load today, they still make up for it in sheer business volume.

  • bodega3

    It has never been a problem here. If those who you say can’t figure it out, contact a TA who can.
    BTW, you only see on an online site, what that site wants to sell you. You don’t see all flights. Online sites are not regulated to give you the lowest fare, or all flights.

  • Right. Only your $500 “taxes” weren’t really taxes. They were infamous “fuel surcharges”, which is just another airlines’ tool to keep customers in the dark (look for inconspicuous abbreviations like YQ or YR). Fuel surcharges are pure airline profit; but they look legit on the paper and allow them to create an illusion of low price. I wonder why airlines that are in such a dire need of “transparency” didn’t mention that some of the biggest “taxes” on the ticket are of their own making?

  • Inflation again! I remember flying JFK-LHR for about $350 in the mid-90s. That’s including all fees and taxes. How much would that be today?

  • bodega3

    Depends on the season, but taxes and fees alone are in the high mid $200 range on an American carrier. It also depends on the season for international flights as to the fare.

  • Miami510

    When politicians in Miami-Dade County look for extra tax money which won’t affect voter’s pocketbooks, they look to the tourist for the added revenue. Hence the hotel tax and car rental taxes. The English barrister said it all: “The art of taxation is to pluck the goose with the least amount of hissing.”

  • Miami510

    Buying a car is fraught with deception. First, the MSRP is a fiction about which practically everyone is aware. The advertisements almost never mention delivery charges and preparation charges. One has to go to Consumer Reports to learn what the dealer really pays for the car because of hidden hold-back charges and credits. Buying a
    car is the modern version of buying a camel in the souk, and this is in an industry where one in five people are employed in some aspect of the auto industry.

  • Cat

    And our government will do absolutely nothing to protect consumers from these vultures. Big business will engage in despicable practices so long they can get away with it. The shame should be with our elected officials who are utterly failing the American people.

  • RK

    kbiel, your anti-regulation stance might make sense in theory, but not in practice. Regulation makes a society function more efficiently, by avoiding excesses by the few for the benefit of the many!
    If you think no regulation is the be-all, end-all, I suggest you live in a developing country for a while with no or little regulation and/or limited rule-of-law to enforce the laws that do exist. Daily life in poorly regulated countries is completely inefficient, because you need to do research prior to any transaction you do to avoid over-paying – so in ANY situation, you end up either wasting time or money!
    Developed countries are way more efficient and productive, because they have eliminated great amounts of waste by regulating abusive practices.
    And one of the most effective regulations is transparent pricing for purchase transactions, for example labels in stores, taxi meters…. and… drumroll, proper price labels for flights and those include, at a minimum, all mandatory fees! Excluding a bag fee is fine – you may or may not need a bag, but excluding a mandatory fuel charge is deceptive, plain and simple!

  • kbiel

    And what do you do when the regulators are in bed with the companies they regulate? This is what has happened with every over-regulated industry to date. Of course, people like you and the regulatory bureaucrats keep telling me that it’s for my own good that they harass and keep out competition in the taxi industry, flower industry, airline industry, etc; that I couldn’t possibly do the research myself and make an informed decision. Of course, this is something I have to do every day with every purchase, but somehow I’m too incompetent. Thank you for your prognosis, but I sincerely disagree.

    As for the law that is the topic of the OP, I am neither for it nor against it as such. I’m questioning the need for the law as it is now and for the new law. Several people here claim that without the current law, every airline will bait-and-switch. That may be so, but how long will that occur when people get tired of it and choose other methods of travel? As a counter example, look at what is happening with the mobile phone industry. There were several MVNOs that ate into the big carriers profits. Then T-Mobile, with its back against the wall, decided to become the “uncarrier”. Now the big two (AT&T and Verizon) are busy playing catch up with T-Mobile while we consumers are seeing our prices finally fall and customer service improve. No regulation did that.

  • PsyGuy

    Personally I would endure a lot, and I mean a LOT of discomfort and inconvenience if my ticket was really close to free. The way I look at it a plane is like the public bus, it should have a seat and an engine, and in the case of long flights (international) a lavatory, thats it. I dont need a cheap blanket, or pillow, or static filled pair of ear phones. I dont need a little 7 inch screen showing a couple of movies, and some bad tv. I dont want a little class of juice every 90 minutes served from a cart or the horrible “beef/chicken” meal. Heres why…

    1) I bring my iPad and iPhone, it entertains me for almost every flight ive been on, and since I travel internationally I bring an external battery pack. This way I can watch and listen to what I want without the CONSTANT interruptions from the cabin or flight crew.

    2) I dress appropriately. This means layers I wear a jacket/coat, then a sweater over a button down shirt, and of course a comfortable pair of khakis or jeans. I also bring an extra pair of socks, underwear, t-shirt and PJ’s.

    3) I go to the bathroom before the flight departs. I bring a small bottle of soda stream flavoring, and then buy a couple bottles of water once clearing security. I also get a sandwich before my flight, and bring a bag of bulk almonds from the market store. Thats me, even if you’re lazy you can buy plenty of food and drinks in the terminal that even from a burger place are better than what you would get on the plane.

  • Christina Conte

    A bit late, but the flight was for my 16 year old daughter so I wanted nonstop, which was the biggest problem in not having options. I ended up booking on STA Travel (for students) and saying over $300. Better than nothing ;) My open jaw flight to the UK in Sept/Oct was under $1K from LA, so I’m happy with that one. Thanks, TonyA

  • Christina Conte

    Brilliant!! Thanks so much!! Couldn’t have done it in this instance since it was for my daughter who is traveling alone, but will definitely keep this in mind for the future.

  • Christina Conte

    When is the best time to book for a July flight? I thought 3 months before was the right time?

  • bodega3

    There is no set period of when to book. For Europe, in July, which is peak season, I would have something booked by January or February at the latest.

  • Christina Conte

    Thanks so much! I will be traveling more frequently again (kids off to college), so that’s good to know.

  • bodega3

    If you are doing your own bookings, watch fares for similar dates this year if you are traveling next year. It gives you an idea of pricing for comparison. If you like a fare, then book it. Don’t book as soon as fares come out (which is just under a year in advance of your travel date) as fares adjust for a few months. Except for holiday travel to tourist destinations, like Cancun, Hawaii, Caribbean. Then you want to get something the sooner, the better. Yes, a fare may drop, but space may not be available for your dates and times. It is always a gamble, but if you study fares now, you will be better prepared for future trips. Have fun wherever your travels take you!

  • Christina Conte

    Thank you again for the helpful tips, bodega3! I hope to be able to put them to use often! :)