Your turn! The other side explains why we’re so wrong

By | April 7th, 2011

I’m frequently accused of using this site as a bully pulpit, which is, of course, completely true.

I leverage this little corner of cyberspace to advocate for travelers who don’t have the clout of an elite-level frequent flier or the power of a corporate travel department to support them when they’re on the road.

Still, there’s something to be learned from listening to the other side — the folks responsible for inventing the fees and silly rules you have to put up with, the ones whose elite status affords them god-like treatment, the people who, let’s face it, don’t see the world the same way we do.

I don’t normally hand the mike over to them, for the simple reason that these people have their own forums. Not only do they control immense budgets with which to buy advertising and hire pricey Washington lobbyists, or have access to well-trafficked online bulletin boards in which to commiserate, but my corporate critics have also paid off a good number of my colleagues with favors and free trips. The resulting travel stories are as uncritical as they are uninteresting — which, in the end, renders them unreadable.

In this world, the company — not the customer — is always right. Fees, surcharges and wacky hidden rules are there for your own good. You get what you pay for, so if you snagged a deal on that hotel room or airline ticket, then it’s your fault if something goes wrong. It’s also perfectly acceptable to send the have-nots who lack platinum cards and fancy rollaboard luggage to the purgatory in the back of the plane, while they, the privileged few, are afforded every imaginable creature comfort in first class.

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Hey, who ever said life was fair?

While I think these industry apologists are terribly misguided, it’s important to note that when I encounter the opposition, they are almost always polite, if not downright likeable. So as we dissect the other side’s views, I want to be very clear about this: My criticism is aimed at the ideas, not the people making the arguments.

Love the resort employee, hate the resort fee. Almost every time I write about any kind of fee, I get an indignant response from an airline or hotel employee, insisting that I just don’t understand. “Don’t you get it?” they insist. “We have a business to run.”

The latest was a rant by an Orlando-area hotel employee that landed in my “in” box after I ripped hotels who charged mandatory resort fees. He explained that at his condo-hotel property, mandatory resort fees are essential because they cover certain services like the “free” shuttle to the theme parks. The property also offers high-speed Internet connection for guests, and the resort fee pays for newspaper delivery and local phone calls.

What’s more, his hotel can’t just raise rates or charge separately for these services, since it would be impractical from an accounting point of view. “Your article and many of those written by consumer travel advocates, create a lot of animosity between the traveling public and lodging industry,” he added.