Gifts from the above: 7 presents we wish the airlines would give us

By | December 20th, 2009

This was supposed to be a feel-good column for the holidays, where I asked readers what kind of presents they wanted from the travel industry, and all of the resulting good tidings left us warm and fuzzy.

And then I talked with you.

And here’s what you told me: First, your holiday list begins and ends with the airlines; and second, you do not feel warm and fuzzy. Not at all.

“I wish they’d stop treating us like idiots,” says Marian Marbury, who runs a Baltimore-based tour company.

I’ll get to what’s vexing Marbury in a minute. But let’s just say for now that you’re not happy with the airline industry, and you don’t think making a wish will make you any happier.

I respect that. I think the airlines know it, too.

The airline industry is a popular target. The University of Michigan’s authoritative American Customer Satisfaction Index gives the overall industry a failing grade of 64. In the interests of fairness, I should note that the same survey gave news organizations a cumulative grade of 63, so in a roundabout way, consumers like airlines slightly more than they do snarky columnists like me.

Ouch.

Who is better qualified to write this column than me, then? I understand what it’s like to be the object of ridicule. If your holiday wish has a chance of being granted, I’m the guy to tell you. I’ll give it to you straight.


Take Marbury’s gripe. “My long-term love affair with Southwest was seriously damaged by their announcement of Early Bird Check In for an extra $10, ‘for our convenience’,” she told me. (You can read details here). “Oh Southwest, we’re not dumb. We know you need to make more money and we know you’re still one of the only airlines to not charge a baggage fee. But what’s next? Now that you’ve started down that slippery slope of tacking on fees for things I didn’t have to pay for before, can I still trust you? Why couldn’t you just be honest and treat me like an adult and tell me you need more money. I’m hurt.”

Related story:   Can’t-miss holiday gifts for the traveler in your life

I wish they’d eliminate fees for the first checked bag
“I would ask that they would take away the extra charges for luggage,” says Canadian videographer Joe Vass. Yeah, wouldn’t that be nice? Ever since American Airlines became the first major carrier to begin charging for the first checked bag last year, all of the other legacy airlines have jumped on the fee bandwagon. They’ve made tens of millions of dollars from us. Interestingly, the airlines cited high fuel prices as the reason for adding these fees, but even when their costs fell, these fees stayed in place. Oh, well.

I wish they’d let families on board first
“Why can’t the airline industry reinforce or reinstate pre-boarding for families with young children?” asks Corinne McDermott, who writes a blog about traveling with kids (havebabywilltravel.com). “It truly makes life easier for the parents and the other passengers, as it’s easier to board once everyone’s settled.”