Have a Terrible Time Traveling? Good! You’re Supposed To

flight-denzel-washington pilotThe New Yorker is as angry as that sedate, patrician magazine gets in this screed about the state of the travel industry, specifically airlines, and how their intent is to make us deliberately miserable:

The fees have proved a boon to the U.S. airlines, which will post a projected twenty-billion-dollar profit in 2014. To be fair, airlines are not just profiting because of fee income. Reduced competition, thanks to mergers, helps. There is also the plummet in the price of oil, which the airlines seem to have collectively agreed is no reason to reduce fares or even remove “fuel surcharges.” But for the past decade it is fees that have been the fastest-growing source of income for the main airlines, having increased by twelve hundred per cent since 2007. …

the fee model comes with systematic costs that are not immediately obvious. Here’s the thing: in order for fees to work, there needs be something worth paying to avoid. That necessitates, at some level, a strategy that can be described as “calculated misery.” Basic service, without fees, must be sufficiently degraded in order to make people want to pay to escape it. And that’s where the suffering begins.

Extortion! Sadly, even longtime holdout (and my up-to-this-point favorite airline) JetBlue is in getting in on the action. 

Starting in 2015, JetBlue will charge for checked bags.

Like Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV), JetBlue didn’t charge customers to pay extra for checked-in baggage, but will begin doing so during the first half of 2015, as the company adjusts its fares. Three basic fares will include one that does not include checked bags, and two others that include two checked bags and other perks.

Dammit, JetBlue! We used to be friends. It’ll take more than cute PR tricks to win me back now. Although if you keep it up with the free chips and soda and cable TV, I guess I can’t be too mad.

With conditions so wretched, it’s hardly a comfort that planes are so much safer than trains and automobiles, and like a thousand times safer than motorcycles. (Don’t ride motorcycles.)

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