Sandwich DuJour: Angry Consumer on Rye

We in the Sandwich Generation struggle with a myriad of life adjustments–parenting a parent, not parenting the child who on her own bought a plane ticket to visit her brother in Scotland, flying an ailing parent to the Mayo Clinic among airline employee retaliations (please avoid this if you can), fighting gravity’s assault on our bodies and simply waking up to discover what  rapidly revolving roles of a San Gener we’ll take on this day.

Today my Sandwich ingredients are: Perimenopausal Patient, Cancer Caregiver/Friend, Practice Grandma (play date with toddlers!); New Friend, Homemaker and Wife. So Far. It’s only 8:30. Oh, right, also today? I have Angry Consumer on my sandwich. Without warning, Delta Airlines has joined the growing ranks of “Bargain Carriers”. I’m certain they’d rather be considered a “Major Airline” but hey, you suddenly won’t let me pick my own seat? I’ve heard you’re going to charge me for it–but that information isn’t showing up when I book with my Frequent Flyer number using my Delta Airlines Gold American Express card. You know, the one I pay a pretty fee for each year so as a frequent traveler on Delta, I can enjoy Zone 1 boarding, a free checked bag and a 20% discount on inflight purchases (You think this girl flies without a Chardonnay?)

I’m okay with paying for my glass of wine in Economy Class. I am NOT okay with not being able to see the seating chart at the time of booking and not being able to pick my seat at the time of booking and purchase. According to Delta:

“Basic Economy fares include the following restrictions:
No seat assignment until check-in
No refunds
No ticket changes
No same-day confirmed or same-day standby travel changes
No paid or complimentary upgrades to Delta One™, First Class, Business Class, Delta Comfort+™ or Preferred Seats
No Priority Boarding for purchase”

Funny thing is, by federal law I have 24 hours to change my ticket or get a refund. Is Delta above the law now? And I DO have priority boarding via my AMEX card.  Sigh…I have a letter to write today. In the meantime, this all reminds me of a column I wrote back in 2003. Go ahead and giggle at the low prices back then–I sure did! Then let me know what you think of Delta’s dip into the Low Class Air Carrier pool. I can’t wait to hear!

I pleaded with my husband, “If I fly to Ohio I promise not to buy a pair of shoes for the next six months!” My friend Sarah was turning 35 and I desperately wanted to be a surprise at her party. I found an $119 bargain fare that quickly became $134. I’d read the little line about “plus applicable fees and taxes” but was still sticker shocked when I saw the final price.

What did these “applicable fees and taxes” pay for? The privilege of having airport security see my dirty laundry or spending $1.79 for gum at an airport store that would’ve cost 89 cents back in the real world?

I proceeded to the gate and wondered what other hidden fees I’d find.

“Good morning. We’ll now begin boarding Bargain Flight 00 from Charlotte to Columbus. In case of a water landing, your seat cushions can be used as a flotation device. If you care for a seat cushion while traveling today, please place a quarter in the slot and firmly pull the cushion off the rack in the jetway. If you’re a frequent flyer member, there’ll be no extra charge for bringing your own meal on board. Nonmembers must pay a trash disposal fee of $3. To sign up for our frequent flyer program, simply complete a registration card in the non-complimentary in flight magazine, apply postage and mail.”

Knowing there were at least a couple lakes en route, I opted for the seat cushion and boarded the plane. “Excuse me sir, is this a full flight today?”

“How badly do you want to know?” I slipped him a buck. “Fully booked.”

 I figured I’d make my bathroom run now before I had to step over a seat mate. I paid a vending machine a dollar to lower the toilet seat and a nickel per square of toilet paper. I knew I should’ve heeded my mother’s advice to always carry tissues in my purse.

Back in my seat, I waited for the inevitable sumo wrestler to sit next to me. The flight attendant maneuvered up aisle handing out price lists.

Headphones: $5

Functioning seatbelt: $10

Pretzels: $1

Ice in your water: $2

Coffee stir stick: 25cents

Making me stop the mid-flight shift of carts in the rear galley that mimic the sound of the tail falling off: $72

Human Bobbleheads at flight’s end chanting, “Bye, thanks for flying, bye, thanks for flying….” $4 per head

Use of fold down tray that tilts slightly towards the aft cabin: $10

In flight magazine without crossword puzzle already completed: $3

In flight magazine with crossword puzzle blank: $6

Pillow: $2; Blanket: $ 4; Pillow/Blanket combo: $5

Functional plastic shade over window: $3

As I stared at the sheet and debated the necessity of a seatbelt, the pilot announced we were clear for take off. I looked at the last item on the list: An empty seat next to you: Priceless.

Another look at bargain airfares.  Copyright Karen J Rinehart 2003-2015

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