Oxygen Mask? $25 Please.

Posted: Mar 15, 2006 5:27 PM

An American Cyber-Column
Oxygen Mask? $25 Please.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
• A headline in the Wall Street Journal: “Northwest To Charge Extra For Aisle Seats” sits atop a story about how possibly the least passenger-friendly airline since the Hindenburg will “require passengers to pay an additional $15 fee to reserve … aisle seats in the front of the cabin or roomier exit row seats.”

• Airlines have squeezed as much expense out of their operations as possible:
Magazines cost too much money to buy, and weigh too much to fly, so they’re gone.
Pillows? Forget it, they had to be cleaned every other month or so.
Printed schedules? Nah, the pilots know where they’re going.
Meals for flights under three days? Over. No one has starved to death on an airline flight since those rugby players ate their dead back in the 70’s.

• As the highly-touted switch grass has not yet been approved as a fuel for commercial flights, airlines have to use standard jet fuel so the only way out of this is to charge for things which used to be free.

• The car rental industry figured this out years ago. My personal rule for renting a car is: Take the stated rate per day, double it, and that’s what it will cost after they add fees for being on (or in the same time zone as) the airport; the cost of purchasing and installing the vehicle’s license plate; local, state, federal and Kofi Annan taxes; surcharges for windshield washer, cooling, and lubrication fluids; and a small charge for making certain a vehicle is actually available when you get to the lot.

• Airlines can be even more creative inasmuch as, once the forward boarding door has closed … they gotchya.

• Some fees will be discretionary. Some, like the car rentals, will be mandatory.

• Snacks would no longer be free. Who, on a flight from Atlanta to San Francisco, would begrudge the airline the prices I found in our office vending machine:
Cheetos - 55¢
Fritos - 60¢
Ho Hos - 75¢

• Soft drinks would be the standard $1.25 except for that high-tech water which will be $2.50.

• The lavatories would require a payment of a dollar to enter with coin-operated dispensers for soap, for paper products, and for the … for the, ah … um … you know.

• A automatic charge of $1.50 will be added to each ticket for seat belts as well as a fee of $1.00 for “seat-back reclining services.”

• In place of the never-used air-phones, a credit card slot will be installed in each seat. Passengers will be required to swipe their credit card before take off for, as hotel front desk personnel like to put it, “incidentals.”

• Passengers will have the option of paying to be moved away from crying babies. A charge of $15 will be incurred to be moved from an infant between one and 15 months. $750 to be moved away from any child who is in her terrible twos, or from any adult who is acting like a child in his terrible twos (available on a first come-first served basis only).

When was the last time a US commercial airliner had a scheduled water landing?

• In the “unlikely event of an unscheduled water landing” each passenger’s credit card will be charged $17.50 to pay for launching the life rafts with an additional charge of between $10 and $35 added depending upon where you choose to sit – the bow or outside edges being more expensive than interior seating.

• Should there be a “sudden change in cabin pressure oxygen masks will automatically drop from the overhead” (and a $25 charge automatically credited to your card) but oxygen will only flow to those passengers whose credit cards have cleared for the full amount of $1,250 which is the approximate cost of providing oxygen on a flight from Saskatchewan to, say, Mars.

• Other passengers will have to make do with the exhaled breath of those whose credit cards have not been maxed out.

• Finally, there will be an optional charge of $7.50 for special glasses which will permit you to view the movie on a screen which will have been retrofitted with a polarized facing.

• That fee will increase to $15 if the movie has been produced within the past five years.

• Airline travel: It’s like a bus. Only more so.

• On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the Reuters coverage of the Northwest Airlines plan; a Mullfoto which barely makes sense even to me; and a Catchy Caption of the Day.