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Guest column | Mary Partington

As flying gets costlier, road looks more inviting

Travel is broadening, but this is ridiculous.

I just stepped off the scale, so I know that the extra pounds did not come from airline food — they don't you give you any. No more peanuts. No more pretzels. No more free conveniences.

We have returned from a trip to our 50th state that included two airlines and seven flights. Included in this joyous trip were lengthy body searches because I have an artificial knee. When I left Tampa International Airport, I asked to use the body scanner but it was not operating at the time. In a prior flight from Indianapolis I was directed to use the body scanner because it was faster. I cannot decide which is most intrusive, the scanner or getting physically patted down.

I have learned a valuable lesson about what to wear when flying. No jeans, no belts, no tie shoes, nothing with metals that cause the handheld buzzer to go crazy. I agree with the need to inspect passengers, even little old ladies. It is just wise to prepare for the inspections and to allow for extra time. It is just one of the costs and facts of flying in today's world.

Talking about the cost of flying just makes my head swim. The airlines have started charging for everything from food to blankets and pillows. I expect the next time I have to use the restroom facilities on the plane I will have to deposit coins in the door.

Before an extended vacation, I spend time on the computer looking for information about our destination and the airlines that I will use. I have my destination listed on various travel sites and I get alerts about the lowest fares. My tickets are usually purchased months before our departure.

When we checked in for our return flight to Tampa, the agent shook his head that we had to pay only $15 for each bag since the fees had just gone up to $35 per bag.

Due to the increased fees for checked baggage, it is now a nightmare to find a seat and a place for your extra heavy bag in the overhead compartment. I expect a news report of a passenger being injured by a carry-on bag being taken down from the overhead. It is now important to get an early-seating group so you can find a place for your bag.

I await the arrival of an airline official standing at the door of the airplane removing your luggage from your hands and giving you a credit card receipt in return. Money is not allowed on the plane as they have those handheld credit card machines and they are faster than a cowboy drawing his gun. We are being held up and it is legal.

One of the most irritating charges was for the earphones to watch the movie on our flight to Hawaii. They charged passengers $5 per pair even if they were your own earphones. On the return trip we were charged $5 for each pair we had purchased from the airline on the first trip.

Food is almost nonexistent unless you purchase it on the plane. We did get a meager free lunch, but for $10 you were able to purchase a more elaborate meal. It is now fashionable to bring your own food aboard but you must be careful. It is considered bad etiquette to bring on food that causes a strong odor like a sandwich loaded with onions. If your lunch looks and smells delicious you may be mugged for it by a hungry seat mate.

As a result of the added fees, I now will carry on a pillow, a blanket, snacks, and non-offensive sandwiches. I will select the airline with the best customer service and the fewest and lowest fees. I will weigh the cost of flying and driving more closely. I cannot drive to Hawaii, but I can drive to destinations in nearby states and enjoy the sites along the route. The escalating fees, overcrowding, and extra time involved in flying may cause passengers to vacation close to home, particularly with gasoline prices falling, and in the long run hurt the airlines.

Count me as one of those unhappy fliers.

Mary Partington lives in New Port Richey.

As flying gets costlier, road looks more inviting 05/26/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 4:28pm]
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