Airlines crash and burn

Since the end of the semester is in sight, there may be some students who are anxiously anticipating a summer vacation.

With the winter we have been having, hopefully the vacation in question will be to a warm location. Here in Grand Forks, we are as far as you can get in the U.S. from a warm, tropical location.  Therefore, vacationing UND students may need to take to the air to get to where they want to go.

Since 1978, there have been 160 bankruptcy filings by airline companies. Some of the reasons for bankruptcies include rising employee benefits and pension obligations that leave no room for profit for the companies. Other rising expenses include America’s corporate tax rates ­– the highest in the world‑ and the drop in oil production in the U.S resulting in skyrocketing fuel prices. Poor leadership and scandals have also hit the airline industry as well.

What this means is airline companies are looking to extract every penny possible from their customers in the form of ridiculous fees and inconvenient policies.

One of the oldest and most despised fees that airline companies charge is for extra bags. Instead of simply limiting the number and size of the bags a customer can bring on a plane, the airlines charge $25 to well over $50 for each additional bag. Granted, additional bags are a hassle to load onto a plane and may use up a little more fuel in flight, but $50 per bag is ridiculous.

A new and extremely irritating policy some airline companies are adopting is in order for families to sit together, they must pay extra fees. This is no more than a scam to leverage families traveling together to cough up more money. If you were traveling with children or elderly relatives, would you let an airline company randomly assign them to seats – potentially next to weird strangers?

More examples of airlines screwing over their customers are extra fees to use certain luxuries such as internet, in-flight movies and airport food. Conveniently, there are many products that can only be purchased inside the airport. Once passengers have entered the airport they are now stuck with paying absurdly high prices for food and drinks, much like what stadiums do.

The worst issue with airlines is when there is a problem and passengers are stuck on the aircraft while it sits on the tarmac. There have been many instances of passengers being stuck on an aircraft for between six and 12 hours without adequate water, food and air conditioning.  Passengers were not allowed to get off the aircraft and would be arrested if they tried to leave. Forcing a paying customer to sit for six hours without enough food and water in a hot aircraft is criminal, and has resulted in hundreds of lawsuits from angry customers over the years.

I can understand the rationale behind charging extra for extra bags since the added weight means additional fuel consumption by the aircraft. I can even handle at least some of the high prices of airfares because I would rather have a properly maintained and safe aircraft to travel in. When ticket prices are already extremely high, airline companies should at least allow their customers to sit next to family and friends.  Also, the risk of being stuck on an aircraft for hours on end always makes me a little nervous. If I ever have enough money to afford to buy a plane ticket, being stuck on an aircraft for hours will be in the back of my mind – even as ridiculous as it sounds. The extra fees and frustrating policies by airline companies has essentially made routine air travel impossible for the average person. As much as I want to fly to a destination, the costs involved make it practically impossible for me to afford to buy a ticket on a college student’s budget.

Christianson can be reached at [email protected]