Last weekend Hubby and I flew to Cincinnati, Ohio, for my high school class reunion. Hubby got online and booked us a great deal on airfare. I don’t want to mention the name of the discount airline he found because I don’t want a potential lawsuit for libel, but let’s just say there is a reason the fare is so low. My first hint we were on a heavily discounted flight should have been the fact they had a separate concourse. Now, in their defense, the concourse was probably built as an add-on to the airport rather than the fact that the regular travelers didn’t want to be associated with us cheapskate riff-raff. But the airline had a direct flight from Fort Walton to Cincinnati, which was a big plus in their favor. Most airlines would route us through Las Vegas, San Francisco, or Anchorage en route to Cincinnati because few airlines can go from point A to point B without taking us thousands of miles out of the way and requiring us to have twelve-hour layovers.
The second hint was the extra charge for carry-on bags. I thought price-gouging for checked bags was bad enough. But carry-ons? What are travelers supposed to do? Wear the same clothes for two weeks? Or, in my case, carry the biggest purse I can find and stuff everything into it while still claiming it’s a purse? Okay, the price was slowly starting to increase with all the “extras.” I was, however, happily surprised when we boarded the plane and found there was no first class. At least we didn’t have to bear the contemptuous looks of the “elite” while us peons moved past them.
The seats were smaller, didn’t recline, and didn’t have anywhere to plug in headsets. But for ninety minutes, that didn’t particularly bother me. What did bother me was no complimentary beverage and a chintzy bag of peanuts. Seriously? The measly snack is one of the few perks still left to air travelers after being divested of all our personal belongings at the TSA checkpoint and praying we manage to get on the plane with everything we started with—assuming we haven’t been subjected to a humiliating body search by a heavy-handed agent while our purse and laptop is being retrieved by someone at the other end of the conveyor belt who is not the owner. (Or, in Hubby’s case, worrying that his pants will fall down because TSA has required him to remove his belt and raise his hands above his head.) But, if we wanted a snack and a lousy four-ounce drink on this flight, we had to pay through the nose. I could buy a week’s worth of groceries for what they charged for a Diet Coke and a bag of pretzels. I can understand cutting corners to reduce fees, but how much can a beverage cost the airlines? Just add a lot of ice, and it can stretch even further. They can probably serve three or four passengers from one can of Coke. At least not offering complimentary snacks made the flight attendants’ jobs easier as they didn’t actually have to do anything. I was afraid to go to the restroom for fear there would be a charge for that, too. For ninety minutes, I could “hold it.” At the end of the flight, we were asked to take all our trash with us, so we also had to be the cleaning crew. While I am generally considerate about removing any trash (as if I had any because there was nothing on the flight with which to generate trash), I wondered what was next. Were they going to distribute Lysol wipes and make us wipe down the seats? Remove the seats and make us sit on the floor? Not pressurize the cabin and require us to bring our own oxygen tanks?
The in-flight magazine was the West Coast edition, which held little interest to me, and there wasn’t even a crossword puzzle! So now, travelers have to furnish their own crossword puzzle, too. Then, just as I was settling back in my upright position to catch a short nap, the flight attendant got on the intercom for a twenty-minute sales pitch to hawk the airline perks card. As her voice filled with excitement, she informed us she had saved the “best for last.” With this card, not only did passengers get a “free beverage” (so that’s the secret), but when used to book a qualifying vacation package with flight, hotel, and rent-a-car, someone got to fly free.
I leaned over to Hubby and said, “What do you want to bet there’s only one qualifying vacation package and it’s never available?”
“Or it’s for Minot, North Dakota, in January,” he replied.
We elected not to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity even if it did include a free Diet Coke on future flights.
Since I couldn’t sleep, I thumbed through the in-flight West Coast edition of the magazine. I did a double-take when I found an ad for recruiting pilots for this airline that offered applicants an accelerated course to become qualified. That little tidbit filled me with a smidgeon of trepidation. Then I glanced up at the instructions printed on the back of the tray table on the seat in front of me—the one I never opened because I’m too cheap to spend my grocery money on a crummy Diet Coke. The warning said, “Fasten seat belt whilst seated.” Whilst seated? What was this, a King James-only airline? Were they trying to tell me something? I decided perhaps the rest of my time in the air would be better spent praying than trying to nap.