I want to start by making one thing clear: I understand that it’s not cheap to run an airline. With each flight comes the relentless fuel costs, staffing (including pilots, cabin crew, ground staff, check-in staff and the rest), not to mention the actual cost of the aircraft.
Add in landing and gate fees, plus the cost of chipping in towards air traffic control, and it becomes clear than running an airline is no easy feat.
However, as consumers, we’re getting a bit tired of the sneaky little fees that seem to enjoy a game of “stacks on” whenever we book a flight.
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In recent years, extra charges have begun to accrue every time you request a meal, a drink, a headset, check-in baggage, or God forbid, extra baggage allowance – don’t even think about doing this at the airport, or you’ll be slugged outrageous fees. There’s also charge to sit in the emergency exit aisle, as it provides more leg room.
But the fee that’s got me gobsmacked is the charge airlines are now imposing for choosing where you sit at all. They can be hefty fees of up to $30 each way when travelling internationally.
Now, naturally, as a parent of a tribe, I’d love nothing more than to ditch all the little ones in economy class while I sit up front, sipping champagne in my pyjamas in Business Class while being personally attended to.
However, my income doesn’t permit this luxury, so I must (sigh!) sit with my family unit, which includes three kids aged seven and under.
Surely, common sense prevails here, I thought? Otherwise it would be a case of: “I’m really sorry, random lady in 29c, but the airline requested I pay extra for our family to sit together and I thought that was extortion, so I refused to pay. Ergo, can you manage my two-year-old for the next 15 hours? He should stop screaming soon – here’s his bottle and if he needs a change, here’s a nappy and some wipes. I’ll be in 15a if you need anything.”
This “service fee” is currently under investigation in the UK (and rightly so) to find out whether airlines are deliberately separating families on flights so they end up paying more to sit together.
In our case, we rolled the dice. I figured they wouldn’t let toddlers and pre-schoolers sit alone, as it would fail some sort of duty of care test.
And if they did, well, the joke is on you, airlines – a kid-free flight is just about the ultimate way for most parents to start their vacation!