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Thursday, April 14, 2005 01:18 pm

common sense 4-14-05

art1976

Isn’t it just pure pleasure to fly the friendly skies these days? I’m sure there are mule trains that offer more joy per mile.

I know that airlines have been hard hit financially. But what management genius decided to cut back on employees that serve the public, eliminate everything from meals to movies, jam people onto the planes like chickens in a cage, and even take away those little pillows that offered a modicum of comfort? And then, to add insult to injury, decide to run TV ads that show delighted customers and happy-go-lucky workers skipping along together and singing “zip-a-dee-doo-dah”?

Yet we might soon remember the unpleasantness of today’s air travel as the good ol’ days: The industry’s bosses are scheming to find new ways to do less for customers while charging more. For example, why should you get a seat that reclines and has padded armrests for nothing, you bum? Airlines are thinking they could charge extra for such frills. Also, although the companies already are charging passengers for boxed lunches, they’re now looking at the revenue possibilities of adding a fee for you to use a tray table. Luxury isn’t free, bucko.

Then there are your bags. Why should airlines check, load, and unload them for nada? Because adding a charge for this is expected to tick off a whole lot of travelers, the savvy executives are contemplating a phase-in strategy, beginning by assessing a fee for priority baggage service.

The nickel-and-diming is practically unlimited. Who says your orange juice should be free? An aisle or window seat could come at a premium. That flight-attendant call button and the little air vents could be equipped with coin slots.

The customer might always be right, but there’ll be a fee for that in the friendly skies.

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