United Adds $800 In Fees To $560 Trip, Loses Customer For Life

We have a feeling this is going to happen with increasing frequency as airlines continue to bleed once-loyal customers for extra revenue: Greg Dean, the cartoonist behind Real Life Comics, has had enough of United gouging him. First it was the second checked bag fee, then the first checked bag fee. Then they doubled the pet-in-cabin fee to $175 each way, which works out to more than the cost of a human round-trip ticket.

And let’s not forget the exorbitant booking fee for using miles for one of our tickets. The actual FLIGHT was only $280 round trip per ticket, but with the booking fee TO USE THE MILES TO PURCHASE A TICKET, we wound up paying over $500.

When Dean tried to convert the two tickets into travel vouchers, the airline charged him another $300. And that, readers, is when the airline killed off one of their better customer relationships.

For a trip that requires two roundtrip tickets priced at $280 each, or $560 before taxes, United managed to tack on over $800 in additional fees:

1st checked bag*: $30
2nd checked bag 50
pet-in-cabin fee 350
booking fee (estimated) 150
travel voucher conversion fee 300
Total: $880
figures reflect round-trip totals


 

Dean doesn’t have a permalink to his post—it’s just up on the “News” section of his front page—so we’re reprinting it below for posterity:

There seems to be a trend with me lately – it seems that, without fail, if I am on the phone with United Airlines, it’s going to end in me cursing them out.

First, let me point something out. I used to be a devotee to United Airlines. For years, when we had trouble flying on American or Delta or *shudder* Southwest, United was always there as our rock – flights were usually smooth, we got decent service, and life was good. We signed up for frequent flier cards, (Even got a free upgrade to First class from L.A. to Chicago once) and I got a credit card that would give me bonus miles with them. I also had sort of a soft spot for them in my heart, given that my Grandfather worked maintenance for them for most of his life in San Francisco. After his memorial, I wound up taking a bunch of his old United memorabilia home with me, and I’m always going to treasure it, no matter what.

But coincidentally, that particular flight was where the love affair started to go south. See, it was around June, and it was when they started adding on fees for the second checked bag – which we didn’t know about until we got to the gate, of course. I understood, to a degree – fuel prices were at an all-time high, and the airlines had to make up for the difference somehow. But I do clearly remember mentioning to the gate agent that “Heh… you KNOW those fees aren’t going to go away when fuel prices come down again.” How right I was.

Now, of course, fuel has dropped to the lowest price it’s been in YEARS, and have they removed the fee? HA! They went one step further… because in early October, we booked a flight home so we could spend Christmas with our families. During that phone call, I discovered that not only had they added a fee for the FIRST checked bag (WHO flies without checking at least ONE bag?!) but they had increased the pet-in-cabin price from $85 per direction (It had previously been $75 the year before) to ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FIVE DOLLARS per direction. Considering we’d be taking Selphie both ways, that adds up to MORE than the price of a ticket – just for the privelege of putting a dog carrier under the seat in front of us. And let’s not forget the exorbitant booking fee for using miles for one of our tickets. The actual FLIGHT was only $280 round trip per ticket, but with the booking fee TO USE THE MILES TO PURCHASE A TICKET, we wound up paying over $500. The pet-in-cabin charge would be paid at the gate, of course. And don’t forget the roughly $80 extra we would have to pay just to check our bags. This was the first instance where the phone call ended in extreme profanity.

Now, of course, we’re MOVING BACK to California. We no longer have need for a flight from Austin to Sacramento. So, I decided to call United and see if it would be possible to convert the tickets into travel vouchers that we could use at another time. Certainly, said the reservations agent! There’s only a fee of $150 per ticket to do so.

THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS?! FOR YOU TO PRESS A FEW BUTTONS AND CHANGE SOME INFORMATION IN A COMPUTER?! Needless to say, that phone call did not end in a civil fashion. I don’t care if these people aren’t personally responsible for these fees. They’re representatives of United, and as such, they deserve to hear what I have to say. Take your fees and shove it.

And so, here and now, I officially renounce United Airlines. Call it whatever you want. A denouncement. A boycott. I don’t care – the long and the short of it is this – I will never willingly fly United again, and I would urge anyone to whom customer service is important to boycott them as well. And not just United – I pledge, here and now, to never fly on another Star Alliance airline, either – domestically, this means no flying on US Airways. (Not exactly a huge loss) And I’m going to keep this up until United elects to rescind their fees for the first and second bags, and until the silly fees like $175 for a pet-in-cabin go away. But I’m not silly enough to think that the actions of one man are enough to get something done. That’s why I’m calling on you guys.

I’m sure I’m not the only one furious with United Airlines for the treatment I’ve recieved – I’m sure many, many others have had the same experiences. Tomorrow, I will be writing up an actual, paper letter and sending it off to United, and I encourage you to do the same. If you feel so inclined, their mailing address is as follows:

Customer Relations
WHQPW
United Airlines
PO Box 66100
Chicago, IL 60666

Whether the fees go away or not is immaterial. I’m just pissed that United has $500 of my money that I’m never going to see again, and they’re holding it hostage unless I pay an ADDITIONAL $300 to make use of it sometime in the next year. And so, I’m going to throw in my one profanity in this entire post – I say this so that people like my mom who don’t really care for profanity can stop reading now.

Fuck you, United Airlines. You just lost a devoted customer.

Real Life Comics (Thanks to Arthur!)
(Photo: Getty Images)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. azntg says:

    Southwest Airlines have been running a lot of TV commercials in my area lately (even though they don’t service New York City based airports per se). They seem to be having a field day, running ads on how fees tack up and adds up to be an overpriced (than advertised) mess.

    God, that’s a pretty nasty situation for Dean. Any luck with EECB?

    And Chris, welcome back! Long time no see!

    • Triborough says:

      @azntg: Doesn’t Macarthur Airport out on the Island have Southwest serving it?

    • divideby7 says:

      @azntg: Yes and everytime I fly out of Islip its the best experience ever. Granted I live on Long Island and the airport is about 10-15 minutes away but its no hassle and Southwest still has really competitive fares. Just saying

    • miss_cutestory says:

      @azntg:

      AND four clicks through their website and you can change your flight itinerary. With no charge.

      I think a lot of people who “shudder” at the thought of Southwest haven’t flown with them in awhile. Boarding has been much approved. People complain about having to line up, but when I fly other airlines people line up even though they have assigned seats!

      And you can actually use your reward flights.

    • RedwoodFlyer says:

      @azntg: Yeah…while I wholeheartedly agree with most of his concerns, he lost some points with my by saying “Shudder…Southwest”…. It takes a lot for me to praise a competitor, but WN has all my respect and I will defend them to my grave…they have really friendly staff, an amazing frequent flier program (8 r/ts and get 1 free…or 3 r/ts and get one free if you’re 18-24) and you never have to pay a cancellation fee…ever!

      Oh, and no bullshit fees either.

  2. picardia says:

    Swearing at the phone personnel isn’t classy or helpful, and it’s sort of on him for not checking on the pet-carrying fees. That said, it’s ludicrous that the booking fee for using your miles to buy a ticket is almost twice as much as the ticket itself. There’s no possible justification for that level of a charge.

    Frequent flyer programs are increasingly looking like a waste of time. They do zero to encourage loyalty any longer. I mean, I belong to several, but it’s sort of like Social Security: I don’t really expect to see much benefit from it.

    • Tmoney02 says:

      @picardia: well I’m sure he wouldn’t have cared much if they just raised it an additional 10 dollars like they did last year. It is a bit unfathomable to think that the cost would more than double an already high $85 for each way.

    • KLETCO says:

      @picardia: I’ve found Southwest’s to be very good – I have the Visa card as well, and often travel with them. Total cost (at last check) to book a flight with a Southwest rapid rewards credit? $2.50.

    • Ben_Q2 says:

      @picardia:

      As a rule I never swear if I am calling them. If they call me well. I get my point across and when they talk I tell them to shut up (after all they are calling me I am not calling them). I get something in the line of please do not talk to me like that. I then hang up.

      Still when calling for help its best to be nice. I no longer fly any airline. Buy the time I pay for fuel, etc I am still save more.

  3. lhutz34 says:

    Amex is the only miles program I pay attention to for this very reason. The conversion rate is not optimal, but I get my choice of airlines (and lots of hotel and other deals too), which results in enough competition that I can usually get a decent flight.

    Why would anyone ever bother with United (or any other carrier-specific FF program) after stories like this? If you don’t want to pay the arbitrary fee to redeem your “points”, you have no recourse other than abandoning the points altogether, and they know it.

    Too bad about United, especially since you were one of their few loyal customers left. The legacy carriers can’t go bankrupt fast enough.

    • ckaught78 says:

      @lhutz34: I use my Wells Fargo Visa rewards for air travel. From my experience they have the best program going. Once you hit 25,000 points you are entitled to a domestic roundtrip fare up to $500, for which they will credit $500 towards any ticket. I just call up the number, tell them the airline and flight numbers I want, then they apply the $500. If the ticket is over $500 I pay the difference, otherwise I pay nothing.

      You can also get your tickets thought there website, but if the flight you want isn’t listed you can just call them up and they’ll take care of it.

  4. blackmage439 says:

    Great story, sir. I applaud your commitment to a company your father worked loyally at. To see what the airline industry has become is just sickening. I haven’t flown anywhere in over five years, after (you guessed it) United decided to cancel my flight, for no reason, about TWO HOURS before departure, you know the time they tell you to arrive at the airport?! They called the house while I was driving there!

    I’ll take driving over flying any day. At least you can enjoy the scenery, travel on your own schedule, not have to deal with power-hungry, undertrained TSA agents, and actually get a feeling of “getting away”.

  5. IrvCrapper says:

    HA HA. I’m flying from New York to San Diego for $400 round trip on Southwest. I’m flying out of MacArthur.

    The Taxi to MacArthur plus the cheaper ticket is less expensive than flying out of LaGuardia or Kennedy.

    I say FUCK these bigass airlines. Americans don’t know how to run businesses. They are all becoming failures. Fuck ‘em in the ear!

  6. incognit000 says:

    This is why I drive everywhere.

    Ironic part, though, these airlines keep installing idiotic and pointless fees in an effort to make more money, and yet they constantly fail to be profitable. You would think that with this kind of gouging, they could make money flying the damn planes.

    Which begs the questions, where does all this fee money go? It doesn’t go to the pilots, stewardesses or mechanics, who have had their pay slashed to ribbons in the past few decades. It doesn’t go to the planes, which are old and usually in bad repair. It doesn’t go to the gas, which is cheap. It doesn’t go to the stockholders, because the stock is shit. I wonder what happens to it all…

    • Tmoney02 says:

      @incognit000: Well I would say the problem with these fee’s is that they have driven down demand. Before all the fee’s flying was a enough of a headache with the ridiculous security. Now you have to play the fee game on top of that and people just say screw it and drive or just not go.

      Classic price balancing scenario at work. As the fee’s go up less people are willing to fly which at some point means less total money coming in then if fee’s were lower. (more people skip flying than the fee’s add in profitability)

    • kccricket says:

      @incognit000:
      Can’t drive to Hawaii.

    • SabreDC says:

      @incognit000: CEO bonuses

    • RedwoodFlyer says:

      @incognit000:

      Besides Northwest with their ancient DC9s, most airlines pay the same for aircraft on year 15 as they do on year 1…just like the lease on your car is the same on month 1 and month 36…

      I know the interiors look a bit shabby, especially on US Airways, but I can assure you that they are not in bad repair….the fact that NW has 40 year old birds still flying is a testament to the maintenance programs!

      While many complain that employee pay is low…it’s very sustainable…why pay a pilot $180,000 when there are thousands willing to work for $50,000? Contrary to belief, a pilot with 10k hours is no safer than one with 1k…

      Gas was expensive, and the airlines are trying to restore their cash reserves…unfortunately, Continental, Delta, and United have quite a bit of their fuel for the next 3-5 years locked in at $140 a barrel! Also, jet fuel is just now becoming cheaper…until about Tuesday, it was nearly the same as it was a month ago (it has to do with Crack Spread0…

      The CEO compensation might seem extreme, but consider 2 things 1) The stock options they are given are just that…options…they aren’t worth physical money unless the CEO invests his own money into the airline..and if he does that, the stock price goes up and everyone throws a party. The base salary isn’t that high, considering the size of most airlines…consider that the CEO of the Red Cross makes $600,000+ a year, about the same as the CEO of AA, which until recently, was the world’s largest airline.

      This amounts to about 14 cents a pax, which is about what a can of coke costs the airline.

      So…what’s happening to all the money? Poor yield management is the main culprit…too many poor performing flights with too few pax paying too little. However, the fees are a terrible idea because in a market where it’s crucial to stimulate demand, they end up fellating the competition.

      Despite the many problems with aviation in America…keep in mind that each seat on an aircraft is responsible for 4-5 American jobs (yes, even if the airplane is an Airbus…those have quite a bit of USA content in them as well!)

  7. Xerloq says:

    When are people going to realize that fees are just forced up-sells? Too bad we can’t organize a way to force them to pay fees for contacting us.

    I’d love to have a recording that plays before my phone calls that says “You may be charged a fee of $0.01 to $1,000,000 to complete this phone call. Please say yes to indicate your acceptance of the fee and to continue the call.”

    Too bad that’s not enforceable.

    • SabreDC says:

      @Xerloq: You’d give them an opt-out? I’d just say “You will be charged a fee of $0.01 to $1,000,000 to make this phone call. By dialing this number, you’ve agreed to abide these terms, including mandatory and unbiased arbitration through my friend, Joe, who was also my best man.” Sorta like the agreement inside the software packaging…

  8. weakdome says:

    Love Dean’s comic, been reading it for years. If you go back through his archives, you can see there are many comics related to his frustrations with airlines :)

    • AndrewJC says:

      @weakdome: And without fail, they end up with a blacked-out swear word directed at the airline employees. It’s kind of funny when you realize that every single one of the comics he’s done that involve airline ticketing personnel has ended that way. :)

  9. Southern says:

    Sorry to hear this. I also love Greg’s comic, been reading it for years, ever since I was first linked to it many years ago when I was playing Ultima Online (and so was Greg.) :)

  10. SKURRY says:

    Backcharge your credit card?

  11. gnortenjones says:

    “Considering we’d be taking Selphie both ways, that adds up to MORE than the price of a ticket – just for the privelege of putting a dog carrier under the seat in front of us.”

    That must be one tiny dog to fit under the seat in front of him. The last few United flights I’ve been on have been so cramped that you could barely move. How the hell does someone fit a dog carrier in the cabin?

    • Anonymous says:

      @gnortenjones: Selphie is a chihuahua. All in all, her carrying bag is smaller than most carry-on bags, and easily fits in front of the seat (The exception being on the smaller CRJ’s, where she will often have to just be on the ground underneath our feet. We would just leave her at home, but we know precious few people here in Texas, and leaving her with the ones we DO know for two weeks is kind of an imposition.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @gnortenjones: Axle grease and a shoehorn.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The fees are ridiculous. But in a country this size, flying is often the only option.

    But anyway, why pay money to redeem points if that costs more than just buying the ticket directly? Why not just buy the ticket without the points? I don’t get that at all. I’m pretty sure I’m missing something here.

    • bwcbwc says:

      @EllaNarcissus: I think $500 was the total for 2. So they paid $280 for one ticket + $220 to use miles on the other ticket. At least that’s the way it sounds. Considering that the miles are unlikely to be any more valuable than they are now, it’s still their best option.

  13. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    I like how the headline isn’t real specific on who’s life for which the length the customer is lost. Normally it’s the customer’s life, but with behavior like this, the customer might just outlive the company.

  14. Corporate_guy says:

    Why shudder at southwest? They are the only decent airline left.

    • lhutz34 says:

      @Corporate_guy:

      Agreed. I’d say Jetblue and Virgin America are pretty decent too. Continental is pricier, but they’re upfront about their costs and promise (and deliver) better service in return.

      United, AA and Usair should die in a fire.

      • ArgusRun says:

        @lhutz34: I love Continental. I live 20 minutes from Newark which is their Hub and have always flown them. I also know a bunch of their maintenance guys who are damned loyal to their company. That tells me something. I pay a little more, but get a whole lot more. Also, their ff program works fine for me. I think the price to redeem miles is $50 for round trip.

      • Ratty says:

        @Corporate_guy: I know it’s not national, but I like Alaska/Horizon a lot! They don’t even have first class seats on most flights I’ve been on.

    • Franklin Comes Alive! says:

      @Corporate_guy:

      Because for whatever reason, many people have an irrational fear/dislike of Southwest. None of them realize that they are by far the best big airline around these days, though.

      Though for the OP in this case, they would not be an option since they do not allow pets at all.

      • trk182 says:

        @Franklin Comes Alive!: Though for the OP in this case, they would not be an option since they do not allow pets at all.

        One more reason to fly SW, now if only they’d get rid of kids too.

      • ideagirl says:

        @Franklin Comes Alive!: The last two times I flew southwest i arrived over two hours early for the flights, and was still bumped both times. I was bumped and bumped and bumped and bumped until i finally had to ‘steal a seat’ fromf another customer just to make it home 12 hours late!. I really don’t understand the love affair with Southwest. In the 80s they rocked, but these days they are just as bad as the competition.

    • pterrell says:

      @Corporate_guy: But if he tried to take SouthWest with his little dog, he’s going to be disappointed…SouthWest doesn’t allow pets on their flights.

    • ironchef says:

      @Corporate_guy: Virgin and Jetblue….much classier than Southwest.

    • Keter says:

      @Corporate_guy: Took the words right off of my fingertips. ;o)

  15. TrustUs says:

    It’s pretty obvious United management has figured out that bankrupcy is the better route for them. Nothing personal, the bad customer service and the bad attitude by the employees is an artful effort by management to have United go under — they can break leases and sell slots and pocket bonuses. Customer good will has no actual value when management is raiding the core business for liquidation.

  16. SecureLocation says:

    United used to be good but now they blow. JetBlue has raised some fees but are still a much better bet if they’re going where you are.

  17. Anonymous says:

    “And that, readers, is when the airline killed off one of their better customer relationships.”

    United’s Premier-level customers, who only need to fly 25,000/year, pay no bag fees. I’m thinking this guy isn’t close to being one of United’s better customers.

    There’s no question that the pet fees are getting ridiculous, but I think that’s United’s way of saying they really don’t want to deal with pets.

    Also note that he could have avoided the $150 fee he got charged to change the ticket by buying a refundable fare. I’m not sure you can really complain about such a fee when you’ve agreed to the terms by buying the non-refundable ticket to begin with.

    • jamar0303 says:

      @OrvinShanahan: Y’know, you can also buy a Premier fast-track- $700-something and the required mileage drops to 15K. I really should (that’s right on the edge of my annual travel), but I can never bring myself to do it.

  18. kepler11 says:

    “…1st checked bag*: $30
    2nd checked bag 50
    pet-in-cabin fee 350
    booking fee (estimated) 150
    travel voucher conversion fee 300…”

    I have to say that Mr. Dean does not clearly present his story to make it clear that he’s not doing something wrong, and going on a hasty rant with little understanding of what he’s talking about. There are a few inconsistencies in what he says, or he appears to be confused, which doesn’t help him. So if I may, let me comment on what I understand from his points:

    1. They charged him a first-bag fee, and a 2nd bag fee. Well, sorry, but what can you say about that. The fee is now well-known, and there is no way of getting out of that. Other airlines do the same, it isn’t just United.

    2. They charged him a hefty pet cargo fee. Again, sorry that he didn’t like it, but it is a voluntary choice to bring a pet on a flight with you. You don’t have to bring the pet with you, and you know the charge beforehand, so what is there to say about it? Other airlines have pet charges too.

    3. This is where it gets confusing, or he is leaving out important information. He says that the tickets cost $280, but then he also says he used his miles to purchase the tickets. I’m going to assume that the $280 is some kind of fuel surcharge then, but this still doesn’t make sense and doesn’t help his rant.

    Anyway, he goes on to say that they charged him $150 to book the miles tickets. The reason that there is this charge is because they ticketed less than 7 days before the departure date, and there is a close-in booking fee for that. Greater than 7 days, and it would have been $75, and greater than 14 days, it would have been free. So, it’s not like he couldn’t have avoided this by planning ahead. Other airlines have last-minute booking fees too.

    4. The last point he rants on is about “having a voucher issued to use the credit in the future”. And this again shows he doesn’t really understand what’s going on. He is not being issued some kind of voucher — basically his travel plans changed, and to cancel the ticket and redeposit the miles back to his account, he was charged $150 per ticket. This is again, par for the course now with airlines. It’s basically a change fee, or cancellation of your reservation. The charge may be high, and I agree, but you knew about it beforehand. What is there to complain about now? That’s what travel insurance is for — unexpected things happening. Your decision to not take a flight was completely voluntary, not the airline’s fault.

    In short, while I sympathize with his frustration at all these fees, many of them were due to his own choices to 1) bring a pet on the trip, 2) not book in advance, 3) change his plans. Regardless of how much it actually costs the airline to do the work behind each of these things, the charges are known and you can avoid then. Almost all airlines have these fees now, so what is the surprise?

    • Dont Know Me? You Are Me. says:

      @kepler11: Amen. Sad to say, but there were no surprises in those ridiculous fees that United charged.

      The OP should have really considered flying Southwest. Almost all the fees could have been avoided by properly choosing the airline that could best meet his travel needs. Clearly, it is not United. Besides, IMHO Southwest offers a much better domestic in-flight experience in coach, and I’m a United 1K.

    • stopNgoBeau says:

      @kepler11: You fail…

      His whole rant is about how the fees for doing things are costing more than the actual ticket.

      Yes, he knows the fees in advance, but why do you have to pay to have bags checked? Don’t answer fuel prices, because not only is fuel cheaper now than when they instituted the fees, but most airlines buy fuel as comodities, which means lower, set prices.

      What is United doing for him that would warrant $175 in pet carry fees, especially since he is the one doing the carrying? He isn’t checking the pet carrier, and I can promise you no one is going to help him carry it on board.

      Since a computer system is actually doing the booking for him, not a person, why does it cost more to book a flight 0-7-14 days in advance? (Lets be honest, its database work–seat request, open seat, booked flight, done)

      I know airlines have been charging for changing bookings, and if he was close to the date of departure, it would make sense: the airline might not be able to book his seat before takeoff. But when my flight is half a year away, and they carge me the same fee, thats asinine.

      The problem is that rather than raising ticket prices to cover costs, they just institute extra fees anytime anything is out of the ordinary (or in the case of bags, is completely ordinary) just because they can.

      You are wearing a blue shirt today, thats going to be another $35 please…

      • kepler11 says:

        @stopNgoBeau:
        thanks for your reply, though not really an informative one.

        Companies have no obligation to charge for something based on what it costs them. An Ipod doesn’t cost $200 to make. It doesn’t take 35c to send a text message. It doesn’t cost a prostitute $300 an hour to provide sex. It doesn’t cost an airline $150 to change a reservation.

        They all price things based on what the market will bear, and how much they want their services to be demanded.

        Airlines learned that customers buy tickets based on the price of the ticket, without thinking about what services are included. So stuff like checked bags, flexibility of reservations, pets in cargo — passengers demonstrated they won’t pay extra for these things in the ticket price, but will afterwards at the airport. So why should they charge everyone for them, when only a few use them?

        I don’t feel like paying for your extra bags with an increased price on my ticket.
        Sorry.

        • ArgusRun says:

          @kepler11: I don’t think he is arguing that the airline doesn’t have the right to charge these fees. They can charge as much as they like for whatever they like. The point of the story is how the airline’s new pricing structure is costing them loyal customers and future revenue. He has every right to complain and put it out there. This being a (somewhat) free market United will either do okay with new charges or they won’t. If the market can support these types of business practices then good for United. If not, then they and their employees and ticket holders are screwed when they file for Chapter 11 protection.

        • amuro98 says:

          @kepler11:

          The problem is that when you’re shopping for airfare, they only give you the ticket price. You don’t know how much it’s going to actually cost you until you try to book the ticket. My wife and I got several nasty shocks while trying to book tickets for Christmas this year as we’d find a reasonable fare for, say, $300/ea. only to find out the actual ticket cost was well over $800(!) after all applicable fees and taxes were applied.

          If the ticket costs $800, just tell us up front. Don’t play these stupid games with fees. And worse still is that the fees aren’t locked. This means if your airline decides to start charging for carryon luggage after you bought the ticket, you get to have an unpleasant surprise at the airport.

          • kepler11 says:

            @amuro98:
            All of what you say is true. However, the bottom line is that airlines have realized that customers do not factor in these additional items in when deciding based on price. Passengers are willing to give up:

            legroom
            baggage
            food
            seating assignments

            in exchange for a lower ticket price. So it is the customers themselves who have forced the airlines to remove these items from the upfront cost and charge them piecemeal at the airport, from what is really a voluntary menu of items. None of those items are required for someone to fly — and customers show that they prefer a lower ticket price over any of these, regardless of how much it costs.

            Who can we blame but ourselves for what it ended up with?

            • mythago says:

              @kepler11: Funnily, not all airlines instituted these fees. Some, such as Southwest, have not, and are doing quite well.

              The whole point of your post seems to be that as long as you, personally, are able to avoid doing anything that dings a fee button, you don’t give two shits about anybody else. That’s a personal philosophy, not a sound approach to the airline business.

              • kepler11 says:

                @mythago: “…The whole point of your post seems to be that as long as you, personally, are able to avoid doing anything that dings a fee button, you don’t give two shits about anybody else…

                Nope, that is not true. I try to avoid doing things that incur fees, and I myself have gotten 1st/2nd bag fees lately. But when I get charged the fee (given that I knew about them in advance), I don’t rant and rave about it. Nothing says that the fees/taxes for something cannot be more than the ticket. And when I require services that incur fees, that is my choice.

                The airlines could have charged these fees from the beginning, and we would have nothing to complain about, having been the case from the beginning. So what can you do but accept them as the new way of business, and judge it by whether it lives/dies in the free market.

            • Absent minded or just absent says:

              @kepler11: Contrary to your statement, legroom is required for me to fly. I’m 6′-7″. I’m still confused why I should have to pay more for a ticket with a reasonable level of comfort (ie. my knees not physically pressed into the seat back in front of me.) I know these fees exist on some airlines. That doesn’t mean I’m happy about paying them.

              And for those Southwest supporters, the stress of trying to get an exit row or bulkhead on a Southwest aircraft isn’t worth the lower cost and generally friendlier demeanor of all employees.

              • kepler11 says:

                @Absent minded or just absent: “…Contrary to your statement, legroom is required for me to fly. I’m 6′-7″. I’m still confused why I should have to pay more for a ticket with a reasonable level of comfort (ie. my knees not physically pressed into the seat back in front of me…”

                I don’t know what to say about this. Certainly everyone should be given a reasonable amount of room for the ticket they pay, but what should they do about extra large people, in light of everyone needing to be treated equally? Should extra tall or fat people get first class seats free just because of their size? I don’t think so.

                How do you propose they decide who to give the seat to, other than charging for it?

        • frodo_35 says:

          I guess you just don’t get it. His rant is their downfall. These big corps need to wake up we are tired of getting screwed by twisted fees and fine print.

          • kepler11 says:

            The point is that most, if not all of the fees that this guy incurred, could have been avoided. They were up to him. You don’t have to check 2 bags, or bring a pet with you. You don’t have to book at the last minute. You don’t have to cancel your trip. These are not things that are difficult to avoid. You want to do those things, you pay. For the rest of us, cheaper tickets.

            • nsv says:

              @kepler11: Booking two months in advance is last minute?

              And yes, sometimes you do HAVE to book at the last minute. I just did that a couple of weeks ago for a funeral. My family member neglected to inform me several months in advance of the date she would die. It was most inconsiderate of her.

              There was a time when airlines offered condolence fares, and flying to a funeral was at least reasonable, if not enjoyable. This trip was ridiculously expensive and without question the worst trip I’ve ever taken, and I used to fly weekly.

              • kepler11 says:

                @nsv: …Booking two months in advance is last minute?…

                no, that is one of the inconsistencies in the story. Two months in advance should incur no close-in booking fee.

                However, booking over the phone instead of over the internet will incur a $25 booking fee. Maybe that is what he’s talking about, but again, that information is missing from the story.

            • RedwoodFlyer says:

              @kepler11: You also don’t have to fly United…and that’s what he chose.

              I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you’re a disgrace to the hard working employees of most airlines.

        • stopNgoBeau says:

          @kepler11: Their publicly stated reason for increasing the fees was due to fuel costs, so unless they are lying about their motives…

      • amuro98 says:

        @stopNgoBeau:
        Everyone who talks about how fuel is cheaper now, so the fees should go away has forgotten that the airlines all stockpiled fuel earlier this year when we were all looking at $4/gal gas and the very real prospects of prices going even higher.

        So, what happened? The airlines stockpiled, figuring it’s better to pay now, than pay more later. But that means they aren’t buying any more fuel now, so the demand for airplane fuel has gone down. Lower demand = lower prices. Sure, it’s a good time to buy airplane fuel…but I’m guessing the airlines don’t have the storage for it.

        And even if airlines were buying fuel like the rest of us with gasoline, do you honestly think these fees will ever go away – or even decrease?

        Just the other day I was asked to take a survey about new airline services and one of them was – get this – an annual fee you could pay to avoid paying per-flight fees! I guess the idea is you pay for maybe 3 flights’ worth of baggage and assorted fees because you either fly a lot, or you expect the fees to go up during the year. Unfortunately there was no “I’d buy this when hell freezes over” button for this proposal.

    • Anonymous says:

      @kepler11: @kepler11: Did you actually read the rant or just the summary of fees the author of this article added beforehand?
      1. They’ve added the first checked bag fee since the last time he flew with them, in June….he was surprised.
      2. Again, he was surprised that they’ve more than doubled the pet fee so that now it costs more than an actual ticket.
      3. He’s saying that if he had bought the tickets they would have cost $280 each or $560 for both. He chose instead to redeem his frequent flier miles for one of the tickets. With the booking fees they charged him to do this his tickets still came to over $500. Also I don’t know where you are getting they booked less than 7 days before the flight. They booked this flight in early October to spend Christmas with their families. That’s more than 2 months in advance. He’s also canceling his flight now, more than a month in advance. There’s nothing last minute about this whole adventure.
      4. If this shows he doesn’t know what’s going on then apparently neither does the reservation agent who told him he could change the tickets into vouchers to use at another time. He didn’t complain that there was a fee, he complained that the fee was outrageous. 60% of the original purchase.

      • kepler11 says:

        @SolSteinbeck: if all of what you say above is true, then he should not have been charged those fees, and should be entitled to a refund. But it is not at all clear from his story, which is very confusing.

    • Anonymous says:

      @kepler11: @kepler11:
      Kepler11 is entitled to his/her opinion about the airlines’ treatment of passengers and fee structures but to imply that this industry is a level playing field and that the customer has options is false. The customer has virtually no recourse to the unilateral and aritrary actions of airlines.

      Kepler11 talks about the airlines fee structure and treatment of passengers as if it is a 2 way street. It is not. Kepler11 says the customer changed his trip plans and should get charged. Yet, the airlines can change my trip plans at will – through changed/canceled flights and late flights – with no repercussions. Why shouldn’t I be able to charge an airline $150 or more for breaking their contract with me, which is what a ticket represents? Why shouldn’t I be able to charge them for losing my bags? Why shouldn’t I be able to charge them when they are late?

      No, the industry is protected by their lobbyists and the pay millions to make sure no legislation is ever passed to even the playing field. They provide horrible service, break their obligation after taking your money. They unilaterally impose whatever rules they want on the traveling public and then blame us when we complain.

      Their service is pathetic and I wish consumers had the ability to collect fines and compensation when they break their end of the travel compact – and not stupid air miles that they won’t let you use or stupid snack vouchers. I want my money back – cold hard cash, just like the kind they squeeze out of you every time you blink.

  19. Urgleglurk says:

    I have to agree with blackmage. I used to work for a United Express carrier for many years and watched as United declined and the customers went elsewhere. I am very saddened to see what has happened to the once proud American trunk carriers (now called “legacy carriers”) and the industry I once loved.

    Please don’t blame the employees. Many good people have watched their careers go down the tubes due to poor planning and a total lack of leadership and responsibility by the upper management. Just imagine how lousy they feel going to work every morning. I don’t have to.

    I don’t know where it’s going to end, but I think that there’s no doubt that it will not end well at all – at least for the employees and customers.

  20. craptastico says:

    i didnt even know you could bring a pet into the cabin. if i sat in front of him i’d be pretty pissed to have his friggin dog under my seat. what if they have pet allergies?

    • TheLadyK says:

      @craptastico: Its relatively common, and unless you have serious allergies, its rare that you’d notice. (No dander flying around, not much worse than someone who owns pets sitting behind you with hair and dander on their clothing) Most flying animals are quiet and no more intrusive than a laptop bag.

      That said, when I moved cross country, I got to fly with my cat. It was not a good time.

    • Dont Know Me? You Are Me. says:

      @craptastico: I have seen lots of lap dogs in little carriers on United in the past few months, and I have wondered the same thing. I usually don’t notice until I hear whimpering or barking mid-flight. But there are some breeds of cats that just have to be in the same room as me to trigger an allergic reaction; fortunately cats are not so popular as fashion accessories.

  21. CoJeff says:

    I haven’t flown United in several years. Even though there is a hub here in Denver and one in Chicago, explain why it would take 6 hours to travel to one of them? Hell I’ve driven to Chicago in 15 hours. I thought flying was supposed to be faster? Not only that but they want so much extra money to get a direct non stop flight. I think its kind of funny, United is losing money so they tack on fees to get more money and all they do is lose more money. Hmmmm I’m no business major but that doesn’t seem like its a right course of action.

  22. yeah4me says:

    Wow that’s a huge increase in the pet fees. As recently as August, most airlines were charging $75-$85 fees each way, so this is double or more all of a sudden. And it hasn’t been widely publicized at all–presumably because it affects so few fliers.

    For me it’s a maddening fee. My dog is silent and well behaved on flights, to the point that I’ve had to inform fellow passengers that yes, there is a dog in that bag, lest they think I’m crazy and talking to my carry-on. I can’t say the same for any of the free lap children I’ve flown with.

  23. all4jcvette says:

    The fees, the wait through TSA (what a joke), delays, etc… If my destination is within a 7 hour drive of where I live, I just drive. Have to arrive 2 hours early at the airport, plus typically an 1 hour wait at the gate, plus the always present 1 hour delay somewhere, plus plane change as few trips are non-stop, plus fees, plus getting your rental car. It actually saves time just to drive, and actually when you consider the cost of gas versus airfare, rental car, and hassle you still save money.

    • amuro98 says:

      @all4jcvette:

      I really wish I could drive. But living in California, and having the rest of the family back in Michigan sort of makes that a bit difficult – especially in the winter. And don’t talk about taking the train. Not only would it cost just as much (even with the airlines screw-you-over fee structure) but I could drive there faster.

      Worse still, since the only large airport in Michigan is Detroit Metro, trying to get a non-Northworst flight means you’re going to have at least one stopover somewhere. Strangely enough, Northworst doesn’t fly very much out North OR West.

      • Etoiles says:

        @amuro98: The train is, in fact, still more expensive than flying in the Northeast corridor half the time. The Acela from NYC or DC to Boston SHOULD be a godsend but up until the middle of 200, JetBlue was cheaper 95% of the time. (And takes 45 minutes, vs 4 – 6 hours.)

  24. LJKelley says:

    I have no sympathy for the person at all and consumerist deserves to go down the whole for printing this sensationalist article.

    If the person was a frequent flier as he claims he would understand most of these fees. The only thing I do agree with him on is that Frequent Flier Award Flights are pointless, but then they were bordering on pointless in the 90s as well unless you didn’t have a schedule to follow.

    If you cancel your return flight then the airline must resell your seat to make a profit if they are expected to refund you or move you travel date at no cost. That is why my crazy mother pays alot more than she needs to because her tickets are always changeable at no cost. Cheap ‘Y’ Tickets or Award Flights are not premium tickets and are subject to fare rules, always have been.

    The Bag Check Fees are ridiculous but hardly new or surprising at this point. Choose a Airline that doesn’t have them like Southwest… you knew about this before travel.

    Rude language also doesn’t get you anywhere, and I assume you had a rude attitude from the start. The Consumerist tried to PRETEND these are normal circumstances when they are not. I have been flying constantly since I was 2 years old (though I do not work in the industry at all) and rarely see pets in the cabin. CANCELING (that is the word) part of your itinerary does generally have consequences. And booking online generally saves you fees in regards to Award Travel as well.

  25. kepler11 says:

    oh, and by the way, if he had flown with Southwest as everyone threatens to do, he wouldn’t have been allowed to bring a pet at all, even as cargo:
    [www.southwest.com]

  26. rpm773 says:

    Hell hath no fury like a comic scorned!

  27. GregDean says:

    @kepler11:

    I may have suffered a bit in the clarity department by writing my rant near midnight, just after getting off the phone. However, you’re ignoring a few key points.

    I want to point out, firstly, that the straw that broke the camel’s back was the notion that I would have to spend $300 in order to make use of tickets I never intend to use.

    I did NOT book the tickets less than seven days from my departure date. We purchased these tickets in September, for a December 15th departure. The actual cost of one cash ticket for this flight was $28 round-trip. The excess fees come from a) The booking fee just to purchase MY ticket, which was purchased entirely via credit card, and B) The booking fee and other associated fees in order to use frequent flier miles to purchase a ticket for my wife. It starts to make you wonder what the point of frequent flier miles are when you have to pay upwards of $100 or more just to make use of them.

    Now, again – I was not complaining that the excess baggage fee came out of nowhere. I knew about it ahead of time – MY complaint is one of sheer greed. They raised the baggage fees to compensate for high fuel prices. Fuel prices now are lower than they have been in YEARS, and yet the fees remain. Furthermore, other airlines (Such as Air Canada) have just removed the fees they charge for the second bag… so it’s not like this is something every airline in the world does.

    And you also miss my point on the pet-in-cabin charge. I’m not complaining that there is a charge – far from it, I was more than happy to pay it when it was $75 per direction. My complaint is that they have raised it 133% in ONE fee increase – again, bringing the charge TO PUT A 9-LB ANIMAL UNDER THE SEAT IN FRONT OF US to more than the price of putting my 210-lb butt in the seat itself. And yes, other airlines DO have pet-in-cabin charges. Most of them tend to be reasonable, and considering I’m not ever going to fly United again, I’ll get a chance to shop around some.

    And again, you didn’t read my post clearly, or you’re just not paying attention – it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s cash or miles, because in order to actually make use of the fairly expensive tickets I purchased, (TWO MONTHS AGO) I would have to pay $300 in additional fees. Not to mention, if I re-credited the miles to my account, to RE-use them in the future, I would be paying an ADDITIONAL $100-$150 in booking fees, meaning that my “free” miles ticket would cost me about $450 in the long run.

    I will clarify, also – I did not pay the $300 to re-credit the account. I told him to shove it. I’m considering the ~$500 I spent on the tickets in the first place to be a learning experience, and I am not about to send any more money United’s way. I am not complaining that I got screwed over, here. I am making people aware of a crappy airline’s series of fee-heavy policies, so that others can avoid making the same mistakes I did. I also didn’t come here asking for sympathy – I posted it on my site’s blog as a catharsis, because sometimes it just feels better to vent than to just sit and silently stew about it.

    Also – to those who say it’s immature and pointless to yell at the employee on the phone… you’re right. Of course it is. But I have a hairline temper, and I don’t react well to people who say things with a straight tone that any normal human would think is crazy – like “Oh, you won’t be able to use these tickets? For only $300 more you can get travel vouchers that have to be used within a year.” That’s crazy. Was it wrong of me to yell at them? Yes. Did it feel GOOD? Yes. :)

    • carlogesualdo says:

      @GregDean: Good job, Greg! *Someone* has to stand up and say “HELL no!” Just because the airlines have publicized that they have these fees doesn’t mean we should roll over and say “how much?”

  28. GregDean says:

    @Corporate_guy: Southwest isn’t awful, but I don’t like the “cattle-call” boarding style. I like to know what seat I’m going to be in well in advance, especially since my wife and I travel together everywhere, and she’s kind of a nervous flier, so I let her have the window. Every now and again, we are unable to get seats together, and it sucks. With Southwest, there’s the possibility of not getting her a window seat at all if we’re in the wrong boarding group.

    That said, I DO applaud Southwest for not having any of these crappy fees like United. No fee for the first or second bag, and the third bag is only $25. That’s awesome. Would I get a frequent flier card with them anytime soon? Probably not – but I won’t rule them out in the future.

    • RedwoodFlyer says:

      @GregDean:

      The new boarding system is much, much less white-trashy! Just check in 24 hours in advance and you’re in the A group. Also, if you get one of their Biz Select fares, you’re in A….lastly, if you’re a frequent flier with 18+ trips a year, you get automatic A-list status for a year!

    • Anonymous says:

      @GregDean:
      I’m 6’3″. If I don’t get an exit row seat, my knees are touching the seat of the person in front of me. The “Every man for himself” style is a must-have for me.

  29. elloGov says:

    I stopped flying United after my first time. My first time being stuck in an airplane for 7 hours, mind you next to the toilet :). I recall Hostess kinda going about the consequences of getting off and how we have to go through security clearance yadi yada. Upon which, she took a count of hands of people wanting to stay on the plane. About a 4th of the people raised their hands, I guess that was more than enough to continue that awful experience for 7 hours.

    To make matters worse, I missed my flight in Dulles as did everyone else pretty much. After standing in line for two hours to ask for another flight, I was told that there wasn’t any.
    “Well how about putting me up in a hotel?”
    “Sir, because this was a weather related delay, we are not responsible to put you up for a hotel.”

    All hotels within a 2 hour drive radius were booked. So I spent the night and day at the airport in the lounge chairs. To make matters worse, once I caught next morning flight, they lost my bag.

    Long story short… FUCK UNITED!

  30. nicemarmot617 says:

    I used to like United okay. I mean, they weren’t spectacular, but they got me from Point A to Point B without much fuss. They even gave me a free upgrade to first class on a Chicago-LA flight once – just because I was nice to the lady at the counter after watching everyone else on my cancelled flight scream at her.

    But then in 2003 they cancelled a flight – and refused to reschedule me on another. Um. I was on a multi-airline trip, so apparently that meant they had no obligation to get me to the next airline’s flight. United felt it was perfectly okay to strand me in Chicago and provide no way to get home. The other airline was America West, which doesn’t even exist anymore, but they happily took my ticket and put me on their next flight out – told me “Run, it’s boarding now!” And I made my next flight.

    Then in 2004 I had to fly home while sick. I wasn’t contagious at all – and I had to get home from college 2000 miles away. The flight attendants treated me like dirt and threatened me repeatedly when I used the bathroom while we were on the tarmac – now I realize that is against the rules, but I was clearly ill and the pilot had just announced we were 20th in line for takeoff. It wasn’t like there was any real risk involved – the flight attendants were up and moving around and using the bathrooms themselves, but apparently they decided passengers are at risk of injury in a plane that’s not moving.

    I used my frequent flier miles with United to fly my family out for graduation, and I’ve never flown United since, nor will I again if I can possibly help it. I don’t need to be treated like dirt by people who happily accepted a lot of money from me.

  31. Nighthawke says:

    In other airline news, Southwest airlines has added not 4, but SEVEN new flights throughout the states.
    – Eight new daily nonstop roundtrips between Chicago Midway and
    Minneapolis-St Paul.
    — One new daily nonstop roundtrip between Birmingham and Phoenix.
    — One additional daily nonstop roundtrip between Las Vegas and Orlando
    (for a total of two).
    — One additional daily nonstop roundtrip between Baltimore/Washington and
    Denver (for a total of four daily nonstops).
    — One additional daily nonstop roundtrip between Baltimore/Washington and
    Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood (for a total of five daily nonstops).
    — One additional daily nonstop roundtrip between Chicago Midway and Omaha
    (for a total of six daily nonstops).
    — One additional daily nonstop roundtrip between Chicago Midway and
    Pittsburgh (for a total of six daily nonstops).

    You got the big jobbers rolling up the welcome mat and laying out coin boxes for everything you touch and SWAir is slapping down new routes and more roundtrips than you can shake a stick at.
    Now go figure.

  32. MissPeacock says:

    This man’s anger is delicious. I am feasting off it like a vampire.

  33. Traveshamockery says:

    I don’t care if these people aren’t personally responsible for these fees. They’re representatives of United, and as such, they deserve to hear what I have to say.

    I understand your frustration, but umm, grow up.

  34. YoFonzie says:
  35. AnxiousDemographic says:

    United lost a customer, but Real Life Comics got a reader!

  36. Trai_Dep says:

    Reading the finely-honed, Howard Beale-esque, justified rage feels like a spring shower after walking across a Mojave plain. Like watching thirsty kittens frantically lapping up a saucer of milk. It smells like… It smells like…
    By the Gods, it smells like Chris Walters! CHRIS WALTERS!
    Welcome back!

    PS: Wasn’t deregulation supposed to make flying better?

  37. Amy Alkon says:

    My dog weighs under three pounds and is very well-trained — she’s about 300 times better behaved than most people’s children. In fact, if I don’t want you to know she’s there, you won’t. Additionally, she’s a Yorkshire terrier and has hair, not fur. Somebody who gets on the plane with a coat with cat hair on it should be the allergy sufferer’s worry, not my dog. I specifically bought a breed of dog that would not plague allergy sufferers.

    But, onto the pet fee: my dog is no more trouble and requires no more handling than my wallet. What’s with charging $175 now domestically? I used to pay $150 each way to Paris (in pet fees — in addition to vet exams and USDA certification to get her into France and back into the United States). What does it cost to take a dog to Europe, I wonder…$300 each way?

  38. femmeknitzi says:

    With all those fees, even at $4 or $5 for a gallon of gas, how is driving NOT cheaper?? I did a little figuring and if I did it right (math is not my forte) and assuming a worst case of $5 gas, I could go coast to coast in my car (32 miles per gallon highway) for $937.

    And you can bring your pets along comfortably. I’ve traveled with an on board pet before and it’s not cheap or easy.

  39. kevjohn says:

    Screw him. What kind of selfish bastard has to bring a pet with him IN the plane? Is this MF blind? Is this a seeing eye dog? That I could see… no pun intended. If I had an alergy to his beloved pet and had to suffer in the steel tube the entire trip because he couldn’t bear to put his precious little Muffy Doodles with the rest of the animals in cargo, I wouldn’t mind seeing him and his pooch removed forcibly from the airplane altogether. Preferably mid-flight.

    • GregDean says:

      @kevjohn: Wow – way to keep an open mind about things.

      Pet-in-cabin happens more often than you think. It’s not a matter of selfishness – some animals just don’t do well in the cargo hold of a plane. Given that she is a small, quiet, dog with no airborne allergens, there is no inconvenience to other passengers. We’ve flown with her four or five times now on the plane, and it has always been a carefree and easy experience.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @kevjohn: Folks too dainty to be out amongst people (and their pets) without breaking in hives shouldn’t use public transportation.

    • picardia says:

      @kevjohn: I agree with Trai Dep. If you’re so freaked out by someone bring a pet on a plane, drive. Or stay at home in the basement. It’s allowed, so get over yourself.

    • Tmoney02 says:

      @kevjohn: If you have such a problem fly southwest (no animals allowed) or sit down and be quite, as there is nothing being done that is wrong.

    • RedwoodFlyer says:

      @kevjohn:
      How does it matter if he’s blind or not…are your allergies able to differentiate between seeing eye dogs and non-seeing eye dogs?

      Flight attendants are trained in how to handle such situations…they would just adjust seating so that you’re upwind of the pet…and you’ll be fine

      • kevjohn says:

        @RedwoodFlyer: There is no “upwind” in a pressurized plane cabin. Sheesh.

        It would matter because a blind person would have a legitimate need and a legal right to have their assistance dog with them. Surely you can see how this might be different from some Paris Hilton type wanting to carry around a fashion accessory dog in a Gucci purse.

        To whoever else it may concern: I own a dog and spend more time with him than I do with any single human being. I also don’t have a basement. I don’t think anyone does in Florida. Southwest doesn’t fly out of my city, or anywhere nearby that wouldn’t require a 3-hour drive to get there. I don’t think the discomfort of a canine should outweigh the health concerns of humans. As anyone who has followed the Obama’s dog search should have learned by now, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. I think it’s very “special” of a person to roll the dice with some other unsuspecting passenger’s health. And I say unsuspecting because with all the things the average person thinks of and worries about when traveling, getting stuck on a plane with a mutt probably isn’t too high on the list.

  40. snowburnt says:

    Sorry Greg, I find it hard to sympathize with you. You flew United, had plenty of time to review their charging policies, flew with a pet (who flies with a pet?) and had multiple bags whose fees have been around for a while. After all the bad press airlines have gotten, it would be good to check out all the fees before doing it. As a few questions like: I want to do this, what fees are included?

    Also, your comic never was and never will be funny…I read it for a couple weeks and felt as though my brain had atrophied.

    side note: I’d probably sympathize with some random person, but not Greg Dean

    • BeowulfRex says:

      @snowburnt: Wow. Just, wow. You obviously didn’t read the article clearly, and just as obviously you didn’t read Mr. Dean’s clarifying comment above. And yet you felt empowered to take the time to make an unwarranted attack on both him and his work.

      You have failed the basic litmus test for humanity on so many levels.

      Hey, Greg. Been reading your strip for years. Thanks for the smiles.

  41. mike says:

    I dream of the day that TSA no longer exists and the price you see advertised is the price you pay. I hate it when its only until you get ready to pay that you’re faced with the actual cost. This goes for cable, cell phone, ticketmaster, etc.

  42. BeeBoo says:

    The Golden Age of air travel took its very last breath on 9/11. Except for the following few months when airports and flights were mostly empty, it has only gotten more and more inconvenient and more and more expensive. If you can get somewhere by train, bus, or automobile in one day it’s definitely not worth it to fly. It’s questionable on longer trips where alternate transportation is available.

  43. Beerad says:

    @kepler11: I think you missed the point, but thanks for playing!

    His post wasn’t “Wow, I’m so surprised by this!” but rather “Man, WTF is going on? Why are these fees so arbitrarily outrageous? In fact, I’m so irate that I refuse to patronize this business any longer!”

    As you point out, business will charge what the market will bear. The upset gentleman is simply an example of the market NOT bearing the charges going forward.

    And for future reference, “but all the other airlines are screwing people too!” is not a cogent argument for whether they should be doing it.

  44. donovanr says:

    In-cabin pets? If the person next to me had little fluffy buns out I would never fly with that airline again.

    • GregDean says:

      @donovanr: Having a pet out is, in fact, against airline policy. The pet is to remain in the carrier at all times.

      Frankly, the notion that all people with small pets treat them as some kind of fluffy little deity is insulting. Just because someone chooses to fly with a pet does not make them a bad person. As others have said – our dog makes no noise, and the only way people even know she’s there is if they saw the carrier before we got on. The screaming kid three aisles back? THAT’S the nuisance.

      • RedwoodFlyer says:

        @GregDean: No kidding…the GF and I agree that a flight into Orlando is the best form of birth control around because parents are inconsiderate!

        We took our ferrets on Delta awhile back and while I was asleep, they opened the zipper and one of them started stealing someone’s shoe! Luckily, they didn’t have a stick up their butt and they just laughed it off

    • jamar0303 says:

      @donovanr: Then take Southwest. I think they’re the only US-based airline that doesn’t allow pets under any circumstances.

  45. Trai_Dep says:

    The nice thing about having dogs on board versus children: stuck on the tarmac past the six-hour mark, grilled children taste awful!

  46. LetMeGetTheManager says:

    Ironic that the zip code for United ends in 666.

  47. Shark1998 says:

    Every body forgets Delta……they are probably the worst I have ever had. But, hey, at least Delta is consistant about it.

  48. Cattivella says:

    My dad also used to be an extremely loyal United customer, but over the last few years the ridiculous stuff they attempt to pull has waned his enthusiasm for the company.

    He finally agreed to fly Continental for our last trip (which went very smoothly) and now he’s given up on United for life.

  49. Trick says:

    Love the fee’s.

    Tickets to San Francisco are only $250. Cool. Oh wait, fee’s bring the total up to $600.

    UPS is sending our package to little Timmy for $9. Cool. Oh wait, fuel surcharge of $4.50 & another rural delivery charge because it is 3 miles from the nearest UPS center, $2.37.

    $1 for Chicken McNuggest! Cool. Oh wait, another $.10 for Hot Mustard.

  50. s35flyer says:

    What the hell is he doing with a pet in the cabin anyway!

  51. opal says:

    I am not looking forward to Continental joining the Star Alliance. They seem way less squeaky than United, and it’s probably more likely for things to normalize towards the worse end.

  52. BeeBoo says:

    Here’s why flying doesn’t make sense anymore:

    NEW YORK TO DC: TAKE THE BUS!

    The Delta Shuttle is rolling out wifi this Spring for an extra $9.95 a flight. Add $339 for the flight itself, $35 for the cab to get to the flight (LaGuardia) and $20 for the cab when you land at National – all in, $405, give or take; $810 round trip. (Unless you want a wider seat – Delta adds a First Class section December 1 that adds another $170 or so each way: $1,150.) Door-to-door travel time each way – when traffic to and from the airport, weather, air traffic control, and so forth, are all cooperating: around two and a half hours.

    The Acela offers no wifi and takes four hours, door-to-door, but you don’t have to take your shoes off to go through security and the round-trip cost, with cabs to and from the station (you could take the subway) is a more modest $450 or so. You can even plug in your laptop.

    The slower train adds half an hour, so all in you’re at maybe four and a half hours – and there’s no electrical outlet at your seat – but round-trip is about $215 (because I know you’ll take the subway).

    But . . . ta-da! . . . these express buses between Washington (Dupont Circle) and New York (Herald Square) have free wireless for the approximately five-hour door-to-door journey, at less than $60 round-trip. Some of the buses allow riders to vote on which movie to watch, and to offer free water, and I’ve heard some of the buses even have AC power at the seats – none of this is stated on the web site, so it may depend on which bus you happen to catch.

    [www.andrewtobias.com]

  53. Anonymous says:

    I flew United once, last Christmas. After an equipment problems cause my wife and I to miss a connection flight on another airline, United left us high and dry. We ended up having to rent a car, one-way to get to our destination by Christmas (three days later) to the tune of $350. Coupled with the missed flight, we were out nearly $800. United saw fit to compensate us for $300. I promptly sent it back and told them what they could do with the $300. Have not and will never fly with them again… hope they go out of business.

  54. Anonymous says:
  55. arl84 says:

    “I don’t care if these people aren’t personally responsible for these fees. They’re representatives of United, and as such, they deserve to hear what I have to say. Take your fees and shove it.”

    I had sympathy for you until this point. But it’s obvious that you cannot show sympathy for someone else, so why should I show it to you?

    Fuck you, Greg Dean. Fuck you with a shovel.

  56. JiminyChristmas says:

    I live in Minneapolis, where Northwest controls about 80% of the gates at the airport. I was recently looking into a flight to O’Hare and was stunned at the price. I fly very infrequently, but a year ago I flew MSP-ORD for about $220. Now it’s $380, if you try and estimate your “optional” fees in addition to the fare and all the typical fees.

    We recently got the news that Southwest will start flying out of MSP in March. They have said they will offer a flight to Chicago Midway for $69 each way. I’m guessing that comes to about $175 RT bottom line. Now, I assume Southwest makes money or breaks even on every one of those $69 flights. So, if they can do that…where in the world does that additional $200 Northwest, and every other legacy carrier, charges go? I would prefer to fly into O’Hare and would be willing to pay more, but it sure as hell isn’t worth $200 to me.

    Anyway, to bring this rant to an end: It has been maybe 18-20 years since the last time I drove, instead of flew, home for the Holidays. Well, it’s the end of an era. Add the vagaries of holiday air travel to $380 and a 6-hour drive plus $50 for gas each way is the hands-down winner. And I won’t need to borrow my Mom’s Lincoln once I get there.

    • RedwoodFlyer says:

      @JiminyChristmas:

      Northwest uses those profits to subsidize money losing routes which provide the necessary feeder traffic for MSP-ORD and other routes….

      Southwest is more concerned about making sure each and every route is profitable…which naturally makes sense!

      Even though Southwest will surely have fares above $69 the closer you get to the date of travel….even if the flight had 130 pax each paying $69, the yield would be $9,100….which would result in a minimum $800 profit..nearly 10%!

  57. dweebster says:

    United became Untied many years ago.

  58. kwsventures says:

    How many times has United Airlines filed bankruptcy? I lost count.

  59. carlogesualdo says:

    Greg, you should give up this group and come talk about travel. Some people can be so mean…

  60. lincolnparadox says:

    Um, I don’t know if I’m magical or something, but I just used my frequent flier miles to book a direct flight from here to Denver and it only cost me $5.

    Now, apparently, I will be paying $30 round-trip for my overnight bag, but I don’t feel any more screwed over than that.

  61. Blueskylaw says:

    I dont care about credit cards that give me miles, bonuses, or any other bogus garbage. The only credit cards I use are ones that give me cash back. There is no charging me $150.00 to get my $20 cash taken off my bill. What airline miles are given with one hand, they are easily taken away, reduced, or charged to hell with the other.

  62. Blueskylaw says:

    May 10, 2005 – Bankruptcy Judge Eugene Wedoff approves United’s plan to terminate employee pensions, clearing the way for the largest corporate-pension default in American history.

    July 21, 2005 – United completes second round of negotiated labor cuts in bankruptcy, adding another $700 million in annual labor savings.

    Sept. 7, 2005 – United files reorganization plan outlining its intentions for repaying its debts and wiping out its stock. Forecasts nearly $1 billion operating profit in 2006 but based on oil prices falling to $50 a barrel.

    Unions representing the workers most recently were riled by a provision in UAL’s reorganization plan that grants an estimated $115 million in equity to the top 400 management personnel. Tilton’s (CEO)share of that amount has been estimated at $15 million.

    So after UA workers pensions go bust, and stockholders are wiped out, the executives in the new company automatically get to split $115 million between themselves for having run the company into the ground.

    Sorry for the rant, I had problems with them before and had to vent.

  63. krunk4ever says:

    Here’s the direct link if you’re still interested: [www.reallifecomics.com]

  64. GoVegan says:

    I am surprised that the airlines have not installed pay toilets yet!

  65. Anonymous says:

    The guy paid HOW MUCH to drag the mutt along? That wasn’t a pet-in-cabin fee, that was a stupid tax. For that much money he could have brought a midget along to sit in the middle seat!

  66. Anonymous says:

    I would just like to add to this that I too am boycotting United. I flew with them from Tallahassee, FL to Milwaukee, WI a few months ago and went through hell just getting to my destination (and back).

    I flew to Milwaukee,WI to goto a friend’s wedding. plane tickets for 2 people were nearly $900!!!!!!!! (and that was the cheapest fare!) so anyways, we had a flight out of Tallahassee at 7:10am. we were running a little late that day and go to the airport at 6:45am. cutting it close I know, but this is not a large airport by any means. well, we go up to the ticket counter to get our boarding passes and what’s this? THERE IS NOBODY THERE. there was a little bell, that said ring for service. we did. we waited. we rang again, etc. at 7:10 somebody finally came out and was basically like ‘uhhh, sorry, you just missed your flight’ WE WOULDN’T HAVE MISSED IT IF YOU HAD BEEN AT THE TICKET COUNTER YOU DUMB SHIT! it only took us 5 minutes to go through security when we eventually did get our tickets for the next flight out at 11am so you can imagine how pissed we were. perhaps it was because we were on a tight schedule that made it all the more stressful. see, we were supposed to go the rehearsal dinner and stuff that night at 5pm! my girlfriend was in the wedding party so this was kind of a big deal. anyways, eventually we get on a plane to Charlotte, NC where our connecting flight was. we had already missed our connecting flight, so we had to wait until 4pm for th next one! (if things had gone as planned we would have arrived in Milwaukee around noon!). thing is, the next flight at 4pm was FULL so we were on standby! after everyone got on board we got lucky as there were 2 empty seats, so we got on the plane at 4pm and then sat on the runway for an hour waiting to take off! oh fun. by time we arrived in Milwaukee it was nearly 7pm (central time so minus 1 hour!) oh well. as if that wasn’t bad enough, when we left to go back home a few days later, we went up to the ticket counter to get our return boarding passes they didn’t have them! they asked if we had some problems flying here and we both gave this stupid bitch the look of death and said yes damnit! to which she replied “oh I see you were late on your previous flight, so that automatically canceled your return trip! WHAT THE FUCK!? WE WEREN’T LATE! THERE WAS NOBODY AT THE FUCKING TICKET COUNTER YOU CUNT! so anyways, she eventually got our passes and we returned home, vowing to never fly US AIRWAYS ever again.

  67. AMyzesta says:

    Greg, been a fan of Real Live for years, favorite storylines are ones involving Tony and his ‘evil mastermind’ plans.

    Anyway, I’m sorry you had to suffer this. Hope they refund you for every overpriced fee that you had to pay and decide to make you a free flyer for life.

  68. Anonymous says:

    I had a similar recent experience with US Air. I bought a round trip ticket between Philadelphia and New Orleans (Tues to Thurs for a meeting), and I paid $720 (which seems to me should be a “full price ticket”). When I discovered that I could come back a day sooner, I tried to change the return limb to Wed (used to be free to make this change!). The new ticket price was $920 and there was an additional $150 change fee, so I was asked to pay an additional $350! And on top of the $15 for first checked bag and $2 for water, and other nickel-and-dime charges, I said NO WAY! I stayed the extra day in New Orleans and spent that money to help the local economy rather than give it to those bastards at US Air. I cursed something fierce at the customer service supervisor, which is something I have never done before. This absolute lack of respect for customers will completely change my air travel practices.

  69. Barney_The Plug_ Frank says:

    Why the hell would you move back to Mexifornia or Marxifornia?

  70. Anonymous says:

    I had to change my return from a Saturday to a Sunday and they wanted to charge me 800.00. I bought a one way
    home on USAir for 150.00.
    Clueless.

  71. phil28 says:

    I’m a permanent United Premier Executive, having flown over a million miles. But I rarely fly them anymore because of the penalties to change a flight. I was supposed to meet a client in Chicago so made a reservation. when my client changed his plans and I tried to cancel the flight, I could not, just apply the amount to a future flight…less of course the $150 change fee. That taught me an expensive lesson. Stick with Southwest because I need not think twice about booking and I am flexible to make changes at the last minute.

  72. mythago says:

    @kepler11: The “free market” is sort of the point, isn’t it? Customer doesn’t like surprise ridiculous fees. Customer takes business elsewhere. MARKET WIN!

    So why are you wagging your finger at people for doing what THE MARKET wants them to do?

  73. Anonymous says:

    I’m only reading this b/c I love Real Life Adventures.

    I’m not terribly surprised by this. The one airline that’s doing well through this is Southwest. Perhaps the big guys should take a queue from them?

    BTW, b/c Southwest doesn’t charge me for bags, I choose them whenever I can. Even if other airlines change their policy, Southwest will still get my biz.

  74. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    I wish they’d raise the pet fee to $1000 each way so I don’t have to have some little yapper sitting in the seat next to me. Could they also charge a $1000 fee for small children under the age of 8? He’s hardly one of their “better customers” if he’s paying the baggage fees. No offense dude. Most of those fees you should have known about before you ever booked the ticket.

  75. halloweenjack says:

    Screw United. I used to prefer them myself, but the last time I flew with them was the last, period–rescheduled flights both ways, and on the outbound leg they tried to put me on a flight the next day, and only after multiple insistences on my part did they admit that they had another flight that night that I could get on. Plus their terminal in O’Hare was crowded and hot. I took a trip to the same area recently via Northwest, and although it took a long time (bouncing between hubs), it was cheap and relatively hassle-free.