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Life As We Know It: March 11, 2013

         America’s commercial airlines continue to squeeze every last nickel out of their customers. In fact, they’re piling on. Spirit Airlines is charging passengers for the carry-on bag they bring aboard – as much as $40.

          It’s true that passengers are stuffing everything they own into the overhead bins these days. But what choice do they have? Checking bags can add well over a hundred bucks to the cost of a trip.

          What’s next? Twenty dollars for transporting the jacket on your back? I’ve got an idea for the airlines. Since they’ve pretty much discontinued complimentary meal service (not that that’s a bad thing), maybe they could start charging a $10 user fee for lowering the tray table. People are bringing their own food aboard now and they need someplace to put it.

          So I took the liberty of calling the bean-counters at
East-West by South-Southeast Airlines to offer my assistance. Here is what I remember of our conversation:

          “Hello, welcome to East-West by South-Southeast Airlines. If you are calling to make a reservation, press one. If you are calling to cancel a reservation, press two. If you are calling to apply for a job, you are delusionary. If you are calling to offer new and innovative ways we can separate our passengers from their money, your call is very important to us. Press three or stay on the line.”

          How convenient. I press three. After seven minutes of listening to tinny music – I think it was “Shut Up and Get on the Plane” by the Drive-by Truckers – I hear a pleasant female voice.

          Her: “East-West by South-Southeast Airlines. How can you help us today?”

          Me: “Hello. I’m an occasional customer of yours and I don’t think you guys have given enough thought to this fee business. I have some suggestions that could really boost your revenues.”

          Her: “I’m listening. In fact, so is everybody else. I just put you on speakerphone.”

          Me: “All right. Listen up. First thing you do is strike a deal with McDonald’s. People are bringing those Big Macs aboard anyway and you’re not getting a penny of it. You’re also not making anything on those little bags of peanuts. Sell burgers at 30,000 feet for less than they cost in the terminal and it’s a license to print money.”

         Her: “Whoa. Good one. We’ll get on it.”

         Me: “Here’s one that will annoy everybody but it’s a sure moneymaker. Push a portable karaoke machine up and down the aisle and charge $5 a song. Then charge the other passengers a buck apiece to make the singer sit down and shut up.”

         Her: “Wow. A win-win.”

         Me: “Yes indeed. And you know that jump seat in the cockpit behind the pilot? Sell your passengers the right to sit there during the flight. Fifty bucks for 10 minutes. Who wouldn’t want that opportunity?”

         Her: “What about the FAA?”

         Me: “Tell ’em to get in line. Fifty bucks for 10 minutes.”

         Her: “Any other bright ideas?”

         Me: “Yes. Offer a deplaning lottery on every flight. Sell lottery tickets by rows. If your row comes up when you land, you get to gather your belongings and exit first.”

         Her: “It’s genius. Anything else?”

         Me: “Yes. Pay toilets. People will be begging you to break a twenty. They’ll probably tell you to keep the change.”

         Her: “Sir, we can’t thank you enough. May we send you a voucher good for $10 off your next carry-on fee?”