My latest trip to Mexico almost did not happen -- because I have not yet learned some of the airline customs. I knew that there were several "direct" flights from Portland to Manzanillo connecting through Los Angeles. (You may recall that one of my 10 guidelines for choosing a place to live in Mexico was: "I want to be close enough to my old friends that it will be convenient for them to visit.")
When I tried to set up a reservation for a July flight, I kept getting warnings that no such flights existed or they all involved overnight connections and multiple aircraft changes.
Something had to be wrong -- and it was. I did not realize that Alaska (like other airlines) cut back their flights to Mexico during the summer. That may be because most sane people do not fly to places where the heat and humidity are reported to be unbearable.
Once I figured out the one flight each week that met my criteria, setting up a flight was easy. Of course, with the increase in fuel costs, the fare increased markedly, as well. But I need to look at this potential rental. So, shelling out the dollars is not really a concern.
When I printed off my eticket, I discovered an announcement in the small print:
Effective for travel on or after July 1, 2008, one piece of checked baggage will be allowed free of charge. Each bag can be a maximum of 62 linear inches (length + width + height) and may weigh up to 50 pounds. Excess baggage charges apply to additional pieces, overweight pieces between 51 and 100 pounds and oversized pieces of luggage.
I was not surprised. American Airlines now charges for both pieces of checked luggage. I suspect that Alaska will soon follow.
The airline's rationale makes sense -- in isolation. Checked luggage requires more baggage handlers. More baggage handlers incur more costs. Why should travelers with minimal luggage subsidize those with heavy luggage?
As a libertarian, I applaud paying for services I use -- even though I am not certain about the coming additional fare for window seats. My concern is that an airline flight is not a series of isolated transactions. And there will be unintended consequences here.
Passengers already bring too many parcels on board the plane. That is one reason for the reenactment of the settlement of Oklahoma when the ticket agent announces the start of boarding. I fear what little civility exists between passengers will soon disappear when Aunt Mary moves grumpy Jerry's refrigerator and replaces it with her cement mixer.
On my last flight, my seatmate had already stuffed his belongings under the seat in front of me. He asked if I minded as I stood there with my over-stuffed back pack.
As Margo Channing said: "Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night."