Tuesday, May 27, 2008

come fly with me -- or not

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."


Todd said...

Before we moved to Patzcuaro, and we just exploring Mexico on our vacations, We would only take one piece of carry-on.

No Checked baggage. Made life so much easier.

Check out this site for one bag advice.

We would also book open jaw tickets.
That's where you fly into one town and out of another.

Then when we felt like it we would just hop on a bus and hit the next town.

The bus system in Mexico is great, and executivo buses (ETN was our favourite) we took between cities had more comfort and room that the plane we flew to Mexico in!


Steve Cotton said...

Todd -- I usually try to do the same thing on short trips. I have a back pack that will easily give me a change of clothes for a one-week trip. The problem on the coast is getting laundered shirts to dry fast enough in the humidity.

My concern about luggage is directed more at my trip next year when I move down. Of course, I will probably drive down -- so, I really don't care about luggage restrictions, I guess.

wayne said...

Charging for a window seat? What happens when I want my usual aisle seat and they are all full? Will I be forced to pay for the window anyway? And does the guy in the middle get a discount?

When I fly, if my overhead area is full, I ask my seating companions if it is their luggage. If not, out it comes, I set it on the floor, put mine in, close the door and wait for the fight!

Beth said...

We have the same requirements when choosing a city in Mexico to live in. It must be conveniently close to an airport so that we can travel back to Canada quickly if need be. In my research for our upcoming trip to Playa del Carmen, I discovered that a lot of the cheaper airlines drastically reduce their Mexican schedules which is a real disappointment. There are a few, like Spirit Air, that continue to have cheap and regular flights, which thrills me! It does mean that we have to drive 4 hours to Detroit, but it's also 1/2 the price of flying from Toronto. The downside to this? They only fly into Cancun. Westjet flies into Mazatlan, but only during the winter months. Booo Westjet.

Steve Cotton said...

Wayne -- I was wondering the same thing. But I guess something similar already happens. If a seat is not available for the price I am willing to pay, I just don't fly on that flight. American Airlines has taken the drastic step of grounding a large percentage of its fleet and cancelling flights until the fuel costs come down. Not likely to happen.

Beth -- I suspect that choosing a city for air convenience is not going to be as easy as we once thought. Maybe I will just sail back and forth.

Hollito said...


one little trick if there are no or only few direct flights:

In MX, fly to Juarez, then cross the border (it´s really no problem as EP and Juarez are more or less one city, just with the border running through them)and take a connecting flight to the airport in the USA you want to reach.
I`m pretty shure this will often work better than trying to get from MX into the States (and even the other way around) "the normal way".

My wife currently works in EP and takes all the flights to meetings or to her family in MX from Juarez (she says it is much more complicated to get from EP to a destination in MX, as there are nearly no direct flights).

And hopefully we will fly from Juarez to Guadalajara in September to travel on and spend one (lazy) week in sunny Nuevo Vallarta. :-)

Steve Cotton said...

Great to hear from you again, Hollito. And good suggestions on travel. Now that I have figured out the one day a week I can fly in the summer, I should be able to let friends know when they can get down here.