Posted in Travel

The travel game: Winning a few hands

I flew back from my son’s house in Dallas on a discount airline into Orlando. I’ve got this figured out. My only luggage is a backpack that meets the 18 x 14 x inch size for a free carry-on bag to fit under the seat. My cheap flights stay cheap.

While waiting for my zone to board the plane, I watched with amusement as the gate agent pulled several passengers aside whose bags clearly didn’t meet the free personal item criteria. Not even close.

If challenged, a passenger must fit their bag or backpack into a metal bin with specific dimensions. Many were not even close. I believe some were twice the size of a “personal” item.

One woman who failed the challenge pulled items out of her bag and laid them on a chair. Then, zipping up her bag, she successfully got it into the bin. With patience and perseverance, the agent instructed her, “Now put all that stuff in your bag and do that again.” Nice try!

I watched the distressed faces. We’re finally boarding the plane. But they were caught red-handed. They would now have to pay through the nose for their carry-on bags. They were surrounded by signs telling them to measure their bag and pay for their bags. Size bins are everywhere. They assumed none of that applied to them.

Here’s what I find interesting. All of this is intentional. I believe the airline sets me up to spend more money. (It’s always about the money, isn’t it?) They sell me a very low fare – $38 one way – to go and visit my son. Once I pay for my ticket, the game is on. Want to check a bag? Pick your own seat? Want more leg room? Want wifi on the flight? How about snacks? Priority boarding? Each will cost you a little more money. I didn’t add them all up, but if I chose them all, I might pay more than I would for a ticket on a regular airline.

I decline them all, but then the emails come. Have I changed my mind? I can still purchase these options. But each is just a little more expensive.

When it’s time to check in, I have to wade through all the options yet one more time. Just in case I have a little extra money laying around.

I’ll bet a lot of passengers ignore most of the emails, texts, and options. Then they arrive at the airport, and they’re going to pay.

It’s a clever game. I’ve lost a few rounds. But now I know how to play. I’ve won a few hands in the game of travel.

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