In the late 50s and early 60s, the comedy duo of Nichols and May performed their clever and popular sketch comedy duets. In one of these, a grieving man responds to an ad for a $65 funeral. Having confirmed the price, the woman at the funeral home asks whether he might be interested in some extras. For example, she offers, “How about a casket?” Watching them perform it is far more entertaining than reading as I describe it. You can do that HERE. And you ought to.
It used to be that a plane ticket came with everything, including attentive service, a movie projected on a screen in each cabin, private headphones, and a balanced meal, served on a tray—with silverware, no less. Nowadays, it’s more like the funeral home sketch. Having purchased a flight, one might be so misguided as to think everything is taken care of. And it is…unless you’d like to bring some luggage along on your trip. For that, there’s a surcharge. You’re not obligated, of course. It’s just an option offered to those who might like to change clothes at some point in the near future.
This surcharge simply appeared one day without warning (like the commercials that now run at movie theatres along with the previews). Back when Nichols and May were performing, such a thing would have been laughable; the transporting of luggage was an obvious part of the service.
I can’t imagine what travelers of the past would have thought of being charged for in-flight food and beverages—talk about getting hijacked. And if you happen to forget your headphones, the flight attendants will now gladly sell you a pair, at a marked-up price. You’d like to hear the movie as well as see it? Pay up, friends.
Perhaps you’d like to choose a particular seat, say, one that isn’t immediately adjacent to the restroom door. That’ll cost you plenty. You no longer have to fly First Class to get soaked. There are now several intermediate levels of shakedown. You can upgrade from Basic Economy (somewhat better than riding in the cargo hold, but without the leg room) to Tolerable Economy (a scant improvement that offers the possibility of exiting the plane within six hours of landing), Humane Economy (you may be able to flag down an attendant), Pretty Good Economy (you get to retain your dignity and move your feet), or Premium Economy (which rings up a hefty total just to earn you a tiny bag of pretzels and restore the basic flying experience to which you’re accustomed). Your $250 ticket? It’s now up to $1248.57…plus tax.
Personally, I miss the Darwinian seat selection system: You book early, you get better seats; you snooze, you lose.
But, as in the funeral sketch, customers are being squeezed at their time of need, when they don’t have much of a choice. One often needs to travel by air. When doing so, the need to bring luggage is fairly common. Sometimes, in order not to miss a connecting flight, one must choose a seat near the front of the plane. And so we pay. But, unlike the funeral sketch, it’s not all that hilarious.