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How bad does flying stink these days? Unless you’re the kind of person who can travel first class courtesy of an expense account or your own financial success, tons.
I’ve just been reminded of that — again — for both professional and personal reasons. Let’s start with the professional …
Yesterday, I saw on the newswires that JetBlue Airways (JBLU, Weiss Ratings: A-) is going to cave. It will start charging checked bag fees for its least expensive tickets early next year, leaving only Southwest (LUV, Weiss Ratings: A-) as bag-fee-free among the major carriers.
|JetBlue will add bag fees and squeeze seats a bit closer together as it tries to boost profit.|
Not only that, but it’s also going to cram more seats onto its planes — reducing the amount of leg room passengers have to stretch out. Its Airbus A320 planes will have 165 seats after the changes, up from 150. The refitting process will start in 2016.
For Wall Street, it’s great news. JetBlue estimates the bag fees will boost revenue by $65 million next year and $200 million over the next few years. Additional seats? That’s another $100 million.
A JetBlue executive actually had the gall to call these changes “upgrades.” That’s like execs from other airlines saying that all of these extra fees are great, because they give us the “choice” to pay for only the things we need to use. Like what? Clothes to wear at our destination? LOL.
That brings me to my latest personal experience. My stepson’s grandfather just passed away, necessitating a last-minute trip to Chicago for all of us. It’s a tough thing to deal with as is, and it’s even more frustrating when you learn that bereavement fares are no longer offered.
Meanwhile, the American Airlines telephone representative said she couldn’t seat everyone together despite the fact my stepson is still only 15 and we’re traveling to take part in a funeral. We would have to wait until getting to the airport and begging the gate agent for some understanding. That is, unless we paid either an extra $24 (per passenger) for “preferred seats” … or an extra $48 (per passenger) for “main cabin extra” seats.
What’s special about a preferred seat? Virtually nothing. It has the exact same legroom as a regular chair. Supposedly, it’s “favorably located.” But looking at a seat map for the flights, I don’t see a darn bit of difference.
They’re not in exit rows and many of them are middle seats anyway. One so-called “preferred” seat selling for an extra $20 on a return leg from Chicago was all the way back in row 31 — right by the galley and toilets!
|“I don’t know about you, but all of this smacks of skyway robbery!”|
True, the “main cabin extra” seats get you a few rows closer to the front of the plane and a “whopping” six extra inches of legroom. But that’s what? $48 per seat to get off the plane maybe a minute or two faster than someone further back?
Oh and to top it all off, we technically had to modify my stepson’s earlier booking for a “Thanksgiving Eve” flight rather than start a completely new booking. Result? We also had to shell out $200 in change fees!
I don’t know about you, but all of this smacks of “skyway robbery!” You pay a lot more than you used to. You get a lot less than you used to. And unless you’re a high roller, you get bad service to boot!
What do you think? Is flying as bad as I suggest? Or have your recent experiences been better? Have you noticed your flying bill go up lately, or your knees being even sorer when you get off the plane? Or am I making too much of the inconveniences of modern-day travel? Make sure you take advantage of the comment section at the Money and Markets website to add your two cents.
|Our Readers Speak|
It seems like almost everyone had some thoughts about the bout of severe weather, and what it means for the economy, retail sales, and their own livelihoods.
Reader Tommr said he doesn’t see what all the fuss is about. His take: “I see plenty of people out driving to some destination or other and out in the big stores spending hundreds every day. I am sure that very few, if any, of these people are One Percenters. They are the Ninety Percenters. All these people seem to have plenty of money to spend all the time!”
Reader John also said not to worry too much about the nasty November weather because it doesn’t necessarily signal even tougher times ahead. He said: “There appears to be almost no correlation between November weather and the rest of the winter. The Weather Channel ran the correlation dispersion for most of the past century, and it was virtually random.”
Heck, Reader Caron M. even said it’d be nice to have MORE of it — at least in the right parts of the country. The comments: “Interesting article as we sit here in the Pacific Northwest awaiting snow to even fall in the ski areas. As a ski instructor, I look forward to snow in the winter. I wish it were here!”
But Reader Don L. said weather isn’t the real threat to the economy — it’s a whole host of other things. His view: “With China’s economy slowing and Europe mired in recession and trying to fight off deflation … and all the while Germany is tiring of bailing out the weak who refuse to pursue austerity … are not these conditions likely to spill over to the U.S.? I see signs of deflation already.”
Personally, I’ll be getting my share of the cold in Chicago this weekend. But I’m lucky enough to come back to sunny, warm South Florida so I can’t complain too much.
As for the economy, we are still doing much better than the rest of the world — as the statistics I mention below demonstrate. But yes, the longer the weakness persists overseas, the greater the risk that it washes up on our shores.
Any other thoughts? Please don’t hesitate to share them here!
|Other Developments of the Day|
Remember all those investigations and multi-billion-dollar bank settlements related to market rigging and other shady practices in precious metals, interest rates, and more? Looks like the problems are even more widespread, at least according to a fresh Congressional investigation of bank practices in the broader commodities market.
A two-year probe into the operations of Goldman Sachs (GS, Weiss Ratings: A-), JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Weiss Ratings: A-) and other institutions found many potential problems. The banks reportedly purchased large amounts of physical commodities, exceeded limits on commodity holdings, and otherwise flouted or skirted rules for their own benefit — even as no completely illegal behavior was identified.
President Obama is going to use his executive powers to overhaul the immigration system, as part of a plan he’s going to lay out in a speech later tonight. Up to 5 million illegal immigrants will be protected from deportation, and given a chance to obtain work permits. But substantial opposition from the Republicans could derail broader immigration reforms.
On the economic front, existing home sales rose 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 5.26 million in October. That topped forecasts, and it left sales at a one-year high.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Fed index of manufacturing activity in that general area almost doubled to 40.8 in November from 20.7 in October. That was way above forecasts for a reading of 18.5, and the highest level in any month in 21 years.
Another day, another campus shooting. This time, it was at Florida State University where a gunman shot three students before being confronted and killed by FSU police. The early morning attack is just the latest shooting spree on elementary, high school, and college campuses in the U.S.
Until next time,
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