Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Backhanded Thank Yous

The things that make me the maddest are often the things for which I end up giving thanks. Who knew that even the airlines and their additional fees could cause such gladness?

How do they glee me? Let me count the ways, beginning with luggage fees.

When the big six began setting and sustaining new records for lost luggage, at first I was angry. I was angry when, a day after my bag didn’t show up on the AA carousel, their recorded message still had no idea where it was. I was angrier when I drove to O’Hare, my home airport (group groan, please) only to find it sitting out in the middle of the floor along with eight billion other “lost” bags. However, ultimately those sneaky airlines taught me to travel lighter, which is a wonderful gift. Now, if it doesn’t fit in my carry-on, I deem it unworthy; if it makes my carry-on too heavy, I don’t pack it. My non-aching back thanks the airlines, as, I’m sure, will my fellow travelers when they no longer have to endure the very loud GRRHUUUUUUH! I used to emit as I heave-hoed my lunker roll-aboard over my head. All along, those clever airlines were simply preparing me to avoid their new checked luggage fees. Right on!

When they started charging for peanuts--and now US Airways will soon make us ante up for water and a soda (can the rest of them be far behind?)--I stopped eating handfuls of things that weren’t good for me. I now carry my own little baggies of healthy mixed nuts, or a protein bar, or maybe even a sandwich. And I never board without a bottle of water—accept when I forget. (My bad.) Since we’re so crammed into the overbooked and ever shrinking seats, I don’t have room to bend over to retrieve my wallet anyway, so thanks again! Think of the money I’m saving!

And speaking of money, when American Airlines said they would begin charging us to use our very own hard-earned frequent flyer miles, even when we book online, I was beyond angry—especially since I was already paying an annual credit card fee to accumulate miles even faster. (I know: dumb!) But even their grab to render to them what has already been rendered delivered good fortune. You see, they tripped my IT'S TIME TO DO SOMETHING, CHARLENE! trigger. The first thing I did was to phone my credit card provider to cancel my AA credit card.

But wait! It gets even better! After some discussion as to why I was doing this, the agent advised me I could keep my same cc number (what a pain-ola when you have to change numbers, especially with all the automatic “bill to credit card” we have set up) and simply change the type of card. Now, rather than earning airlines miles I have to pay to earn and pay to use, and which I can only use for 6 a.m. flights, I will earn cash back. Cash I can apply to gasoline purchases, for which I will also earn cash back. I realize that’s not on the same scale as the Lion King’s “Circle of Life," but still, it’s a circle that sure beats paying to use my very own hard-earned miles for which I already paid--twice. Plus, my new type of card gives me even more perks. How about that?! Again, I thank the airlines.

I’m anxious to learn what they will think of next to improve my life. Perhaps Will Allen III already came up with it: “Pay to pee.” He astutely speculates that they could also sell tiny rolls of toilet paper. But no problem-o! I consider the very idea another new training program to enhance my life. How so? Because I’m grabbing a few yards of toilet paper right now and tucking them into the outside zipper compartment of my bag, just in case. What could enhance my travel experience more than being able to use my very favorite brand?


William A. Allen III said...

So right on all counts, Charlene!

Regarding the sale of on-board everything, I already carry my own little snacks on board, and I highly recommend ZONE PERFECT bars. They are compact, very good for you, and they really sate one's appetite, too.

I have yet to find ZONE PEFECT bars in any airport, but I buy them by the dozen at Harris-Teeter and Whole Foods and at most large grocery and food retailers. They are the size of Snickers bar, and with GOOD HEALTHY stuff built into them instead of all that sugar and fattening goop in airport snack shack candy bars.

Thanks for the tip of the hat to my blog, allenontravel, and my now-defunct pay-per-pee plan!

Anonymous said...

Charlene: How are you taking water on board? I can't get a bottle of water pass the Security checkpoint. Are you buying it in the terminal? Or are you packing it in your luggage? (I normally have a half drunk bottle in my handbag so I can stay hydrated on my long wait through security.)


alice, uptown said...

So, I lucked out by 10 days, circumventing the fee for using AA miles...sort of. When you want to book an AA miles flight for more than one person, and the second person doesn't have email, you must do it by telephone, at $20 per ticket.

On the other hand, my travel companion and I just used up ALL of our AA miles for our trip to South America that would have cost $1800, each, r/t in steerage class. (I'm assuming/hoping that come December, there will still be a nonstop flight from JFK to Buenos Aires.)

I figured that since the miles will be worthless any day now, I'd better use them up while the going was still, um, going.

Charlene Ann Baumbich said...

You, Dear Alice, are a smart, smart person. I better get crackin' and use MY AA miles up before they, too, expire--the way I mindlessly allowed my UA ones to do.

Charlene Ann Baumbich said...

I, too, often have a small bottle of water with me during security waits, then I dump it just before the check point. Once I pass through, I immediately buy a new bottle; I'd never get on a flight without one.

Some people are bringing along their own empty containers and filling them at the drinking fountains after they pass through.

One thing is sure: you don't want to travel without water. Staying hydrated is one of my top priorities on the road, and airports, airplanes and hotel rooms are brutally dry.