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TSA Gets The Point
Walking (Off) In Memphis

Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Another week, another fee to wrangle more money from travelers.

United just announced new “subscription” services for things that are currently covered by attaining MileagePlus status:

United Airlines has launched subscription options that offer customers access to Economy Plus seating or pre-paid checked baggage charges for a year. 

Travelers may access Economy Plus for a year starting at $499.

United’s checked baggage subscription one year, $349. 

“The Economy Plus and checked baggage subscriptions offer our customers more of the comfort and convenience they value year round,” said Scott Wilson, United’s vice president of merchandising and e-commerce. “We are pleased that, as we launch these services, we are able to provide new options for customers to tailor their travel experiences.”

That means the annual basic rate to gain what travelers took for granted just a few years ago – seats where your dining tray doesn’t press against your knees and baggage check-in that’s covered by the cost of your ticket – will now set you back almost $850.   

As with all retail products there are certain “buyer beware” elements to the latest subscription scheme. Listed among the terms and conditions for the Economy Plus subscriptions is a stipulation that “Economy Plus seat requests and specific seat assignments are not guaranteed”. So be sure to read all the fine print before you opt to pay nearly $500 to subscribe to a seat that may or may not be available on your next flight.
Oddly, if you have a United credit card you get a free checked bag per flight for $95 per year. You also receive priority boarding (now on par with low & mid-level Premiers) not to mention club access, etc.  All things that are currently “perks” at the Silver and Gold Premier status.  
United appears to be rolling this out not just to generate a one-time revenue source from the cost of the program, but to ensure that flyers will continue to purchase tickets on United. Frequent flyer programs cost nothing to the consumer to join, and the “payback” period is often a long time away. 
But if you plunk down that $350 for the baggage fee or $500 for the extra legroom, then you have created a sunk cost which increases the incentive for you to book all of your flights on United for the rest of the year. 
For the airlines, fees provide billions of reasons continue. Last year, the industry raked in a record $6 billion in airline fees, with United alone collecting $706 million in bag fees, FareCompare notes
Just put pay toilets on the planes and be done with it!
TSA Gets The Point

Our uncut commentary

Paul Hudson, President of FlyersRights expressed “relief” that TSA reversed course and will not allow knives on airliners.
FlyersRights had filed a legal petition in opposition with the Flight Attendants and other unions, spoke out against it on numerous occasions, and submitted written testimony at an April 11th House Subcommittee on Transportation Security hearing.
Hudson noted, “This shows that when air traveler organizations unite and work together, a crazy and dangerous TSA policy like this knife policy, secretly lobbied for by the American Knife & Tool Institute and then promulgated in a surprise announcement by TSA Administrator John Pistole with no stakeholder input, could be and was properly defeated. 
Hopefully, the TSA has learned the lesson that transportation security policies affecting many millions of air travelers need to be fully vetted with all stakeholders, not made just on internal deliberations and secret lobbying by those with special financial interests or insider connections. This is the third time that the TSA has had to reverse a major security policy decision in the past several years.”
Walking Off In Memphis

Delta dumps hub, cuts 230 jobs

Despite Delta promising Congress in 2008 that a merger with Northwest would not impact its Memphis hub, thereby securing an immunity from antitrust law, Delta flipped last Tuesday and announced it would close its Memphis operation.

It’s the outcome that was feared in small hubs like Memphis, Cincinnati, and Salt Lake City when the wave of airline mergers began five years ago.
Delta flew as many as 240 flights per day out of Memphis in June 2009, including a flight to Amsterdam. 
When it bought Northwest in 2008, Delta executives said repeatedly that no hubs would be closed because of the merger. The possibility of hub closures was a major topic of Congressional hearings into the deal. 
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, blasted Delta’s decision. Cohen noted that Delta CEO Richard Anderson told Congress in 2008 that the merger of Delta and Northwest would not impact flights in and out of Memphis and had even hinted at the addition of a Paris flight. “He said that the merger was about addition, not subtraction,” Cohen said.
Cohen said in a statement that he has reached out to the Justice Department “to discuss the growing evidence that Delta is violating the promises made to the Department when seeking antitrust immunity for their merger.”


Quote of the Week
The last time I felt good on an airplane was when I worked for PanAm and always traveled 1st class (1961).  Since then, every flight has been torture for me!  – Jim H., FlyersRights member.


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