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USAir – The $15 Airline

Updated on December 24, 2008

Okay, to a certain extent I agree that it’s all my fault. I waited until the last possible moment to make my travel arrangements to fly back east for the holidays. Dumb, right? Well, yes it is considering the same ticket I had been “eyeing” a month earlier was now $200 more but since I had resigned myself to the fact that this would not be the first time in twenty years I would not not spend Christmas with my guy and his family, what else could I do? I made the reservation. Now I used to travel all the time for business and while I would like to say that it gave me extensive knowledge as to which airline was better than another in reality I just went where they told me when they told me and let the travel agent decide. At my current job I’m completely spoiled as I usually am on the corporate jet so I admit my view of air travel may be a bit skewed. However, never in my life have I experienced what I am experiencing right now, as we speak. That’s right, I’m writing this from many thousand feet in the air on USAir – the $15 Airline – Don’t Get Me Started!

It all started when my travel agent called to let me know that if I wanted to, I could upgrade to first class on my flight within a week of traveling for $150 each way. Now, all ready having paid more than I thought I should have had to pay, this was not an option for me. (And now that I’ve seen the “supposed” first class – it’s only worth the $15 that I’ve had to pay for everything else). Now at first I thought that the cheaper upgrade than most airlines was a good thing, kind of cool and made sense to me that instead of the usual, having to determine what the current market price is of the seat, whether the house is in Aquarius for a Saturn car dealership (here’s the price) you could upgrade.

‘Twas the night before travel and all through my house I was packing my bags as my cats got in and out of my luggage looking for what? A mouse? And so I went online to check in for my flight. I hadn’t realized when I told the travel agent that any aisle seat would do that I had in fact ended up in row 28 of the plane. Well, as I went to see what other seats were available, I noticed that there was a sweet aisle seat in row 5. As I clicked on my new much better seat a window popped up letting me know that would be $15 please. What? I thought to myself, what the hell is this? But deciding that since I wasn’t being a sport for the $150 to get into first class, for $15 I could at least get the first class breezes. There was even a part of me that thought this was a good idea for the airlines to make some more money and for last minuters like me to still seem as though we had planned ahead to our fellow travelers. Little did I know it was just beginning of what would be a nickel and dime you to death experience.

I arrived at the airport ridiculously early as there had been some “weather” back east and I wanted to make sure that I could find a spot in the economy parking lot at the airport. (As no one is really from Las Vegas, parking at the airport is always at a premium around the holidays.) As I took the shuttle from the parking lot with only a few people on it I thought this was a good sign that all would be easy sailing on this trip. As I entered the airport there were several long lines all ready in progress for some airlines and yet, USAir seemed to have less than a third of the other airlines (my mind immediately began racing – was this why I was able to get a ticket? How bad were things going to get here?) The smiling older woman pointed me to a kiosk and I began the check-in of my baggage. After inserting my credit card and it finding my flight it asked me to let the machine know how many bags I would be checking. I depressed the “1” on the screen and immediately a screen popped asking for, you guessed it, $15. Now I had heard of airlines charging for bags but I hadn’t actually experienced it before and for some reason I had told myself that it was only on the second bag. Using the “back” buttons I went through the process again, only to discover that indeed I was going to have to pay to get even my one bag checked. As I waited in the line for the desk agent to give me my printed label for my suitcase I was thinking about how I had gone with the middle sized suitcase in my luggage set of three and how I should have taken the larger case had I known it was going to cost $15. The older woman ran after me with a flimsy piece of paper. It was my receipt for my baggage payment. As she looked down into my hand she saw the boarding pass I had printed the night before. She chastised me for not going to the “check bags only” kiosk and I looked at her as if she was crazy as there was no line and I had paid my $15 so what the hell else did they want from me?

As I waited at the gate, half-asleep for my journey I couldn’t help but notice that my “premier seating” was in “zone 7” for boarding. What this means is that you’re the last one to board the damn plane and since everyone is traveling with the worst kind of crap gifts for everyone they know at this time of year that meant I could kiss overhead space good bye. As we waited for boarding, the agent at the gate desk kept getting on the microphone announcing how many first class seats were still available for $150. He did it in such a way that it seemed as though he might guess your weight as well. “Okay folks, we do have one seat left in first class for $150. That’s right, just one left.” At once I knew that he had been turned down as an infomercial host and was trying to make up for it. For a moment, the Jew in me thought that he’d come down in price as it got closer to the flight and if he had gone to $75 I would have considered it – being that it would have then been like a half off sale of sorts and couldn’t be considered the dreaded “retail.” Had he thrown in the lemon zester I might have considered it at the full $150.

So we get on the plane, I shove my coat in the overhead bin, shove my bag under the seat in front of me where it’s lodged so tight from lack of space that no doubt to get it out was going to require grease or some sort of lubricant (too bad my lubricant was in the checked luggage). My $15 extra seat doesn’t recline. I have no room for anything and as I’m writing this, I have my feet leaning out (side saddle) into the aisle so that I can have the bag out of its cramped quarters and my computer on the tray. No doubt I’ll need a hip replacement when this is all over.

As the flight attendant came around with the “bistro snacks” for sale I was sleeping (well, sort of) but I was awake enough to hear how shocked the women beside me were to discover that their coffee was going to be a $1 and the Diet Coke was going to set them back $1.50. When the flight attendant came back to offer a refill, how could you blame the woman for asking how much it would cost? Apparently coffee refills are free and as she asked if the woman wanted sugar or cream. I was thinking (like a good Jew) that if it was me I would have asked for every cream and sugar she had if it was free and then sell it for some increment that involved a “1” and a “5” like they did with the $1 coffee, $15 seat upgrade and luggage $1.50 soda and finally the $150 first class “upgrade.” The woman who took the refill of coffee began telling the center seat person (whom she didn’t know) that on a Southwest flight she took recently they couldn’t give you enough snacks. And I sat in quiet anger that I hadn’t booked Southwest for this trip, as I used to use them quite a bit, like them and my uncle stopped being a rabbi and is now a flight attendant for them. (Don’t ask)

They just pulled the mesh curtain (that looks like something they would use on Trading Spaces to theme a kid’s room as a medieval castle or something. It has that mesh chain mail feel to it but is completely see-through). And while I was right, I can indeed “get the breezes” from first class from my upgraded seat, I’d pay another $15 not to have to smell the stench that is whatever the hell it is they’re serving them.

All this to say, that indeed air travel has lost all its glamour and if you want to fly USAir you’d better treat it like going to a strip bar and have a lot of singles on you because they’re going to $15 you to death. USAir – the $15 Airline – Don’t Get Me Started!

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    • profile image

      Carols2wow 8 years ago

      Hey Scott, I only hope that your holiday was a good one. It really is hard to believe what's going on with the airlines, but I guess they are all doing their best to see that Southwest becomes the most popular airline. Enjoyed this rant a lot, and it just makes me even happier that I don't have to fly anywhere. Happy Holidays. Carol

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile image

      Stacie Naczelnik 8 years ago from Seattle

      I'm all about JetBlue, but they aren't flying everywhere yet.

    • Meg McNeal profile image

      Meg McNeal 8 years ago

      Yes fly South West if you can. I really like them. I seldom have any problems with SouthWest, a friend doesn't like them, because one time she had a hard time getting a wheel chair, and then she almost missed her flight, but I haven't had any trouble ever with them.

    • Nicole Winter profile image

      Nicole A. Winter 8 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Right on, somelikeitscott! I hear you, man, these airlines just get away with it! You're already in the seat, there's nothing you can do, but fly SouthWest next time :)

    • Lgali profile image

      Lgali 8 years ago

      nice hub