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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Are the Airlines Anti-Family?

Planning a trip, husband David Ridenour finds that airlines aren't exactly family-friendly...
You ever wonder why airlines are about as popular as used car dealers these days? Perhaps it's due, in part, to their anti-family policies.

Case in point: I learned this afternoon that when you fly with your family on Southwest Airlines, you can't use one frequent flyer number for everyone to consolidate your miles, but must establish a frequent flyer program for each family member. It doesn't matter that the same person is paying for all the flights nor that the children are very young.

As a Southwest agent helpfully noted, "It's a frequent flyer program -- you have to fly frequently."

That customer service training really paid off, didn't it?

Well, the Southwest agent wasn't exactly correct, anyway.

You see, since you can give away your "Rapid Rewards" points to any family member, the only thing Southwest achieves through this rule is giving already busy parents one more thing to do.

I take that back, it does do at least one more thing...

It adds to Southwest's costs (stockholders are gonna love that). Do they really think a seven year-old is going to fly more so he can take advantage of special Rapid Rewards promotions?

Of course, its not just Southwest that has anti-family policies.

Almost all the airlines now charge an "excess weight" charge -- usually $25-$50 -- for any bag weighing over 50 lbs.

The airlines argue that this policy is necessary to reduce excess fuel costs caused by overloaded baggage compartments. But if if this was really the case, wouldn't they impose an overall weight limit rather than a per piece limit?

Under the current policy, a businessman with two bags weighing 49 pounds each -- 98 pounds total -- is charged nothing, while a parent with a bag weighing 70 pounds -- or as little as 51 pounds -- is charged up to $50.

There's a practical reason why parents, especially those with small children or children with special needs, might have heavier luggage. They might try to consolidate everything into one bag to have a hand free for children.

These parents are faced with a choice: Pay the extra $50 or take the risk their child won't be lost or abducted in a busy airport.

Cost savings? In this litigious country, it's only a matter of time before a distraught parent sues an airline.

Stockholders are gonna love that, too.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:22 PM

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