Crowded Plane

Consumer advocate Christopher Elliot has a dismal outlook for the future of the airline industry.

Somehow, “free” flights will be more expensive. Airlines will take your money in both large and small increments, depending on where you  sit – but they’ll still make off with your money one way or another. Competition will cease to exist, meaning more expensive fares for us all.

Lobbyists for the airline industry tried to strong-arm Congress into putting its “transparency” bill to a vote on Tuesday, which would allow airlines to quote a price not inclusive of taxes or mandatory fees.

If passed, airlines will be able to quote simply a “base” fare, adding the extras to the subtotal later, prior to completely the purchase.

It may be one of the worst customer-hostile pieces of legislation by Congress in years, essentially giving an entire industry a license to lie about its prices and leaving the customer with the impression that the fare is much cheaper than it is.

Here are Christopher Elliot‘s 5 Reasons Why Flying Won’t Be Fun in the Future:

You’ve made the right choice – the only choice.

Considering all the mergers in recent history, it’s highly likely that only one domestic airline will be left. We’ll be stuck with an Americanized version of Ryanair. Oh, the horror.

“Free” flights.

Even if the cost of an actual airline ticket dropped to zero, airlines will continue to make money like never before with fees for seat assignments, checked bags, carry-on bags, printed boarding passes and drinks. Airlines will even charge for mandatory “fuel surcharge” and “insurance surcharge,” which won’t be part of the base fare, but is still required as part of your purchase.


Conditions in the back of the plane will go from bad to intolerable. Seat pitch may shrink down to 26 inches, a full 10 inches less than before airline deregulation. And what will you get along with your limited personal space? Bombarded by ads and come-ons for “frequent flyer” credit cards.

Here come the personal cabins.

It’s not hard to envision a world in which major airlines will have fitted their first class sections with personal cabins featuring convertible sofas, conference tables and modest living areas – for those willing to pay for it. The flying Pharaohs of tomorrow will be divided into more than a dozen elite levels, one more special than the next, and they’ll be tended to by gourmet chefs, masseuses, on-board entertainers and fly attendants to cater to every whim.

Don’t worry – they’ll pay too. Or at lease their employers will.

Even passengers with elite status will get skimped on the “free” stuff, even after shelling out a hypothetical $12,000 of their company’s money for a personal cabin. Airlines will continue to take advantage of a slew of comprised ancillary fees at the top level, like wait lists for luxurious seats.

Airline apologists will continue to insist that this is the only way for the industry to be profitable; pay more, get more. And they’ll insist that it’s fair.

Inevitably, the mentality will be: “If you’re flying “free”, then shut up and take your place at the back of the plane – where you belong.

In a perfect world, the airline industry would treat every paying customer with a minimum amount of dignity and respect. Today’s airline seats are getting precariously close to torture. There’s not much more that they can take away, but you can bet that they will, and they’ll give them to the “best” customers.