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The Fee Fee
Wednesday, August 11, 2010 • Posted August 11, 2010

A few years ago I went to Georgia to cover the annual Yamaha boat motor press conference. Of course, I wasn’t supposed to go to Georgia for that, I was supposed to go to Tennessee. But then, all those southern states look pretty much alike, so it was an easy mistake to make.

Actually, the conference was supposed to be held at the Yamaha complex near Chattanooga, Tennessee, but it wasn’t. It was moved to a spot near Atlanta, on account of the Yamaha complex being pretty much under water at the time, due to some torrential rains. So, at the last minute, the conference was moved to Atlanta.

This created a problem for those of us who were coming in from somewhere else. My flight, which the Yamaha people set up, took me through Cincinnati and then to Chattanooga going out, and then on the way back I was supposed to fly from Chattanooga to Atlanta, and then to Austin. So I rented a car in Chattanooga and drove to Atlanta. If you ever have to drive from Chattanooga to Atlanta, I recommend turning around and going home.

Anyway, I got to thinking that, since I was already in Atlanta, there was no sense in driving back to Chattanooga, and then taking a plane from Chattanooga to Atlanta, and then home. So I called the airline and told them I would not fly that first leg of the trip, just the part from Atlanta to Austin.

The guy said, "No problem, sir. We’ll just change your ticket. It will cost you another $150."

I said, "No, you don’t understand. I don’t want to fly more on your plane. I want to fly less. You can sell my seat to someone else. I should get a refund."

The guy said, "I understand perfectly. And it will cost you another $150." He wasn’t kidding, and although I was talking to him on the phone, I could swear he was saying all this with a straight face. No shame at all.

What I’m saying here is that the airline business has been taken over by insane lunatics from outer space. Or something. I see no other way to explain it.

Let’s say you go to a restaurant, and when the waiter comes over you order a couple of steaks. And then, in about a minute, you decide you only want one of them. You tell the waiter to cancel one of the steaks, and he says, "Sure, we can do that. You’ll just have to pay for three steaks now." Would that make sense?

It would not. But that’s what the airlines are doing to us. And it’s our fault, for putting up with it. Airline fees have gotten completely out of hand. This is only one example. There are plenty of other airline fees, such as the Standby Fee, the Phone Reservation Fee, the Sit In A Seat Built For Humans Fee, and the Fly On A Plane With Actual Wings Fee. And now, to top it all off, the airlines have decided to offer a Fee Fee. Really.

American Airlines has decided to offer what they call their ‘Boarding and Flexibility Package.’ What that means is that you pay about twenty bucks up front, and then they won’t charge you the Standby Fee, and if you have to change your flight they will only stick you for $75, instead of the usual $150. What humanitarians.

Do the airlines think we’re so dumb we’ll put up with whatever they want to charge us, just so we can ride in one of their flying sardine cans for a little while? Yes, they do. And they’re right, evidently, because they’re still there, and we’re still paying them.

The outrageous fees, though, are not necessarily the worst part about flying. I’m not sure you’re aware of this, but they won’t let you carry a gun on a plane anywhere in America, even if you have a valid Concealed Handgun License. The gall.

Someone really should do something about that, what with all the terrorists going around trying to cause trouble on planes. For goodness sakes, you can walk right into the Texas state capitol building with a gun as long as you have a Texas CHL, and there are probably a lot more important people in there than there are on most planes.

As a matter of fact, a lot of folks, mostly lobbyists, have been applying for CHLs lately so they don’t have to stand in line at the new metal detectors at the capitol. The metal detectors went in after a yahoo recently fired off a few rounds from a rifle on the capitol steps, and it’s slowed things down some at the north and south entrances. But with a CHL you get to avoid that and hit the express lane.

What the airlines need to do is let people with CHLs fly free, as long as they bring their guns with them. That way the airports would be safer, the planes would be safer, and they could charge all their ridiculous fees to the folks who can’t pass a background check, such as terrorists and Enron CEOs.

Me, I’m driving. My wife and I will probably be on our way to Indiana by the time you read this, and we’re on the highway. I just hope they haven’t decided to hold the annual conference of the Professional Outdoor Media Assn. in Atlanta . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist who never uses airplane bathrooms unless absolutely necessary. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

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