Remember the days when the choice between checking or carrying on your luggage was a free one, and revolved around convenience? “Let’s carry on our luggage so we don’t have to wait at the baggage claim” or “let’s check our luggage so we don’t have to deal with the kids’ bags”. The choice was yours and ultimately, it was free.
Remember the days when you complained about airplane food? “Well this doesn’t look appetizing” or “I wish they didn’t run out of the pasta option”. Now you’re stuck ordering fast food before you board or gobbling down mini pretzels and peanuts to satiate your hunger on a 6-hour flight. It’s that or pay $10 for the same mystery meat we were offered before at no charge.
Remember the days when you could bank on a free in-flight movie for the kids to watch? It was guaranteed entertainment for at least 2 hours. Now parents are forced to invest in iPads and video games to keep the little ones (and themselves) quiet and not bored stiff. A 6-hour flight with nothing to do is not a far cry away from torture.
Remember the days when airlines tried to make customers comfortable with a blanket and a pillow? Sometimes you even got TWO blankets if you asked nicely? Now you’re forced to make nice with your neighbor in case your head lolls onto their shoulder. That or wear those ridiculous neck pillows.
Okay, enough reminiscing, you get the idea. Within the past few years airlines have gone from a comfortable, reasonable experience to a criminally expensive and ridiculously uncomfortable means of travel. And unfortunately, it’s the only means for travel to Hawaii. Unless you’re planning a cruise. But for most travelers, flying is the only way to get around. And airline companies have taken full advantage of this. They know we have no other option.
Airlines now charge for all checked luggage and you’ll be hard pressed to find any that offer free amenities like seat choices, meals, earbuds and blankets. The airline industry has pushed a variety of fees onto the weary traveler in order to boost revenues and margins. Okay, we get this. Airlines need to make money too. But really, how far are they going to take it? It seems the fees have continued to become more and more absurd, yet travelers can do absolutely nothing about it. Except give in and pay in. We’re forced to comply because we have to travel.
So because the future is not looking too bright for the costs of air travel, we’ve compiled a list of fees you can expect from the major airlines. We’ll also give you our two cents on which airline is most cost effective when it comes to Hawaii bound flights plus a few pointers on how to beat the fees.
Here’s a quick list of major airlines and what they’re charging these days for the additional luxuries’ of flying:
American Airlines charges $25 for the first check-in bag, $35 for the second and $150 (each) for any additional checked baggage. AA also offers Main Cabin Extra seating that offers 6 inches more of leg room and costs anywhere between $8 and $108 depending on the length of the flight.
We asked our Facebook fans if they would pay $50 for extra leg room and there was an overwhelming majority of yeses. No one wants to feel like a sardine, yet the only way to escape this is to pay. And most travelers are game. So what’s worth the extra money and what can you live without? Keep listening for some travel tips and in the meantime, here’s more about American Airlines.
As for free amenities, AA offers one tv per every three to five rows that drops down from the ceiling, this is usually called overhead entertainment’. If you’re lucky enough to sit at a good watching distance, you can purchase earbuds to listen to the show. So be sure to bring your own because who doesn’t have an extra pair lying around their house? They also offer free magazines for your entertainment… Lucky for us those in-flight publications are getting more interesting to read. Our favorite is Hana Hou, which is found on Hawaiian Airlines.
Speaking of, Hawaiian Airlines is one of the few airlines that still offers a free meal. (Can you say travel incentive’?) Passengers on morning flights from the continental U.S. and Canada to Hawaii can start their vacation early with a complimentary Mai Tai and a breakfast box containing Hawaiian bread, guava jelly, dried tropical fruits, and a macadamia-nut cookie. Free lunch and dinner options include teriyaki chicken, salad, and mango cake, plus a glass of wine. Baggage fees are $25 for the first checked bag, $35 for the second and $125 for any additional bags. But free food might help to offset these charges.
Hawaiian also does the overhead entertainment and charges $2 for earbuds. Again, bring your own on ANY flight.
United Airlines charges the same as Hawaiian for the first and second checked bag, but only $100 for any additional ones. A good trick to avoid the checked bag fee is to do it at the gate. This costs NOTHING. As for the free amenities, travelers can expect to receive the standard complimentary beverage service with snack packs’ available for purchase. Beyond this I think you get a bag containing a few pieces of trail mix on flights longer than 2 hours.
Alaska Airlines charges $25 for the first checked bag, $25 for the second and $75 for anything additional. Alaska seems to be by far the cheapest when it comes to checked luggage. You can purchase hot meals and digi players (for movies, shows, music, etc.) but Alaska only offers free beverages and a small pouch of snacks during their Hawaii flights. Everything else you have to purchase.
Delta charges $25 for the first checked bag, $35 for the second and $125 for additional bags. And don’t think you can get away with the freebee at the gate. Delta charges $25 to check your bag even when you do it at the gate.
So what’s worth the extra money and what can you live without? Well, we found out from our Facebook fans that extra leg room is a big one, and many travelers are willing to pay the additional dollars for the chance to stretch out. Especially for anyone 6 feet tall and over. Unforunately for these folks, their legs don’t even fit in the seat and often times they have to point their knees sideways. So we understand why this is a biggie.
As for checked bags, we recommend going with only one or two and paying the price. Anything beyond three checked bags ends up costing an arm and a leg, and you might as well deal with the hassle for 6 hours and save the money for that boat trip along the Na Pali coast or that fun luau in Waikiki. It’ll be more worth it.
Meals are definitely worthwhile. Unless you’re okay with bringing along fast food or cellophane wrapped sandwiches from Starbucks (which is fine too). Luckily the airlines haven’t gotten too outrageous with food prices and you can still get a decent snack pack for $6. And usually on a 6-hour flight you’ll want two small meals or so.
Earbuds- skip on this. Plan to invest in them before your trip, or just bring along your phone or iPod earbuds. They’ll work just fine.
As for preferred seating, this term is so loosely defined that any seat at this point can be considered preferred’. When we think of preferred seating we think of exit rows, bulk head rows, window seats, aisle seats and seats situated toward the front of the plane. But in reality, preferred seating can mean all this and more, including any seat that is historically selected by more passengers, any seat that the airlines decide to set aside for last minute (highest fare, usually people on business that must be on the flight to make a meeting) passengers, and other criteria that are even less defined than this. Simply put, it’s probably not worth the price.
Here are some travel tips that we’ll reiterate to make your flight easier:
– Bring your own earbuds
– Keep a sweater in your carry-on so you can use it as a blanket or pillow
– Pack snacks
– Bring your own entertainment (i.e. books, magazines and iPads)
– Pack light
– Look into baggage fees ahead of time so you’re not shocked when you check-in
– Only check-in the really cumbersome baggage, the rest should be manageable as carry-on’s
– Wear comfortable clothes that allow you to stretch easily in your seat
– When you check-in, ask about seating. Sometimes they’ll hook you up with something preferred’ if you’re nice
Given all this information, I’d say that the best airline to fly when coming to Hawaii is Hawaiian. They offer a little more than the rest of the airlines, like Hawaiian music upon arrival, friendly staff and an aloha vibe that is unmatched elsewhere. Plus, the free meal is a HUGE contributor. Aside from that, my other two favorites are KLM and China.
I guess things will get really bad when they decide to charge for water and restroom services. Oh wait, has that happened already?
Posted by: Bruce Fisher on Jan 13, 2014