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Wes Moss: The perks of flight and how much they cost you

Greetings from 30,000 feet. As I write this I’m on my way to New York City to promote my upcoming book, You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think. I’ve been flying a lot recently and it has got me thinking about the airline industry. First off, comedian Louis CK is right when he says air travel is an under-appreciated miracle. When people complain to him about flight delays or cramped seats, Louis reminds them: “You are flying! You are sitting in a chair in the sky! You are like a Greek myth!”

Still… The experience could be better, couldn’t it? Here are three (very) random observations from my travels.

U-S-A! U-S-A!: It’s good to know that American business still leads the world in at least one category. US airlines accounted for the bulk of the $27.1 billion in fees collected by the world’s airlines in 2012. The airlines are now officially fee junkies. That 2012 figure represents a ten-fold increase over fees collected in 2008! Some charges are understandable –in-flight Wi-Fi, for example. Some are irritating. Among these: extra charges to book a ticket on the phone. Other fees just seem greedy. Really? You’re going to charge me extra to bring LUGGAGE on a TRIP?

Some fun facts about fees (no charge):
•United Airlines brought in the most 2012 fee revenue at $5.4 billion.
•Next is Delta, which raked in $2.6 billion from fees.
•American’s fees were $2 billion.
•Spirit Airlines generated more than a third of its revenue from fees.
•Southwest made $161 million from Early Bird boarding alone.

Yes, I’m a Big Baby: One fee I would gladly pay is for access to a kid-free section on a long flight. We don’t have that option yet in the US, but several foreign airlines do offer it.
•AirAsia X has the Quiet Zone, seven rows only for those 12 and older free of charge.
•Malaysia Airlines does not allow children younger than 12 in the top deck of its planes and bans babies in first class.
•Scoot Airlines has the ScootinSilence section behind business class. This section comes with extra legroom and is a childfree zone. However, you do have to pay about $14 extra.
•Japan Airlines has designated two regular flights from Tokyo to Honolulu as “most suitable” for preschool kids. While anyone can take these flights, they have more picture books and toys to keep kids occupied.

You Can’t Take It With You: Add this to your estate-planning to do list: Use your frequent flier miles before you die. USA Today recently asked several airlines about their frequent flier transfer policies and found that even if you leave your points in your will, there is no guarantee your loved ones will get to use them.

Five airlines (Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, and Spirit) said your frequent flier miles expire when you do. Other airlines handle this situation on a case-by-case- basis. In some instances there are fees associated with the transfer of miles.

OF COURSE there are!

Just keep reminding yourself that it’s a miracle…

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