Having exhausted all other ways of squeezing nickels out of fliers, American Airlines has apparently come up with an innovative revenue idea: charging passengers extra to have their seats bolted to the floor of the plane.
The plan hasn't been officially announced, but how else to explain reports of seats coming loose on three flights in the past week? In the public relations business, that's called floating a trial balloon or, in this case, propelling the occupants of 12D, E and F via a sudden drop in altitude.
I developed a love/hate relationship with American when I lived in Dallas years ago. I loved American because you could fly it almost anywhere. (I once asked a long-term transplant to Dallas where the best place was to go on a weekend. He answered quite seriously, "DFW Airport – Departures.") At the same time, I hated the airline because it was essentially your only choice for flying nonstop out of Texas. You never want to play an American lawyer or lobbyist in "Monopoly."
With little alternative, I've accumulated a few hundred thousand frequent flier miles on this airline over the years. Meanwhile, my wife – the globetrotting executive goddess that she is – has long had American's coveted Platinum status, a designation achieved by completing 100 consecutive flights without grabbing an attendant by the collar and screaming, "Six dollars for a box of raisins and a Wet-Nap? Are you people insane?"
That kind of loyalty still doesn't get you much these days. On a recent family trip across country, I found myself with our two children back in economy while my wife lounged about with the Hiltons and Kardashians in first class. She received her seat as a "free" upgrade, most likely as a reward for steadfast refusal to use the bathrooms in-flight thus saving the airline precious cents on toilet-cleaning blue goo.
About halfway through the flight, she came back to visit us among the rest of cattle. In a fit of pity, she offered to swap seats with me so I could enjoy a complementary drink up front while reveling in the privilege of flying without my kneecaps embedded in my chest.
After settling in with the beautiful people, I asked the flight attendant for a gin and tonic. "I can't," she said. "This is not your seat."
"Well, it's my wife's. We just switched for the last half of the flight."
"Since you didn't pay for this seat, you will have to pay for the drink," she said.
"But we're married. We have a joint bank account. She makes significantly more than I do, but I'm sure my meager earnings covered at least the complimentary drink portion of this first-class seat."
However, this was not about giving away 35 cents worth of alcohol and fizzy water. According to the flight attendant, it was about redistribution of the wealth by grossly overestimating the generosity of the people who paid extra to avoid the unwashed masses crammed in the back. "If I let you have a free drink," she said, "then EVERYONE from first class will be switching seats with people in economy."
As first class is usually ripe with bleeding hearts and socialists, I chose to avoid inciting a riot and simply passed on a drink. Then I promptly stuffed the translucent red remnant that American passes off as a blanket into my carry-on bag.
Settle down, Mr. Legal American Eagle, I'm not keeping your company's rag. Next time I fly I'm apparently going to need to use it to tie down my seat.
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