A la Smarte

Expectations for travel amenities are nowhere where they once were, even as recently as a decade ago. I remember once feeling that it was my right as a passenger to enjoy a suite of complimentary services and creature comforts: meal service, checked bags, a seat assignment, etc. That bubble has begrudgingly burst, with airlines now discovering that ancillary revenue is a multi-billion dollar industry in itself. This now requires that every gram of food, pound of baggage, and inch of legroom comes at a price.

And I'm totally cool with that. While market economics may have required that traveler's largess be curtailed, it has allowed for airlines to focus on providing the most economical pricing for their core service. And if you desire anything above and beyond, you can pay a reasonable amount from the airline, or depend on another dedicated service that's likely superior since it's their dedicated service.

Based on the URL above, you can probably guess where I'm going with this. Instead of notoriously bad microwaved mystery meat, we have the option to pay $9 for a pretty nice and reasonably healthy sandwich and chips. If you want to recline a bit further, it'll cost you just cents a minute for limousine-length economy plus legroom on that coast-to-coast flight. And, if you care to indulge before your flight at airport lounges like the United Club, American Airlines Admirals Club, Delta Sky Club, and many others, you can buy your way into that experience as well. Given the amenities and creature comforts offered by the latter, the cost of admission is completely justified for many a use case - see my previous post if you disagree. Granted, it may not seem cheap, but it's a pretty fair taste of first class living at only a fraction of the cost of a first class ticket. And if that's where you want your money to go, it's available to you anytime you fly.

Alternatively, if you want to avoid the fees, there's a host of ways to economize your way to your destination. Instead of checking that extra bag or getting priority boarding for assured overhead bin space, take advantage of the still-complimentary air conditioning by wearing your ski jacket and three pairs of pants on travel day. Carry on a juicy homemade thanksgiving turkey for lunch with 3.4 oz of gravy and cranberry sauce. I'm sure there's a clever legroom solution that I haven't thought of too (comments, anyone?). In either case, we now have the ability as consumers to exercise consumer choice in a way not previously possible, and make sure that your money goes where we want it to go. In many cases, it now goes further. Want me to tell you more value-enhancing tricks? Look for me in the lounge. I'll be the one enjoying a glass of chardonnay in the full ski suit.

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