Saturday, July 6, 2013

How I Beat the Odds and Flew the Cheap Flight

How I Beat the Odds and Flew the Cheap Flight ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

My friends Richard and Marcia told me about a new airline with really cheap flights if you happened to want to go to one of their destination cities. Richard said that for the cheapest seats, they strapped you to the wings. That Richard is such a tease. But I understood that this would be a no-frills flight. Not even a tiny bag of free peanuts!

Once I figured out how to unlock the information for "flight only" on the website, bypassing all the marvelous vacation deals with hotel, rental limo and gourmet meals, I discovered that I was indeed in luck. I wanted to go to one of the Sun Cities for a short visit with a friend. Cheap-Seats-R-Us listed my city as one of their few destinations. I could make the entire round trip for less than I usually pay for gas to get out of Montana.

Living in Montana is like being stuck on fly paper. It is hard to lift off! When I lived in Seattle it cost me a fortune to fly into Great Falls, the closest airport to home. It was cheaper to fly to London. On the other hand I could fly to Las Vegas, should I want to go there, for $69.00. For the same price, and with a strong tail wind, I can fly from, say, Harlem to Turner.

But that is neither here nor there. On Cheap-Flights-R-Us, I found I could fly round trip from Great Falls to my destination city for a mere $86.30. A hot-diggity-dog deal.

But wait—what about those add-on fees, such as the Federal Excise Tax. And what is this "segment fee"? Bugs have segments. But I’m a human being. Did I count as one segment or more than one segment? Are arms and legs each a segment? What in tarnation is a PFC? And a September 11 Security Fee? I kept my booking receipt just to prove it to you. See, says so right here. To all of this, add on a Carrier Usage Charge. I guess that means I was allowed to actually board the plane and stay on it from Point A to Point B. If I wanted to choose my seat, I had to add another $30.00. If I let them choose for me, I paid nothing. That was a tough one. I like to sit with my damaged leg on the aisle so I can get out of my seat at the end of the flight. But, hey, thirty dollars is thirty dollars. I’m now up to $133.98 and at the mercy of computer-pick seating, which is like a poor-man lottery.

Now we come to the fine print—baggage fees. One is allowed to carry on a purse or wallet for no charge. However, on Cheap-Seats-R-Us, a carry-on bag costs $30.00 if you pre-pay. More if you wait until you check in. The first checked bag costs $50.00 and the next one costs $80.00, pre-paid, more at check in. This brought my $86.30 ticket to a grand total of $235.96; that is for myself and one bag, pre-paid. Get the picture?

Ha! I created the perfect solution. I was headed to sunny shores for a short couple weeks. I had to smile at how clever I was. First I put on an adequate number of sets of undergarments. Then I squeezed into my bathing suit. Over that I pulled on two pair of shorts, two short pants, one long trousers, one loose wide-legged dressy pants. With five or six blouses and shirts, I was set. I strung several necklaces around my neck and jammed a ring on each finger. I didn’t say I looked stylish but I certainly did look cheerful. I could tell because everybody grinned at me. I wore my best sandals. In my oversize purse I tucked my toothbrush and several "beach read" type books and a folded large plastic trash bag. I could hardly move my arms or legs.

I knew I’d be in trouble if I had to take off my clothes to clear Security. What a relief when I was directed through the full-body scanner. The person monitoring the scanner made me stand on the mat with my arms up while he called over several co-workers to take a look. Finally he waved me through with a friendly smile. When I boarded the airplane, all I had to do was squeeze into the seat, extend the seatbelt to the longest length and tug it to fasten it.

When I got off the plane I waddled down the concourse to the nearest bathroom. I quickly stripped down to one set of clothing and stowed the rest of my garments in the plastic garbage bag. Voila. I walked out of the terminal carrying my plastic luggage and a savings of $102.00.

Sondra Ashton

HDN: Looking out my back door

June 13, 2013

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