I think it was the "antler fee" that finally sent me around the bend.
That's right, I said antlers. Frontier Airlines has raised the cost of transporting a rack of antlers from $75 to $100. I wasn't aware antler transport was such a big deal, which made me wonder: What other off-the-wall fees are airlines collecting these days? More to the point, what new fees are airline execs even now plotting to spring on us?
I do not know, but I decided to try to think like an airline bean-counter and came up with some diabolical possibilities. "Oh, Rick," you may be saying, "these ideas of yours are insane; no one would dare institute such crazy fees." To which I can only reply: I hope not, my friends. I hope not.
And now, in no particular order, here are my Top Ten Totally Crazy Airline Fees -- That Don't Exist -- Yet!
No. 1 -- Lavatory Licensing: Until the mid-1970s, pay toilets were common in the United States (and for those who like trivia, credit for their demise must go to the Committee to End Pay Toilets In America -- seriously). So what's to stop the airlines from resurrecting this scheme?
Perhaps they'd treat lavatory fees like current checked-bag charges: the first trip to the bathroom is free, but look out for that $25 tariff for the second visit.
Drawback: Remember, American Airlines now charges for every checked bag; if it institutes a similar lavatory assessment, passengers just might want to skip the beverage service (assuming it stays free …)
No. 2 -- Nausea Tax: The weather is stormy and it's starting to feel as though the captain is showing us all the tricks he learned back in his days as a stunt pilot. What wouldn't you give for a nice clean paper bag? Well, what would you give? $5? $10? I'm just asking before the airlines beat me to it.
Maybe this really is something worth paying for; ask anyone who's had the experience of reaching into the seatback pocket only to discover an ABUB ( airline-speak for an "already-been-used-bag.")
Drawback: Will an additional fee be required for toxic bag disposal?
No. 3 -- Oxygen Tariff: It's one of those terrifying moments -- the oxygen masks appear! Better have your MasterCard ready (credit this idea to political cartoonist Steve Benson of the Arizona Republic, who captioned a recent cartoon: "In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from the compartment above your head. For $15, you can activate it …")
This could be a real money-maker for the airlines, since I suspect everyone will be reaching for those masks once they add up all the fees and surcharges on their airline ticket: The total cost of a flight has been known to make grown men faint dead away.
Drawback: Let's just hope that plastic tubing can hold the weight of the oxygen mask as well as a credit card reader.
No. 4 -- Seatback Stipend: Tired of the eternal struggle between passengers who want to put their seatback down as far as it will go, and the passengers who are tired of having a stranger's head in their lap? Well, once you pay this fee, you can slam your seatback down wherever and whenever you like.
Drawback: Once the other guy starts paying a fee to prevent the passenger in front of him from lowering his seatback, we're going to have trouble.
No. 5 -- Kiddie Corral Cost: Traveling with a child? Sorry, but you'll have to pay this fee so the little ones can travel in their own separate section. Childless passengers may applaud this move -- but maybe parents will, too, since no one will be able to identify which misbehaving imp is theirs.
Drawback: Flight attendants supervising the Kiddie Corral may qualify for "hazardous duty" pay.
No. 6 -- Fat Fee: Charging passengers by the pound. Gate agents would have scales near the boarding area, and to be really fair about this, they would assess fees on everyone who weighs more than 100 pounds (we could call this fee the Super-Model-Exempt Surcharge).
Drawback: Since hardly any of the airlines serve meals or free snacks anymore, passengers may lose weight on flights; will they then be due a refund?
No. 7 -- Beverage Cart Start Charge: Ever notice that when you're dying of thirst, the beverage cart begins service 25 rows ahead of you? Be first in line, by paying the cart start charge; flight attendants begin service at your row, for a price.
Drawback: As we all know, those aisle jamming carts never begin service until you have to use the facilities, but I 'm sure the airlines could come up with a fee to address this situation as well.
No. 8 -- Board First Fare: You've already paid one fee to get that seat with the extra legroom, but if you're not among the first to board, the overhead bins will be filled so you'll end up stuffing your carry-on under the seat in front of you, and -- bye-bye legroom. Don't let this happen with the "board first" fee.
Drawback: Watch the airlines collect these fees from all the passengers; watch chaos ensue.
No. 9 -- Bag Finder Fee: Losing your luggage will be a thing of the past with this special (and hefty) fee that includes a GPS device attached to your bags. Never mind that the government and airlines can't agree on a way to put a navigational system equivalent to a cell phone on our planes -- a system that would help out with the horrendous Air Traffic Control situation -- no, they can't do that! But if putting a GPS device on bags allows them to collect another fee, you can bet they'll figure that one out.
Drawback: This doesn't mean your bag will never go "missing" -- of course it will. But at least the airline will know where it winds up, so you can go and get it.
No. 10 -- Pilot No Talk Toll: Not sure why, but every pilot seems compelled to rhapsodize about the glories of the Grand Canyon for 400 miles or so. If you're tired of the travelogue, pay this fee and never worry about missing a single line of dialogue from "Snakes on a Plane" ever again.
Drawback: You'll probably miss the pilot's announcement about the new "pay to deplane" fee.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations, including ABC News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Associated Press and Bloomberg. His Web site FareCompare.com offers consumers free, new-generation software combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deal.