You probably heard the latest: Airlines around the world are expected to rake in almost $27 billion in fees this year. That's more than the gross domestic products of Iceland, the Bahamas and Bhutan -- combined.
So they're rolling in it. Sure, once in a great while, a carrier like Ryanair will cut fees because, as CEO Michael O'Leary so eloquently put it, you don't want to "unnecessarily p*ss people off." But raising or tweaking fees is far more common. Even Southwest maintains a sensible never-say-never policy for bag fees (though the official line is, no changes for now).
Still, with fees for food, decent seats, pillows, blankets, even fees for cutting to the head of every possible line, what's left? I've got some ideas for fantasy fees but maybe someday you'll find them listed on your airline ticket alongside all the rest of those annoying taxes and fees.
Here are seven fantasy fees of the future, maybe (and feel free to add your own suggestions):
1. Useless equipment fee
"Useless" may be a little strong, but while some new planes are equipped with satellite navigation systems (to save on time and fuel costs) the pace of NextGen airport improvements is so lumbering that there's hardly anywhere to use these excellent gizmos. So maybe it won't come as a surprise when passenger tickets include an unused equipment fee. Estimates for these not-so-new-fangled GPS systems range to up to $670,000 per plane; divide that by the number of passengers per aircraft for each year the system lies dormant -- and voila! Another nice chunk of change for the airlines.
2. Barista fee
Did you know some of the new 777s have cappuccino machines onboard? I know because I had one and it was terrific. But these machines don't grow on trees (though I see Macy's is having a nice sale on the Jura Impressa coffee maker for just $999), so expect a $5 fee attached to your next "free" cup of fancy brew.
3. Adventures with fuel fee
We already pay a heavy fuel surcharge on international airline tickets; in fact on overseas flights the various fees and taxes can dwarf the actual cost of the airfare. But what if an airline is savvy (or crazy) enough to buy its own fuel refinery?
Delta did just that and the latest figures show the refinery is making a profit, a reported $3 million in the third quarter of this year. But don't expect those 'jet fuel surcharge' refund checks anytime soon. In the first two quarters of the year, the refinery reportedly lost $73 million. In Fantasy Fee Land, higher surcharges would cover this fuelish adventure.
4. Lawyer overload fee
I like lawyers. Most are smart, hard-working, there when you need them. Definitely not cheap but most are worth it. Still, I'm glad I'm not a major corporation with bankruptcy and merger issues (I'm looking at you, American). This is what one reporter discovered last year:
"AMR Corp., the bankrupt parent of American Airlines, was billed nearly $20 million a month in fees and expenses from 34 law firms, consultants and advisers [according to then recently filed bankruptcy documents]." --Tulsa World
What do attorneys on such cases make, maybe $500 an hour? Some, probably. But 12 of the attorneys with one of American's bankruptcy-specialist firms (the same one that represented Lehman Brothers in its 2008 bankruptcy) billed $1,000 an hour or more.
We haven't even begun to talk about the legal cost involved in American's merger with US Airways. So passengers, watch out. In Fantasy Fee Land, you could be hit with a new "defray legal costs" surcharge based on length of flight. Say, a couple of hundred bucks an hour.