It's easy to buy into this after years of brainwashing about the "friendly skies" (United) or how "we really move our tail for you" (Continental) or JetBlue's latest campaign ("We'll give you the best fare and throw in a little thing called humanity") but - the airlines do not love us.
They don't hate us, either. They just don't care. Let me rephrase that: they care if we leave them! It is a business, nothing more, nothing less. The rest is marketing and the sooner we accept this, the easier it is to get on with the business of finding the cheapest and most convenient flights, which can vary from carrier to carrier, from day to day.
So don't look for LUV (sorry, Southwest), but you can at least buy some affection - and comfort - with preferred seating and the like, and do cultivate loyalty since elite status in miles programs can pay off in free bags and more. Now, about those other lies…
7 Lies of Air Travel
1. Fees are optional
The word "optional" has replaced the word "free" over the past four year. Delta now touts "optional products and fees" while US Airways invites you to check out its "optional service fees" but it all comes down the same thing: freebies of the past now come with a price tag. Yet how optional are some of these things? If you need a suitcase and neither of the free bag airlines is going your way (JetBlue or Southwest), you will pay a bag fee. If you fly Spirit or Allegiant, you'll pay no matter what since they also charge for carry-ons. Where's the option?
2. Families are special
I think families are special, having one of my own, but the airlines would seem to disagree. I've written about how fewer airlines are offering early boarding options for families - United is just the latest to join the crowd - plus if you assume families like sitting together, that's getting trickier, too, what with airlines setting aside more and more seats for valued customers - business flyers and other big spenders.
Solution for seating: place your cranky toddler in his assigned middle seat, and watch how fast his seatmates beg you to take their places. But be sure your child isn't too cranky; on a recent Alaska Airlines flight when a dad couldn't get his irritable 3-year-old's seatbelt fastened quickly enough, the pilot kicked them off the plane.
3. You're not too-fat-to-fly if you can lower the armrests
A lot of people believe this one, but it's not necessarily so; yes, the Southwest website says, "The armrest is considered to be the definitive boundary between seats" but if you read on you'll find a caveat about encroaching upon your seatmate's space. A woman named Kenlie Tiggeman who was kicked off a Southwest flight for supposedly being too big for her seat is suing Southwest, not for money, but for clarification of its seating policies. I think most airline "customer of size" policies could use some tweaking.
4. Kids and elderly can keep shoes on at security