I was flying Continental, which is now also (like United) on my NEVER fly list. As I was checking in, they told me that I needed to pay an additional $95 for my bike (this was some years ago, as I believe they’ve since upped the amount they screw – I mean, charge – you). I said to the clerk, “$95, but isn’t the oversize fee $80?” as I had prepared myself ahead of time – I thought – by checking the website. But I had made the number one mistake you do no make when dealing with airline clerks – I was honest. I admitted that I had a bike in the big grey case.
She replied, “yes, $80 is the oversize fee, but $95 is the bike fee.”
I was dumbfounded. I asked, “so you mean that if I had this exact same case, weighing this is exact same amount, and it had rock climbing equipment in it, you would charge me $80?”
“Yes,” she replied while looking at me as if I was a complete moron.
I said, “Okay, so what do I get for the extra $15?”
“Well that’s the bike fee.”
“I understand it’s the bike fee. What do I get for $15 more than just paying for this same case with other stuff in it?”
“You have to pay that fee. You have a bike in there.”
“Yes, I know I have a bike in here. But if I didn’t, you would only charge me $80. There is no difference in the way that this case will be handled. So what do I get for $15? Maybe I’m not making myself clear, so I’ll give some examples. Like, do I get more coverage if you break my bike in transit?” Checked luggage has a cap of – I believe – $500 if it is lost/damaged as set by the FAA, so it would seem reasonable that an intelligent business might wish to insure more obviously expensive items against loss or damage.
“Do I get any additional coverage if you lose my bike?” Though at this point, I would have actually welcomed a straight up reply of, “You get nothing. If you can afford to fly with your bike, you can afford to pay extra. Cyclists have enough money that we can gouge them…” That would at least have been honest.
“No.” She remained unfazed and, in fact, seemed more confused by my confusion than anything else.
“Do I get anything at all?” I already knew what the answer would be. Cue the music and…
“It’s the bike fee.”
Sigh. But wait, it appears that she suddenly had an idea!
“You know, you don’t have to take the flight.”
BRILLIANT! I booked a flight, packed my bags, and came all the way to the airport because I thought, “Hey, maybe I’ll fly somewhere with my bike.” Seriously. This was her brilliant option. I could not pay the extra $15 by simply not taking the flight. How could I have missed this tremendous alternative? To this day, I still don’t know how I could have been so stupid.