KAI RYSSDAL: JetBlue confirmed today that leaving passengers stuck on an airplane for nine hours can be bad for business. The discount carrier reported a $22 million first-quarter loss today. It spent 41 million on cancelled flights and hotel vouchers in the aftermath of that big storm back in February. And the company said lower demand and higher fuel prices won't make next quarter much better, either.
It's rough all the way around for airlines — and airline passengers, who're having to pay out of pocket for amenities that used to be standard. Everything from food to pillows. Commentator Beth Teitell says it's time for the traveling public to fight back.
BETH TEITELL: OK, fine: Let the carriers bilk us for blankets and OJ. But turnaround's fair play. Next time I board a plane, I'm gonna be armed with a price list of my own.
If the flight attendant imprisons me with the beverage cart, or bangs my arm or foot with that thing, I want 10 smackers — 20 if there's no apology.
If I find trash from the previous flight in my seat-back pocket, or the lavatory's a disgusting mess, it's gonna run them another 10.
If the airline skimps on in-flight fresh air, or makes me gate-check my carry-on at the very last minute, depriving me of all reading material, things are going to start getting pricey.
If my bags don't arrive on time — yes, the very ones I paid them to care for — I want punitive damages. A C-note sounds about right.
Furthermore, annoyance charges will be levied whenever the English language is misused. Order me to stay in my seat until we come to a "complete stop at the terminal building" and someone's going to pay. What other kind of stop is there but a complete one?
Penalties will also be assessed for hollow offers. I want a free ticket from the next pilot who says, "If there's anything we up here in the cockpit can do to make your flight more comfortable, please let us know." Be real. You can't get anywhere near the cockpit these days, let alone ask the pilot for little favors. "Uh, my pants are a little snug because I binged at Cinnabon, is there anything you gentlemen can do?"
To be fair, airlines aren't the only entities committing offenses — which is why I want the power to assess passenger-on-passenger fees. You slam your seat all the way back, stealing the few inches of leg room I did have, or hog the overhead space, I'm starting a tab.
And if you're sitting in one of those ordinary window seats, don't expect to crawl past me in my premium aisle seat for nothing. I take cash, credit cards, personal checks with two forms of ID.
Anything, that is, but frequent flier miles.
RYSSDAL: Beth Teitell is the author of the book "From Here to Maternity."