We recently returned to Texas from our trip out to LA to visit with our son and his fiancé and to meet his in-laws-to-be. Each leg of the flight was about two and a half hours, the seats in United’s Economy section were not comfortable, and there was not enough room for me to change positions to prevent my butt from going to sleep. I am of average height, five feet ten inches, and my knees almost touched the seatback in front of me. My wife and I raised the armrest between us to gain a couple of inches but we still bumped elbows.
We did not check any luggage. The fee for one checked-bag was $50 and up to $200 for an “oversized” bag (I don’t know what that means). An "overweight" bag (I don't know what that means either) could have cost up to $400. Each of us carried a personal item, which would fit beneath the seat in front of us, and a carryon bag that met United's size requirements. I was relieved not to be carrying any deer antlers or a vaulting pole. Those would have cost an extra $150 to $200 each to check. The fee was the same ($150 to $200) to check a bicycle, kiteboard, surfboard, or wind sailboard. I had none of those either.
We purchased our tickets through one of the many on-line services and downloaded the boarding passes to our iPhones. Had we desired paper tickets, the fee was $50 per ticket. By purchasing on-line we also avoided the $25 fee per ticket to purchase from United by phone. The fee to purchase at United's City Ticket Office is $30 and $35 to purchase it in person at United's airport counter.
Our boarding passes assigned us to boarding group four on each leg of the flight. I was afraid that by the time we reached the aircraft door we would be made to check our carryons. I was relieved when we were able to board with the bags. I went through my ritual of looking for the “Airworthiness Certificate” as I entered the aircraft. The FAA requires it to be posted in a conspicuous location near the door. The certificate shows the aircraft's date of manufacture and I feel much better on a flight if the plane was manufactured in this century. However, I was unable to spot the certificate before being forced down the aisle so would just have to keep my fingers crossed. When we reached our assigned aisle there was no room in the overhead luggage bins, requiring me to find space for our bags near the rear of the plane. This meant having to wait for everyone to exit the aircraft before being able to retrieve our bags.
On the back of the seat in front of me was an HD video display that showed the same trailers and ads over and over and over. At the end of each round, the words “SWIPE CARD” were displayed. I still see these words when I close my eyes. United does offer Internet access on some of their aircraft, including the one we were on. I thought I would surf the Internet instead of watching a movie but there was a fee for access so I decided to read instead.
Since it had been a few years since I last flew, the number of additional fees surprised me. In addition to the fees already mentioned, I could have upgraded to Economy Plus (there are sixteen different pricing options for Economy Plus) to get an additional five inches of legroom. Had I not wished to stand in line while waiting to board, I could have paid a fee to moved from boarding group four to boarding group one. I wonder what would have happen if every passenger on the flight had paid not to stand in line?
Lunch was offered on each leg of the flight, for a fee of about $10 for a sandwich or cheese plate. There were no snacks (such as peanuts or pretzels) offered, but at least the soft drinks were free.
Each additional fee can also result in a separate charge to your credit card (they are not added to the ticket price for a single charge). To avoid the hassle of paying the additional baggage fees, United offers a “Subscription” starting at $349 per year. You can also buy a “Subscription” for more legroom (Economy Plus) for $499 per year. At least United has not yet begun to charge a fee for seat selection. Some airlines charge up to $99 for the privilege of selecting a seat when buying the ticket.
A bit of research revealed that airline fees have increased by 1,200% since 2007, when there was no fee for checking a bag on United. This gigantic leap in fees was facilitated by the $2.5 billion that American, Delta, United, and US Airways have charged since 2007 in bag fees alone.
I did not use the restroom or the power outlet provided between the seats on either leg of the trip. I was afraid there would be a fee for use.