Step 2 is the hard part.

Matt Ginzton writes here.

Airlines Are Getting Worse

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Yeah I know, this is already well known and I’m just piling on and complaining. Still, it’s annoying and worth noting. Airlines keep adding arbitrary fees and reducing service quality. Boo. This is worse for us because now we’re flying with Dominic as a lap infant and the airlines are especially poorly optimized for this, at really every level. You can’t buy tickets the easy way, you can’t check in the easy way, and everything gets harder.

A few recent experiences that sucked:

Southwest: they don’t charge for a lap infant and are generally friendly, which is why we keep flying them. But if you have a lap infant, there’s no way to add him to the reservation, but you do need to get a boarding pass, which can only be done at the full-service checkin line, which is the longest and slowest one. They’ve increasingly incented people to check in online and either skip the front-of-airport counter if not checking luggage, or use the faster “bag drop only” counter if checking luggage, and only people who never travel and don’t realize any of this, or people with unticketed infants, end up in the longest slowest understaffed full-service checkin line that the rest of their policies are actively trying to drive us away from. Then, we need to gate check Dominic’s car seat, which can only be done at the gate counter. So every flight involves visiting both the front checkin counter and the gate checkin counter. This doesn’t waste just our time, but also that of the Southwest employees and everyone behind us in line, and really nobody benefits.

Aer Lingus: on our trip to Ireland, we booked our international travel from the US into Dublin and back from London, and left undecided how and when we’d get from Ireland back to London. We eventually booked an Aer Lingus flight from Waterford to London, which was easy enough (and even let us book a ticket for Dominic with no hassle which was a pleasant surprise), but booking this ticket on also had an unpleasant surprise: they quoted the price in euros right up till the final “buy” button, when they converted it to dollars, at a rate about 8% worse than the going exchange rate. No way to opt out of this. I’d have been happy if they charged me in dollars at the current exchange rate, and I would have been fine if they’d charged me in euros and I paid the credit card company their foreign transaction fee (around 3%), and I would have been fine if they’d charged me in dollars at the current exchange rate and added a 3% currency conversion surcharge. But silently pretending the exchange rate was significantly worse than it is: that’s just shady.

United: trying to get to Mexico in December for a friend’s wedding, Kayak quoted us $830 roundtrip for 2 adult tickets on United, and there’s no way to add a lap infant through Kayak. I tried searching for the same flights on United’s website, where we could add a lap infant, and it came to $915, the extra $85 breaking down as $30 for the infant seat (fine) and another $55 in US taxes (not fine, because they’re repeats of taxes already built into our fare, and basically charging the same amount of tax for Dominic as for me and Vanessa put together). I don’t know where the tax money is going or whose fault this is, but it sure doesn’t seem right. So I called United to ask whether I should add Dominic to the reservation up front and pay those taxes or book without him and add him to the reservation after the fact, and they couldn’t answer the tax question but said the website won’t let me book a lap infant and I should definitely book without him then call back to add him. Even though that didn’t seem true, I was hoping the taxes would resolve themselves more sanely that way, so that’s what I did. Imagine my annoyance when I call back to add Dominic to our reservation and am told they will charge me $30 for his ticket, $55 in taxes which they can’t explain but they are what they are, and $25 in reservation fees for not booking online, which they now charge even for transactions which the website can’t do. (And while the website seemed willing to book the lap infant as part of the reservation, both customer service agents I talked to told me they don’t think it works, and that even if it doesn’t work, that isn’t cause to waive the $25 fee.) Fail.

On a less whiny and more humorous note, I’ll leave you with this. C’mon, airlines, we just want to pay a fair price for a fair service, no tricks or traps.