The Apocalypse: $8 for an airline blanket

February 9, 2010 • 7:08 am

Okay, once in a while I get to gripe about stuff that doesn’t involve either evolution or religion.

This is a bad one.  The New York Times “In Transit” website (via Joesentme.com) announced that, as of May 1, passengers on flights longer than two hours will have to pay for blankets and pillows:

American Airlines quietly announced last week that it would eliminate free blankets in coach and sell an $8 packet that includes a pillow and blanket starting May 1. . .

The change is for flights over two hours in length to and from Canada, Mexico, Hawaii, the Caribbean and Central America. The airline will join JetBlue and US Airways, which began charging $7 for a pillow-and-blanket set in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

(Note that they announced this “quietly”!)

Enough is enough. I’ve watched while American (and most airlines other than Southwest) started charging for baggage and any food more substantive than a bag of pretzels.  The planes have gotten dirtier and more unkempt (on my last American transAtlantic flight, my back-seat video and audio weren’t working, and the plane was too full to change seats), and the food has gone from mediocre to inedible.  But this—the gouging of passengers for an EIGHT DOLLAR BLANKET—is nothing more than a money-grubbing insult.

You can file a complaint here.

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Bonus: If you want to see what the cabin crew say to each other on their communal website, go here.  (A fun thread is “celebrity sightings”, where flight attendants recount their experiences with famous passengers. Sample: “Jennifer Lopez: I CANNOT STAND THIS WOMAN…she yelled at me because I couldn’t make her a double espresso, and then told me that my shoes looked cheap!!!!!! can you believe it!? so I replied “well at least they match YOUR bag!”)

31 thoughts on “The Apocalypse: $8 for an airline blanket

  1. Jerry, you do not know the horrors of Ryanair. As well as making people pay for checking in, and a load of other things that should be in the ticket price, they have been considering making you pay to use the toilet…

    1. With Ryanair I have a nagging suspicion that if there is ever a cabin depressurization event and the oxygen masks drop down, there will be a coin slot or a credit card payment required to get the oxygen working.

    1. Well, yes, it is. Most airlines now charge for luggage, so a bulky item like a blanket would displace other needed items, or lead to increased baggage charges. And, since hotels include blankets in their room charges, the blanket would have no other use during the trip. (Unless, of course, your hitchhiking across the galaxy.)

  2. I’ll stay with British Airways for my hops across the pond for as long as I can. They still have free drinks, decent food and even upgrade me occasionally.

    But they cost more, usually.

  3. Make it painless, fly LUFTHANSA!
    5 flights Australia – Norway, just excellent. I’m pretty fat, but was able to get enough room still. LH rocks!
    Und man spricht Deutsch, nicht verfluchtes Englisch 🙂

  4. Another vote for Lufthansa. I flew with them Vancouver-Zurich (via Franfurt, of course) in 2006, they were excellent. For the long-haul routes, like the transantlantics, I found their prices to be about the same as everyone else. But there’s something very civilized about being offered your choice of cognac or Bailey’s after dinner.

  5. That’s what happens when almost all people just buy the cheapest ticket they can find. I’ll admit it’s a little underhanded to “quietly” announce this, but if you want the cheapest flight obviously that means airlines are going to cut services. (On the other hand, if you don’t use the blanket, which I almost never do, you can save $8 on your flight!) If you value services, go with an airline that provides them! (For US domestic flights I’ve been happy with Virgin. You do pay separately for everything, but the quality is quite decent.)

    Tim

    1. You don’t save $8 by not using a blanket–you pay exactly what you paid before. If you use the blanket you pay a higher fare. In other words, this is a way of raising fares, not saving money for everyone.

      1. It’s NOT about ‘using’ a blanket, it’s about BUYING one (AND an inflatable head rest, for which $8 is actually quite cheap). If you decide to BUY one (and keep using it over and over again on all your subsequent flights) it is NOT raising your ‘fare’, just like buying a beer or a whine isn’t raising your fare. Yes, in the old days, beer was free. Times have changed. Competition has driven the airfares too low. If they stay this low, most airlines will eventually go out of business (quite a few already have). Guess what the remaining airline(s) will do with their monopoly position and a bunch of people who HAVE to fly for a living? Don’t be so unbelievably childish. If you HAVE to have a blanket … pay 8 bucks and use it for the rest of your life.
        And yes, extras WILL be in the price of your ticket! I once too was naive and childish and complained bitterly when Delta started to charge for alcoholic drinks on transatlantic flights, so I decided to fly KLM instead (who didn’t charge for alcoholic drinks). Until I realized I paid on average $250 more for a ticket on KLM. That’s more ‘alcohol’ than I care to drink!
        I can’t believe the naive and childish attitude on this matter by some otherwise very smart people here. Get a life! (or your own blanket). (And to the people who, when told here to bring their own, complain about it being ‘bulky’ .. you never HAD an airline blanket, do you? 😉

  6. Why shouldn’t these items be unbundled? I’d rather pay separately for the blanket I use, than pay bundled for a blanket I don’t use. Either way, blankets have to be paid for–cleaning, replacing, etc.

    1. So let me get this right.

      Paying a certain amount of money for a ticket and then having to pay extra for a blanket and pillow is a better option than paying the same amount for the ticket and getting the blanket and pillow at no extra charge ?

      Your thinking has a major flaw in it.

  7. To American Airlines:
    Selling blankets will lead to more overconsumption as well, since people will purchase the blanket to use on the plane and forget it the next time they travel, buying another on that flight. This is not a huge problem as long as we impose a consumption tax on you, the airline, for encouraging this. I know you will pass along the tax and raise the fee. This is fine, because we both know that at some price point your customers will revolt. I suspect you think this point is just at or above $10.

    I don’t really care if you charge for blankets the way I care that you charge for luggage. At the very least, at 105 lbs I should get extra allowance on my luggage.) Not to mention, folks load it all on to carry-on. The biggest problems on airlinesm especially yours is service. (I have been yelled at by flight attendants instead of spoken to only to have them half apologize when they realize I’m flying first class. Like it should matter!) And tied with service as a problem, lack of space. Anyone flying coach is crammed in and unable to maneuver to so much as read a book.
    Honestly, I think someone could bring back the old budget airlines like People and it would be luxury compared to coach on American these days. I just don’t fly as much as I used to and never, ever, ever coach on any American airline – except, on rare occasions, JetBlue, which only has coach. So charge me for my pillow and blanket if you like; for my meal, what have you. But act like you want me on your plane and give me some room to breathe. Oh yeah, and dump the luggage fees so my neighbors “carry-on” stops falling on my lap.

    1. Well you made it clear earlier that you know little about value for money.

      You are on record as saying you prefer to pay the same for an airline ticket and get less in return.

      Had AA reduces the price of a ticket you would have a valid point. However they have not. The price has stayed the same, and the passenger now gets less in return. Nor have AA said that they withdrew free blankets and pillows instead of raising fares.

      So it is pretty clear, you are happy to pay the same to get less.

    2. Isn’t it part of good business strategy not to unnecessarily piss off a large fraction of one’s potential customers?

      Being the first to charge extra for what used to be “free” is a dangerous move. One can hardly feel sorry them if there’s a major customer backlash.

  8. You do get more–lower price tickets. Just because AA did not lower the price of tickets simultaneously with the blanket fee does not mean you do not get lower ticket prices. Airlines are extremely competitive with ticket prices, and lower costs lead to lower ticket prices. That is why none of them can make a profit.

    1. Lower costs might or might not get passed on to consumers, depending on the market conditions — if and only if competitive pressures force down prices, regardless of the underlying costs.

      The primary purpose of reducing costs is not to benefit the vendor’s customers but rather to improve margins and profits.

      Think of it like this: let’s say, AA found some way to save $10 cost per passenger that their competitors haven’t already implemented. Is their strategy to immediately lower all prices $10 to “pass on the savings”? Of course not. It’s to keep that $10 for their stockholders.

      The same applies here.

  9. SouthWest still doesn’t charge for bags. And you’re just a hop, skip and a jump from Midway. (Which doesn’t do you much good if all your miles are with AA.)

    1. It means to do it either Friday evening or Monday morning when there are fewer people paying attention or during some other overriding crisis situation.

  10. You get what you pay for. One of the perks of capitalism. I’m more annoyed with the ‘security’ theatre. I’m actually glad I don’t have to go anywhere these days.

    Read Ask The Pilot on Slate for a dose of good sense.

  11. Flying used to be enjoyable. Now it’s not. I fly when the drive is over a full day–and in some cases two full days.

    I’m waiting for some fare comparison web site (Travelocity, Kayak, etc) to allow you to enter your preferences (pillow, blanket, full meal, two checked suitcases, etc), and *then* give you a total, by airline for your flight. *That* is a site I would use.

  12. Getting a free blanket is not a problem. Just cuddle up close to a person sitting next to you and if they don’t have a blanket themselves they will immediately jump up and get you one for free. But remember, you will have to look just a tad crazy to scare them.
    Works every time for me.

    Or you could just faint. They will feel sorry for you and get you a blanket and a pillow. That works too.

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