Sunday, August 10, 2008

How Northwest Airlines nickled and dimed me

I know the airlines are hurting these days, but their efforts to squeeze a few more dollars out of their customers are getting ridiculous. Yesterday I made a return trip home on Northwest Airlines and ran into something new. On the commuter flight to Detroit, our party of three was seated together. Then on the larger flight from the Detroit hub to Raleigh, our family was assigned seats 10E, 11E, and 12E--three middle seats stacked up in front of each other.

We were checking in at our departure airport, about 22 hours before our flight, so we thought no problem, the kiosk will let us choose new seats (we were #16 to check in for this flight on an airplane that held over 100 people). The kiosk did offer us new seats, 11D and 11F, for a charge of $15 each. This option was labeled as a "Coach Choice Seat Fee" on my receipt. These were not special seats with extra leg room -- the plane was a standard 3x3 airbus with pretty equal seats throughout. But apparently it's now a premium "choice" to sit in an aisle or window seat next to your child.

We could have kept the original seats and asked people to switch once we got on, but at the end of a long trip we were exhausted and just wanted to get home together so we sucked it up and paid the fees.

I fly Northwest through Detroit on a regular basis and I love it when it goes well, but they've delayed or canceled flights so many times on me that I don't have a huge reservoir of goodwill to draw upon. The airlines must really be desperate to undercut their customer service this way. I bought these tickets, which were over $500 per person, more than four months in advance, and it is just plain annoying to get hit with random last-minute charges like this one for something that should have been automatically arranged for free. It is of course just one more airline fee to throw on the pile, along with luggage fees, fuel surcharges, snack fees, even blanket fees (that one courtesy of Jet Blue).

Here's what Northwest Airlines says about their Coach Choice Seat fee program: "For a modest fee, customers can confirm reserved exit, aisle and window seats at nwa.com or Self-Service Check-in Kiosks 24 hours prior to departure." Guess that means that they can scatter family members throughout the airplane and then charge you to put you back together again.

I suppose I am supposed to be grateful that I wasn't bumped off an oversold flight, which almost happened to us on our way out!

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you get to the gate insist on sitting together to the gate agent. Do not back down, show them when you bought the ticket and insist you sit together. Dont back down. If that doesnt work, create a ruckus on the plane and ask a flight attendent to help out.

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah right
The last thing you want to do is create a ruckus on the airplane.....you might be looking at the business end of the air marshall's firearm.

and to you mojomom
why did you not reserve your seats when you made your reservations months ago?
If you wait until check-in you get whats leftover. Those seats didn't become coach choice until 24 hours before departure.

4:48 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

and to you mojomom
why did you not reserve your seats when you made your reservations months ago?


That is a good question -- I thought I had. But I clearly need to look into that part of the process a lot sooner.

5:17 PM  

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