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Ski travel has some baggage

I went skiing in Colorado several weeks ago.  It was gratifying to learn that even after years of wear and tear on the joints, I could still handle some challenging (though well groomed) terrain. Far more challenging than the steep slopes was getting there.

Travel has become a pain, and I’m not even talking about the 20-hour trip from my door in Western New York to the condo at Beaver Creek took. We circled the Vail airport for 45 minutes before flying back to Denver,  waited 90-plus minutes, took off again for Vail, circled, returned, waited two more hours then boarded a bus for a 2-1/2 hour drive through the mountains in snow. I'm not faulting the airline, which was being careful so our pilot didn’t have to pull a Sullenberger. We were, after all, traveling to the mountains in January and we did get to where we wanted to go.

My problem was luggage. Many airlines now charge you by the bag with escalating fees that run from reasonable for the first suitcase to give us your first-born for the third. It is impossible to pack light when you are going skiing. So this new tactic seems an unfair financial burden on skiers, which is everybody on the plane heading for Vail (which is a financial burden in itself).

Our packing was done with great precision . We put the boots in carry-ons, for which there is no charge, both sets of skies in a double bag and all our clothes in one suitcase. Two bags at $15 each. But the big bag weighed more than 50 pounds,  for which there is a surcharge, so we shuffled some items. In the confusion – it was 4:30 a.m. because we were catching the first flight out of Buffalo – I didn’t put the clothes bag in the car. While we were at the airport figuring out what to do – the airline wouldn’t put it on a later flight even if our son delivered it – we almost missed the plane.

We did get our friends to bring it with them on their much later flight but they each packed two bags. So for bringing our one suitcase, which did check in at an economic 48.5 pounds, they were charged $125. Adding insult was the fact our friends and our expensive suitcase got to Beaver Creek hours before we did. They flew to Denver and rented a car.

Let me acknowledge right now that the luggage problem was my fault because I didn’t put it in the car. But let me also say that surcharges for luggage were assessed when fuel prices were surging. The price of a barrel of oil is now less than a third of what it was at its peak. Do Internet travel services take into account baggage surcharges when searching for the lowest fare? And has any airline talked about dropping those surcharges now that the price of fuel has gone down?

Didn’t think so. 

--   Fletcher Doyle

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