Unlike Elizabeth Warren – and most other Democrat leaders in the Congress – I’m a capitalist and proud to admit it. Almost always, I believe the free market, within reasonable constraints, should be left to do what they need to do without government interference. But thanks to China’s latest and most unwelcome import, the Chinese virus, American businesses are in dire straights. The travel and hospitality industries especially are on their knees.
Now, many of those businesses are asking their customers (taxpayers) to come up with hundreds of billions in grants and loan guarantees to protect themselves and keep their employees on the job. Having flown over 8 million miles during my career, and spending hundreds of nights each year in hotels, I’ve seen how airlines and hotels have taken to nickel and diming their customers in recent years.
Services that were free not long ago, now cost. Once upon a time, airlines fares included baggage. No more, now you pay up to $40 per bag. Want to choose your seat, that’s another $100 to $200 round trip, on top of the ticket price and baggage charge. Need to change or cancel a flight? Forget about it. You’ll likely lose most or all of the fare you paid. These charges add up to billions in profits for the airline industry. They often use the windfall to buy back their own stock limiting the amount you and I can buy. They pay their executives immense amounts of money. What they don’t do is feed passengers on long flights as they once did. Many airlines don’t even give out peanuts.
The hotels aren’t any better. A number of years ago I was surprised when I checked out of a hotel to see a $20.00-$40.00 per night “resort fee.” The charges were buried in the fine print, and what did I get in return? A “free” drink. Kind of reminds me of Democrat plans for “free” college or “free” healthcare. And lest you think I’m talking about fancy resorts, not so. Hotels in New York City – and increasingly everywhere else – now charge a destination fee on top of their regular room rate. Fees like this allow the hotel to claim a rate of $125 per night when you book it, but pay $165 plus tax when you check out. Room service is another rip off. The $13.00 you’d pay for that burger downstairs will cost $25 with delivery and a mandatory tip of 18% or more.
Now don’t get me wrong. If the government closes industries for no fault of their own over, say, a deadly pandemic; then the government has a responsibility to prevent them from going under. And when it comes to strategic industries, few are more important to our ongoing economic well-being than the ability to travel. BUT, conditions should be required that protect the taxpayers who are saving those industries from being gouged for the privilege.
• No baggage fees for the first checked bag.
• Space seats so all rows have ample leg room.
• For people so large they require two seats, charge them for two seats.
• Tell the truth about what tickets will cost before we book, complete with taxes and other fees.
• Eliminate penalties for canceling or changing flights.
• No destination or resort fees of any kind.
• Be honest about the total charge when you post rates.
• Eliminate mandatory tips for room service.
If hotels and airlines need the money, add it to the price. But, for goodness sakes, before we spend billions in tax dollars, let’s require the recipients to be honest and transparent.