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New fees cancel out Frontier's fare reductions

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Some suggest the concept of Mother's Day goes back centuries to the days of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

More formally, it started in England around what was called Mothering Day.

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It was adopted in the United States as a non-commercial event less than a hundred years ago.

Some form of Mother's Day is celebrated in almost 50 countries at different times of the year. From what was a non-commercial event, it has become one of the biggest restaurant days and busiest retail periods of the year.

Today, Mother's Day is an event where mothers are waited upon and treated by brunches or dinners out, or at least by someone else in the family doing the cooking.

Father's Day, on the other hand, seems to be celebrated by the man of the family doing the cooking on a bar-becue or other similar device. That reality alone may underscore who carries the heavy load around the home for most of the year, deserving the extra attention and gifts on this day.

To mothers, young and old, I wish a most wonderful family day that helps demonstrate the appreciation others have for the year-round dedication you give.

New ancillary fees

A couple of weeks ago this column pointed out how airline-revenue percentages had shifted dramatically over the past years, from fares to greater incomes from all the recent ancillary charges.

Those statistics were underscored even more during the past week as Frontier Airlines in the United States announced fare reductions, while adding on a wave of new fees.

It will now cost you extra to place your baggage and other belongings in the overhead bins. It will cost you to book a seat in advance. Failure to do so will very likely place you in a middle seat, perhaps between the two biggest people on the aircraft.

I have predicted this one would be coming sooner or later. That free beverage that was just about the only thing you got free on board an aircraft will be gone as a freebie on Frontier on July 1. A $1.99 charge will now be the norm.

What makes these new charges particularly disturbing is after you pay your fare, to check in online there will be a charge of $25. But it will cost more to check in at the airport; that will be $35. One way or the other, you will pay extra just for checking in.

Then, regardless of what your seat selection is there will be a charge for every seat, even those in the middle row. So even as the airline brags they are lowering fares by an average of 12 per cent, you won't get on the aircraft without facing both a check-in fee and a seat fee.

It is no wonder the business travel coalition in the United States is trying hard to get Congress to recognize these blatant insults to consumers by fighting for fare-transparency legislation. Transparency would seem like a noble goal for all to pursue with the meaning relatively straightforward.

However, the airline lobby in the United States has proposed a fare-transparency package that is the very opposite of what the term suggests.

It is this freedom to exploit that allows Frontier to come up with programs that successfully hide and confuse pricing, angering a flying public that has no power to fight what airlines such as Frontier choose to do.

While Frontier represents only about one per cent of the lift in America, you can be sure airline companies on both sides of the 49th parallel will be watching consumer reaction closely.

PreCheck a positive

On a more positive note, the coming months may see us going through security lines in the United States much faster than ever before.

Air Canada has become the first international carrier to participate in the program known as PreCheck, a U.S. Transportation Security Administration expedited screening program that allows passengers to pass through security without having to remove belts, jackets, shoes, laptops, and even liquids.

The PreCheck program was first tested in four U.S. airports in 2011.

There are approximately 2.5-million travellers already approved for Global entry, Nexus and Sentri. While these have already picked up the clearance pace, few frequent travellers will object to the extra charge of $100 for a five-year approval on PreCheck.

In the meantime, this will allow faster processing of infrequent travellers who will still have to pass through normal channels.

While Air Canada is the first Canadian airline to become involved, it is anticipated all carriers that regularly fly to and from cities in the the United States will join in quickly to ensure their clients are able to reach the boarding gates faster and easier.

New locks approved

As reported previously with CATSA, our own airport security organization, approving the same luggage locks as being used in United States and Britain, there clearly is a move to alleviate some of the major complaints travellers have in using air transportation to get from one destination to another.

Forward your travel questions to askjourneys@journeystravel.com. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2014 E2

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