Why you should pay more to travel

Adrian and I pride ourselves on our bargain hunting. When she comes home from a shopping trip she is more excited to brag about how much she saved then about anything she bought. So when we had to purchase our plane tickets to Germany, we waited months, scouring the internet for good deals. We finally landed two tickets from Boston to Berlin for $500 each. Based on other prices, we probably saved about $100… not bad, eh?

Well that’s how I felt about it till the trip began. The first leg was from Boston to Heathrow Airport in London on a massive Virgin Atlantic plane. We checked in about 3 hours early (4:30 EST) and I paid an expected bag fee of $50… not a hugh problem but I asked the ticket agent if we could check into our next flight as well which was with another airline (British Midland). She informed me we could not. I knew right away I was going to have to pay a second bag fee, but decided not too get stressed out about it.

9 hours later, after a delay for a VIP at Logan (who the hell was so important they had to delay every single other flight leaving Boston?!), security lines, roaming Logan airport eating shitty food court pizza,  flying over the Atlantic watching Bridesmaids (terrible) and Thor (awesome) we arrived at Heathrow. We cleared the passport check and customs without incident and then trekked about 1.5 miles (no joke) to our connection at BMI. That was where the real terror began.

We told the clerk we had 3 bags to check and she informed us we would have to pay for the extra bag. I told her that we already paid $50 in Boston, but she didn’t seem to care. She wrote down the weight of the bag (23 kilograms) and told me to go to the cashier and pay for it. I handed the cashier the slip she gave me and he informed me it would be 12£ (~$18) per kilo. I’m going to school for finance; I know the price of things and there is no way an extra bag, however large, is worth $414. Adding an extra bag to the hold for an airline is essentially free. A marginal bag costs nothing.

At this point, Adrian and I were just starting our trip. I had not slept a wink on the plane. I was sweaty and uncomfortable. I just wanted to get to Berlin, relax and prepare for school. The airline was able to charge whatever they wanted at that point. We weren’t going to leave a bag behind so we had to suck it up and pay. I asked to speak to a supervisor to try and haggle the price down and she “cut me a break” and let us check the bag for $250.

Needless to say, I was and still am pretty upset about the whole escapade but there is a lesson in all of it: when you are traveling, especially if it’s a long distance, it is worth it to pay a premium for a direct flight. It’s a known quantity and it minimizes potential for problems along the way that can potentially cost far more that any initial price premium. Also, read up on bag fees… not just on the first airline you are taking because you never know.

And British Midland sucks.

P.S. British Midland also lost said bag and I went our first two days in Berlin without any of my clothes, so I may have started a few stereotypes about Americans smelling bad in our first couple days here. Sorry about that.

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2 thoughts on “Why you should pay more to travel

  1. I was watching a commercial railing against bag-check fees when I read your post. I guess you two couldn’t have flown Southwest, though?

    When I was a junior flying home from Edinburgh, I was slapped with an exorbitant checking fee on a bag that was checked for free (by the same airline!) on my original trip across the Pond six months earlier. I was furious, and ended up unloading the bag in the gate. I put on the three tourist t-shirts I had bought for my family, ate the lunch I had packed for the flight (before 9am), and carried on a few books. I got some satisfaction from dumping the bag in the trash, until a suspicious security guard started to follow me. Ginger throwing away bags in an airport: IRA/Amber Alert!

    Glad you two are safe and landed.

    • Dan, I love that story. I wish I could have done that myself just to see the look on the face of those BMI employees (not their fault, I know)… Unfortunately, I don’t think throwing out one of Adrian’s bags would have been a good way to start off moving to Germany.

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