Saturday, November 14, 2009

United Airlines' Unfriendly Skies

I like to think that bicycle-friendly cities and establishments are met with admiration and appreciation. While businesses that put out dog drinking water bowls on the sidewalk may get the nod from dog-owners, bicycle friendliness is a progressive act with environmental benefits.
Prior to my last trip back to NYC, my bicycle gang shipped a padded bicycle bag so that I could ride again. LAX long term parking drops me off at United Airlines with my bicycle bag. So far so good. United Airlines charges me $175 to check in my bicycle—that’s for one way. That's more than the ticket for my seat. With my car miles away in a lot, I am stuck at the check-in counter with a bicycle. I can’t bring it back to my car or lock it up at the airport, but if I do bring it, it will cost me $350. As I’m calculating this crisis in my head, the mean old UA staff that issued the ticket harrumphs at me for deliberating my financial demise. He gives me the number for a courier company that might hold it over the weekend for a couple hundred bucks. A younger UA employee pitied me and talked to his pals in baggage that agreed to watch and store my bicycle for free. I tipped the nice young man enough money for a 6-pack.
Guess who else charges $175 for bicycles? Other shitty airlines that don’t give a shit, like Delta Airlines. It’s clearly a penalizing deterrent to justify bad service. site provides links to Fedex encouraging you to ship your luggage ahead of you. Certainly more convenient for United but how is that more convenient for me? What’s a fair price? I understand most airlines charge $20 for each checked baggage. Bicycles with case should weigh less than 50 pounds but they are a bit more difficult to handle. I think $50 is fair. And so does JetBlue and Virgin America.
If United Airlines was a motorist, he would be an old curmudgeon in a polluting Pontiac clunker. Instead of honking and high-beaming at cyclists like motorists tend to typically do, he pins cyclists against a tree at the knees. Unsatisfied with the helpless nature of the cyclist, United pulls down the cyclist’s pants then has a sidewalk sale to sell salvaged bike parts from the wreckage.

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