Monday, February 17, 2014

There's a Fee for That

Agnes is making plans to go back to Germany in the Spring to visit her father. She discovered the following when she checked on the cost of the air fare for the trip (Washington to Zurich, Switzerland; and then Frankfurt, Germany back to Washington):

Cost of Air Fare (steerage class): $476.00. Woo, hoo!! Good price, eh? Not so fast there, bucko ... next comes ...

U.S. Customs User Fee: $5.50 (this probably pays for the bored guy who stands there by the exit and collects your customs declaration forms)

U.S. Immigration User Fee: $7.00 (this is apparently what pays for the maintenance of about 50 immigration processing stations at Washington Dulles International Airport, no more than three of which have ever been open for use of US Citizens and Permanent Residents at any time we've passed through in the last year)

U.S. APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) User Fee: $5.00

U.S. Federal Transportation Tax: $35.00

September 11th Security Fee:  $2.50 (they charge it no matter what date you fly)

Germany Airport Security Charge: $9.00

Germany Air Transportation Tax: $57.60

Germany Passenger Service Charge: $44.40

International Surcharge: $516.00 (I have no idea what this is)

U.S. Passenger Facility Charge: $4.50

Grand Total: $1,162.50

In case you were following all that, the flight itself cost only $476.00. The assorted taxes, fees, charges, tax fees, tax charges, fee taxes, surcharges, ma'am charges, etc, added up to $686.50 - a bit more than 1.5 times the cost of the flight itself. And it still doesn't include things like baggage fees, surcharges for "premium seats"*, and charges for meals, headsets, pillows and blankets, "preferred boarding," oxygen, etc.

Too bad it's such a long swim to Europe.

This piling-on of taxes and fees and such isn't limited, of course, to air travel. Have you looked at your telephone and/or cable bill recently? These are the extra add-ons to this month's bill from Verizon for my landline phone, cable TV, and Internet service ... most of which represent Verizon passing on its costs of doing business to yours truly:

E-911 Tax;

Federal Excise Tax;

Virginia State Sales Tax;

Virginia Communications Sales Tax;

Virginia Public Rights-of-Way Use Fee;

VLD (Verizon Long Distance) Carrier Cost Recovery Charge (I sure wish I could charge somebody to recover my costs);

Virginia Cost Recovery Surcharge (ditto).

Regulatory Recovery Fee - Federal (ditto again);

Federal Subscriber Line Charge (I think that this is the one that subsidizes NSA monitoring of your phone);

Federal Universal Service Fee (so that aliens can make calls on my dime?);

VLD Long Distance Administrative Charge (I think this one pays for the guy who dreams up all the new fees, charges, surcharges, taxes, etc);

PEG (Public, Education, and Government) Grant Fee (I discovered that this pays for all sorts of programs nobody watches - like live coverage of boring meetings of the sewer commission - but it also pays for the public access TV and radio stations in the county ... and since I had my own public access radio show for nine years, I actually benefited from this one); and,

Regional Sports Network Fee (we never watch any sports programs, so I guess we're subsidizing all those who do).

Smoke signals** are starting to look pretty good.

Have you ever noticed that about once a year, you get a letter or a few lines on your billing statement that grandly announce that, because of increases in their costs, your monthly bill is being increased? Nice, eh? Wouldn't it be nice if you and I could write to all those folks and tell them that, because of the increased cost of everything and the failure of our employers to increase our salaries, we are unilaterally reducing the amount we choose to pay them by a certain amount?

Yeah, good luck with that. That's when you learn about late fees, penalties, and just-because-we-can charges.

Okay, I guess I'm done complaining. It doesn't do any good, and my blood pressure is high enough already. There's probably a special surcharge for bitching, and for blood pressure over a certain level, anyhow.

Have a good day. There's no charge for it ... yet. More thoughts tomorrow.


*Anything other than a middle seat between two annoying, smelly giants.

** Verizon would probably add on a fuel surcharge to cover the cost of wood for the fire.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

Ow! Those fees really mounted up. Sometimes it just doesn't pay to read a bill in too much detail, but they can really get you if you don't.

Still, the European trip sounds nice! I hope Agnes has a great trip and a nice visit.

Chuck Bear said...

International surcharge sounds like another way of saying "Penalty for going to some other country." Will airlines next charge for toilet paper in rest rooms?

KathyA said...

That's ridiculous!

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Back in the day when deregulation (I hate it!) was born I was implenting the fares in a computer through dun and bradstreet so that travelers could see the fares in their pocket OAG (before laptops)or agents saw them on their computer screen. The fares changed every 15 days. (job security) They became so out there that it was mind boggling. Wearing a red hat on Wednesday will get you a fare of $200. Thursday it will be $500 no matter if you are naked or wear a hat. And on and on it went. The airline industry makes no sense or logic so don't frustrate yourself looking for it.

Edwin Frownfelter said...

Svejk said...

It's depressing to find out about those added-on fees. Often you don't find about them until the last minute.

Mike said...

Maybe you can FedEx Agnes to Germany. Don't forget to poke air holes in the box.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Our local airport is the least competitive for ticket prices also!