SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

No Food For You!
By Dave Kiffer


June 28, 2008

Ketchikan, Alaska - So what will $50 buy you these day?

jpg  Life, Death and Road Maintenance by Dave Kiffer

How about 4 inches?

It seems that if you take advantage of a $50 first class upgrade on our "state" airline, they make it very clear to you that you will not get a meal with your "upgrade."

Basically, all you are paying for is more buttspace. Four inches to be exact.

And on a cross country flight that might not be a bad thing, especially if - like me - coach seats stopped being comfortably wide enough for you when your feet finally started to reach the floor. And - hey - I'm not much of a wide body, so that's saying something.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting next to a very large fishing-type gentleman from Texas who probably should have been charged for both his seat and half of mine. So if the upgrade would have been available I probably would have taken it, even without much of the "complimentary" service you normally get in First Class.

So how do I know about the "no meals for you upgraders" policy?

Two different people have told me about their recent experiences in First Class on Elastic Air.

Much like the Soup Nazi on Seinfield, they were told welcome to first class and "no food for you."

In fact, one person was even told she couldn't even pay for one of the $5 picnic packs they were selling in Coach. So she had the pleasure of absolutely no food at all on a lengthy flight.

Fortunately, they did give her the complimentary alcoholic beverages so all was not lost.

It does seem a long, long, long way away from the Golden Samovar service of the past though. Alaska Airlines is squeezing hard to try to reduce costs as much as possible and we passengers are the ones feeling the pinch.

I guess this makes sense in an era when fuel costs are doubling between the time a plane takes off and reaches its destination. You just wish they didn't have to be quite so snotty when it came to making sure the "upgraders" realize they really, really, really aren't First Class after all.

Especially since these "upgraders" are actually paying the airline an additional $50 for what would otherwise be an empty seat (and allowing the airline to then "regift" the now empty coach seat because just about every AK air flight has standby in coach these days).

Oh well, just the Spirit of Alaska, I guess.

Still, we do need to be happy that Alaska Airlines isn't hang glinding off the bankruptcy cliff like a lot of other airlines.

I recently saw an internet business website that is entirely devoted to tracking which companies are heading for bankruptcy. Although just about every airline in America (except for Southwest) was on the list, AK Air was not.

It was good to read that we won't likely be flying Beavers and Twin Otters to Seattle anytime soon. Probally thanks to the aggressive pinching of the penny saver passengers (AKA coach and those noveau riche "upgraders.").

Still, the fact that so many airlines are in trouble got me to thinking that I should cut Alaska a little slack. Perhaps, I should even try to help out rather than pointing out all the airline's parsimonious foibles like the "no food for upgraders" rule in First Class.

Natch, they have already thought of a lot of great ideas on their own. Like changing the cabin service from Golden Samovar to Iron Pyrite Samovar and increasing fares to the point that it costs more to fly from Ketchikan to Juneau than it does to fly from Seattle to Miami.

And then there is the recent move to charge us for every bit of baggage we bring on board. While well intentioned, the increased baggage fees are not necessarily having the proper effect. I understand folks are trying to stuff moose antlers into the overhead bins as carry-on (carrion?).

Frankly, it's pretty danged hard to top those "innovations." But something did come to me. Courtesy of a big Texan who was literally sharing my space.

Why not charge folks per pound rather than per seat?

Despite all the hoo-haw about the "healthy outdoor Alaska lifestyle" the truth is that an awful lot of us are an awful lot over our "optimum" weight

I bet a it puts a lot more stress on an Alaskan airliner's systems to get airborne than it does say a Southwest jet full of all those healthy folks from Colorado, for example.

So, in addition to raising revenues, the fare by tonnage approach may also encourage our fellow Alaskans to shove away from the table a little bit earlier. Or at least to pass on that second slice of pie at the Sitka Airport.

Anyone who has ever flown a float plane in Alaska knows that passengers are quizzed on their weight when they check in. Ostensibly, its for loading purposes to make sure the Cessna is properly balanced, but heck I think its primarily done for the amusement of the desk person who then gets to add a "correction factor" to whatever the passenger says.

"I weigh 135," the passenger states.

"Not since the 8th grade," the desk clerk thinks as she writes "180" on the manifest!

So certainly we Alaskans would think nothing of being quizzed on our weight or maybe even subjected to a "weigh station" before boarding.

Personally, I would suggest doing it at the TSA checkpoint because we will have already disrobed and would feel less depressed by whatever the number was.

I've heard worse ideas!

One last fun travel note to pass along.

I recently had the "pleasure" of passing through the Canadian equivalent of the TSA on a flight back from one of my favorite cities, Vancouver B.C.

As I have been well trained by the TSA, I immediately started disrobing when I got within 100 yards of the security checkpoint. Off went the shoes, off went the belt, off went the semtec saturated undershorts.

And out came all electronic devices as well as my handy plastic see-through plastic bag full of under-4-ounce-sized toiletries.

I approached the Canadian security dude holding my clothing in one hand and my toiletry bag in the other. I held up the toiletry bag for him to inspect.

"Now, why I want to look at that, eh," he replied?

Why indeed?

Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2008

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