Back in the high life again

You make an expensive airline reservation, get to the airport early and wait … and wait … because your flight is late. An hour later, you still aren’t told why the plane hasn’t arrived, so you cross your fingers hoping the flight isn’t cancelled. Finally, you board, tripping over everyone’s suitcases, bags, golf clubs, and computers, only to find your overhead spot is taken. Then you are told you can’t take off until someone moves their baby stroller from the aisle. Okay, you’re exhausted, irritated, hungry, thirsty and probably late for your connection. The person in front of you decides to move their seat into your lap so you can’t work, while the toddler behind you kicks your seat every five minutes or so. And just as you are ready to hit turbulence, you are served a cup of coffee.  So goes the wonderful world of airline travel. Well, it’s going to get worse. Beginning Sept. 2, United Airlines will no longer hand out complimentary pretzels and cookies to economy class fliers across North America, according to a United Airlines memo obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle. Effective Oct. 1, there will be no complimentary meals in domestic business class, except for premium transcontinental flights from San Francisco and Los Angeles to New York. And it's expanding the BOB, or buy-on-board, food offerings.  And if you want to get a box of mediocre food, the price is going up. "In the wake of high fuel prices and a challenging economic environment, we must continue to examine every aspect of our business and find new ways to improve our day-to-day operations through efficiencies that still meet our customers' expectations," reads the memo, titled "Catering Changes Provide Value and Options." "These moves are flat-out stupid," said Henry Harteveldt, an airline industry analyst at Forrester Research in San Francisco. "The savings they will get doing away with lunch in business class - they will lose more than that when corporations yank business. The challenging thing about business is that whether things are good or bad, you have to invest in your product for the sake of keeping customers and to make it harder for competitors to catch up with you. This does nothing to encourage people to pay more because you give more. They really make me question whether the inmates have taken control of the asylum."

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