Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

 

Every time you book a flight these days, you have to be ready for a slippery feeling in your pocket.

Burrowing in there like a pizza-seeking rodent is your airline, looking for any spare change you might have.

A few dollars here, a few dollars there.

It's all so the airline can make just a little more money and offer you absolutely no additional comforts whatsoever.

You do realize the airlines have been suffering, don't you? They only made $26 billion profit after taxes in 2015. In 2010, it was a piffling $2.3 billion.

They made $3.8 billion out of baggage fees alone.

You're a captive audience, you see. Once the airline has you, it wants you to pay through the nose. The ear and throat, too.

So it is the airline industry has concocted a relatively new fee: Charging you extra to sit with your loved ones.

You think it's common courtesy for an airline to let you sit next to those with whom you're actually flying?

Don't be silly.

Once airlines realized you like sitting next to the people who are named on your reservation, guess what they thought?

Yes, additional revenue opportunities.

So, as the Wall Street Journal reports, some airlines are now charging a so-called "family fee."

Want to sit next to, oh, your children? But of course. We'd love to help. Give us more money.

How about Frontier Airlines, which offers these comforting words on its website: "We'll try to keep your party together, but the only way to ensure that you'll sit together is to select seats at time of booking"?

And to select your seat, guess what you have to do?

Yes, really.

The ruse many airlines are using is to give as many seats as possible some sort of additional -- no, special -- designation.

Have you noticed how, say, an aisle seat costs you extra these days? Have you noticed how some seats are preferred where before they were just, well, seats?

These seats haven't changed at all.

Do you feel that tickle in your trouser pocket? 

This means there are very few ordinary, no-extra-fee-charged seats at all. And the ones that are tend to be the much-coveted middle seats.

How would you like to fly with your family in four middle seats one behind the other?

You wouldn't? Of course you wouldn't. So pay more now and you won't have to worry about it.

It's a logic of which your average extortionist would be proud.

You'll be thinking that on your preferred airline you don't have to worry about all this.

You have a certain status. Pale Emerald Elite or whatever.

Indeed, you'll get a much wider seat selection when you book your flight. That's still no great guarantee.

But for ordinary people who might fly only once or twice a year, they have to risk getting the dregs and not even sitting with their loved ones.

Just because the airline doesn't see value in them.

Or rather it does. As long as they pay a lot more.

It seems airlines are only too keen to find every way possible to make you pay more than the (relatively) attractive price that teased you in the first place.

(You're thinking they learned this from car dealers, aren't you? I couldn't possibly comment.)

You're worried that airlines don't care about you? Please, don't worry. They don't.

And, given that they're trying to make seats narrower and closer together so they can pack more in, they certainly don't care about your comfort.

They care about your money.

So the next time you hear a captain say how much the airline appreciates your business because it knows you have a number of choices, ask yourself whether the airline industry really offers you much choice at all.

Except to pay up, of course.

Only Congress can do something about this. But will it? Probably not. Members of Congress fly first class, don't they?

Published on: May 26, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.