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The new pair seat surcharge

by Amy Chavez

My neighbor Kazu-chan recently booked a trip to Bali with her friend on Garuda Indonesia. She said the travel agency she booked through charged her ¥3,000 to sit next to her friend. And her friend also had to pay ¥3,000 to sit next to Kazu-chan. This was called a pair seat.

Like a piece of day-old mochi, I found this a bit hard to swallow, so I called the travel agency myself. They confirmed that yes, this charge was for real. And it was an agency surcharge, not an airline surcharge. I wonder how Garuda Indonesia, not a budget airline, feels about this.

The ¥3,000 surcharge is applied even if you only want to sit with the person one way. This makes a “Narita divorce” (where couples divorce after the results of their honeymoon) even more expensive. I wonder how much you have to pay to cancel the pair seat.

“What about a family of four?” I asked the travel agent. The answer was, “Still ¥3,000 per person.”

Hmm. If it’s ¥3,000 just to sit next to your family, I wonder how much they charge to sit next to the flight attendant.

I fully expect that the next time I get on an airplane in Japan, there will be no flight attendants at all. Instead, your travel agent will fill the role:

“Ladies and gentleman, thank you for joining our Green Flight! Please be aware that in the case of emergency, the pilot reserves the right to land at a different airport, including the very one the plane takes off from. Accordingly, you will earn no frequent flier miles but we will award a complimentary deduction of 2,000 points from your carbon foot print.

“If you prefer to arrive at your destination (a nominal surcharge of ¥5,000), we are happy to land you in the country of your original intention, weather permitting.

“In the event of foul weather, however, we may be forced to land at a different airport in the same country. In this case, for your return journey, please board the plane at the originally intended-to-land airport. This flight pattern is called an ‘open jaw’: We chew you up and spit you out at the other end.

“If you wish to use the toilet in flight, please wait till the ‘fasten seat belt’ sign is turned off and insert a ¥100 coin in the slot provided on the toilet door. For those with currencies other than yen, you can buy toilet tickets from the vending machine at the front of the plane.

“We offer a full beverage service onboard, including copious amounts of alcohol at extremely inflated exchange rates. Cans of beer are ¥800. Add an extra ¥100 if you want to sit next to your can of beer. Due to safety concerns for the crew, beverage service is not available to those in al-fresco wing seating.

“We discourage you from eating meals onboard as it is more fuel efficient to transport passengers with empty stomachs. If you have already paid a fuel surcharge and you have a note from your doctor saying that you are diabetic and must eat, you will incur a double fuel surcharge, called a ‘plus-plus’ in hospitality industry terms.

“We remind you to not get up and move around the plane as that will incur an additional charge, unless of course you have a pilot-approved hall pass.

“In case of loss of cabin pressure, place your own oxygen mask over your mouth and nose before assisting your child. If you did not pay for the pair seat and your mask will not reach your child sitting at the back of the plane, then you may purchase an oxygen cord extension for ¥500.

“For a limited time, we are offering you the chance to go even greener with our Virtual Holiday. The price includes a pair seat (for an extra ¥3,000) and an in-flight movie (an additional ¥1,000). All this while you sit on the runway! You may wish to purchase an optional tour of the airplane which includes lunch and coffee. Coffee cream an additional ¥250, if we decide to give you coffee at all. A 10 percent tax is slapped on the end of your trip and collected as you wait in line to leave the aircraft. On our Virtual Holidays, you may not have gone very far, but you’ll sure feel good about it: Go green!

“Ladies and gentleman, I hope you enjoyed your flight. Please prepare for landing. That is, if you paid to have the wheels lowered for landing. Should you have second thoughts now about opting out of that charge, we do have an auctioneer on board who can auction off the possibility of putting down the landing wheels. You may still decide on a sea landing in which we remind you that your life jackets are in your seat bottom cushion. If you paid the life jacket surcharge, that is.”