Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Stricklandia's Greatest Hits

Over the course of several years, I wrote 264 postings on this travel blog.  In the end, life got too busy—a common cause of death for most blogs—but it was a fun ride, writing about something I love so much.

Here are some of what I'd call the "greatest hits" of this blog: a mix of commentary, whimsy and advice. Happy travels!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fewer fees—for a fee

Is a new era in airline a-la-carte fees emerging? After the major airlines have spent several years stripping out every service imaginable, and then charging a fee for it, at least one is now bundling them back together.

On Wednesday, American Airlines announced a new fare structure by which customers can opt to pay a higher fare that includes certain services like one checked bag, preferred seating and other perks. In other words, you can pay several smaller fees, or get the same perks by paying one larger fee.

Sounds like six of one, half a dozen of the other, and you can be sure the airlines are going to get your money one way or the other. But even if all it amounts to is spin, at least they seem to be trying to add a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down.


Monday, April 30, 2012

A road trip through San Diego's backcountry

Recently, I took my family on a driving tour of San Diego's backcountry. We went through some gorgeous scenery, so I thought the route was worth sharing.

We went up to the north county, and then turned inland on Hwy. 76. After driving through orchards and Indian reservations, we summited Palomar Mountain and hiked a nature trail in Palomar Mountain State Park.

After a brief visit to Palomar Observatory, we drove the back way down the mountain, coming down to Lake Henshaw. The scenery and views from this leg of the journey were some of the best.

We then continued on Hwy. 79 to Santa Ysabel, where we made the requisite stop at Dudley's Bakery for some fresh bread. From there, we continued on to Julian, and then made our way home on 79 through Cuyamaca to I-8.

All told, it was a full day of leisurely driving, hiking and sight-seeing, approximately 180 miles in total. Click on the map image below to access an interactive Google map.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

North Park sunset

The remains of a beautiful sunset in San Diego's eclectic North Park neighborhood.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday travel photo

Nothing says "California" like seeing the ocean in the foreground and a snow-covered peak in the background (shot from Two Harbors on Catalina Island)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spirit rationalizes their new fee

To close out this series of postings about Spirit Airlines' new carry-on bag fee, I want to share the response I received from the airline when I expressed my opinion about the new fee:

"In order to continue reducing fares even further and offering customers the options of paying only for the services they want and use rather than subsidizing the choices of others, we are progressing to the next phase of unbundling with this introduction of carry-on bag fees. In addition to lowering fares even further, this will substantially reduce the number of carry-on bags, which will improve in-flight safety and efficiency by speeding up the boarding and deplaning process, all of which ultimately improve the overall customer experience."

You could fly the largest plane in the Spirit fleet through some of the holes in their logic.

First, that by bundling the "cost" of carry-on baggage into the price of a ticket, they are making you subsidize the "choices of others." As if to suggest there is a measurable percentage of people who bring only enough baggage that will fit under the seat, and who don't need to check bags or stow bags in the overhead bins.

Second, implementing this new fee will "substantially reduce the number of carry-on bags." Really? If I have to pay a fee whether I check my bag or carry it on, which option am I going to choose? I'm still going to carry on if possible, so that I don't have to wait at baggage claim.

Third, that this new fee will speed up "the boarding and deplaning process." Even if you believe that there will be fewer carry-on bags, do you really believe it will take less time to board and deplane? Perhaps, slightly—if you swallow the fewer-bags claim—but I can think of other, more customer-friendly ways to accomplish that goal than charging this new fee.

And lastly, who among you can believe that anything an airline does in this day and age will possibly "improve the overall customer experience"? That claim flies in the face of 20+ years' worth of trends to the contrary. It will take a sea change in the airline industry to start making a positive impact on customer experience, and nickel-and-diming customers with more à la carte fees is not a step in that direction.

On their website, Spirit Airlines claims to "liberate customers from being forced into paying for services they do not desire or use." In my opinion, they are not following the "spirit" of that mission by charging a fee for something that is as "optional" as a lavatory. (Knock on wood; that may be next.)


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Spirited debate

I hope Spirit Airlines' newest à la carte fee is the straw that breaks the air traveler's back. Up till now, these à la carte fees have been optional; you can choose whether or not you want to pay for a checked bag, for a meal, for extra legroom, and so on.

But let's face it: for all intents and purposes, this carry-on bag fee is MANDATORY, because you'll have to pay it for all but the shortest of trips, for which you can pack light enough to fit your bag under the seat.

I urge you to voice your opinion directly with Spirit Airlines, which I just did. Just go to their contact form, and start venting. Let's start a "spirited" debate!