After 9/11, many of us went to New York to respond to then-Mayor Giuliani's plea to help the city by spending money there. We visited Ground Zero, museums and restaurants, determined not to let "terrorism" lock us in our homes.
National leaders were also entreating the public to support the stricken airline industry by traveling. If we stayed home, terrified, the enemy won. Afflicted by wanderlust, I took this seriously and continued to travel as much as my schedule and purse allowed.
I am always open to a "last-minute deal" that appears in my e-mail box. Recently British Airways offered great flights to London from Boston plus two free hotel nights.
I logged on to the Web site already dreaming of a London escape. Sure enough, I could book air from Boston to London, round trip, for $225. The kick in the teeth, however, was that taxes and Homeland Security fees, plus airport charges, added a full $347.99 to that ticket. The bottom line is that the total cost became $572.99, more than 150 percent more than the basic airline charge of $225!
Passengers start with this $347.99 charge, since the airport taxes and so-called "security" fees are flat and not based on a percentage of airfare. Add to these realities the plummeting dollar, now worth less than 60 percent of a euro and only half a British pound, and the global unpopularity of America and Americans and the "terror" that keeps us trapped in the homeland has less to do with jihadists than it does with our own misguided bureaucracy and policies.
Domestic air tickets on so-called low-cost carriers also add significant taxes and fees. With gas prices skyrocketing, airfare will only rise, and driving to our destination — when that is geographically possible — will also be unaffordable.
As for the use to which all this money is being put, most U.S. airports are more crowded, less comfortable, dirtier, less efficient and no more secure than they were on 9/10. Weekly we hear about someone smuggling a weapon on board, wandering onto the tarmac or actually working for the airport or its security team, the FBI or CIA while huddling with terrorists. Taxes and fees worth 150 percent more than the ticket itself won't fix that.
Like the song says, "We gotta get outta this place." Problem is, we can't afford to do so.
- ► 2008 (17)