There is nothing that riles up people more than the steady decline of comfort on US airlines, coupled with the disaggregation of fares so that now there is a steadily increasing list of things that used to be standard but are now charged extra, such a food, checked baggage, carry-on baggage, etc.
Mark Frauenfelder compares US airlines on another vexing issue and that is the amount of legroom they provide. JetBlue is the best and it should come as no surprise that the low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines is the worst. I have flown on Spirit only once and found the backs of seats to be so thin as to have almost the hardness of wooden planks with hardly any cushioning material. Maybe soon, we will be asked to pay extra for seats with softer backs or for wider seats.
It would be nice to have comparisons on the thickness of the material in the seat backs as well. But all these comparisons will not matter since I suspect that most people choose purely on the basis of price and doubt that many travelers check all these other factors before making their decision.
I can see the logic of separating the extras from the base fare since any costs incurred in offering them ‘free’ will be added on to the fare anyway, except it will be spread out amongst all the passengers. The main objection to the idea of disaggregating the fares and making people pay for what they use is that it makes comparing prices complicated and confusing.
I hate flying anyway and avoid it as much as possible. The whole business of going to the airport hours early, taking off shoes and belts and emptying pockets, passing through those machines and getting patted down, not to mention having flights delayed or even canceled, make for a truly dreary experience. When I have to fly, I console myself with the fact that flights don’t last that long and even trips to Sri Lanka and New Zealand to visit family last at most 15 hours on the longest legs of the journey. I just grit my teeth and put up with it.