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SIMPSON: People get tired of poor service

Bombs, rockets, deadly clashes, small arms fire -- as if these are not bad enough, young soldiers redeployed from combat zones and under military orders recently had to face hidden fees from Delta Air Lines.

Delta added extra baggage fees to troops unprepared to pay them. Thirty-four soldiers ended up with extra charges of $2,800. Two staff sergeants protested on YouTube and Delta reacted in a positive manner. The company apologized and changed policy.

Sure, the airlines are in the business of making money for shareholders and if extra fees are required as a way to balance budgets then so be it. It is the hidden fee that causes objection. Today these fees seem to be everywhere.

Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars were not happy with Delta, describing the recent incident as the "worst welcome home any soldier could receive."

Being under military orders may enable some soldiers to recover their out-of-pocket expenses, but this hidden fee inconvenienced many of them. Being unprepared caught them off guard. They were not carrying a lot of cash.

We are aware from frequent flyers that for some time now airlines have been enriching themselves through charging extra fees. There are fees for making phone reservations, cashing in unused tickets or frequent flyer miles without advance notice. Want to carry a pet aboard? Fees. Some airlines charge as much as $100 for a third bag.

I asked one friend who travels a lot if he had to pay extra to use the toilet. He laughed, but warned me this could be a future fee. If it was hidden and not included in your ticket price, and you lacked ready cash, a toilet fee could be a major problem.

What consumers are complaining about is this nickel and diming that is appearing on a lot of bills these days. Oh, it isn't just airlines. look at your telephone bill or the bill from your refuse collector. Hidden fuel fees are common.

If you fly prepare to pay extra for a special seat assignment, pillows, blankets, some food items and if a child rides in the lap of a parent.

Consumers ought to have a means of determining in advance what the total cost of a flight somewhere is. Misleading customers is not appreciated and long term is probably a bad business practice leading to resentment.

The Transportation Department is reportedly studying the problem and if they are not, should be. Airline websites should display service fees prominently. Fees should be displayed at all points of sale so consumers may know true costs.

One traveler recently reported buying an airline ticket to France thinking his cost was $827. After fees, he ended up paying $942. He is among air travelers seeking fee disclosure in advance of ticket purchase.

It is just such stories as the one involving our returning troops that shine the spotlight on the need for legislation directing airlines as to how to sell their services to the consumer.

It is only fair for customers to know true costs before buying airline tickets. Not knowing is maddening to the traveling public. When bank statements, phone bills and other expenses include fees, and when gasoline goes up frequently and overnight, airline fees only add to consumer discontent.

You may have heard of the American Consumer Satisfaction Index. Passengers rank airlines low, and Delta passengers have registered discontent due to baggage fees, poor service and prices.

Delta has assured the public of intentions to build them a better experience.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.