The Suitcase Lady


November 4, 2014, 11:23 pm

Sometimes it is necessary to take a stand. Last week was one of those times.

My husband and I were getting ready to visit our family in California for four days when we discovered that Frontier Airlines now charges for all carry on bags. The airline’s explanation for this new fee is “you get to choose the extra services you want.” Our view of the change is that we get to pay $100 to take a few clothes, clean underwear and two toothbrushes round trip. We were outraged.

We are both minimalists. One small carry on bag each has seen us through Japan, Central America, Alaska and Europe. A new plan of action was clearly needed.

The goddess of travel smiled down on me. I found a new, commodious eighty dollar handbag at Goodwill for $3.99. Two days later, St. Vincent’s provided a mint condition Samsonite briefcase for $1.99. Both items fit the 18 x 14 x 8 inch airline size limit for a “personal item”.

Choosing  clothes, toiletries and books that would fit in our personal items did require thought and planning. In addition, we had to find space for a small pumpkin. We have spent many previous Halloweens out west and know that finding a pumpkin in a desert state isn’t guaranteed. Neither one of us wanted to be jack-o-lantern less on Halloween.

My husband’s bag got yanked off the belt at the airport for a security check. The TSA man fished through my guy’s meager belongings, held the pumpkin aloft and wryly said, “you’re my first pumpkin of the day.”

When we arrived at the Frontier gate, nobody was smiling. About one hundred angry customers were in a long line waiting to jam their carry on bags and personal items into the wooden sizers. A flight attendant kept announcing in a prison warden’s voice that if your bag didn’t fit, you would not be allowed on the plane. Her information did not match the info on Frontier’s computer site which said that each bag that flunked its test would cost $50.

Our personal items fit: we had measured them three times before we left home. But in case Frontier used their own rulers, I was prepared. I would have simply given them my bag. After all, San Diego has plenty of thrift stores, and I could have replaced my bag and its contents for under twenty-five dollars.


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