Forget the outrage, I'm surprised Jetstar overlooked the obvious bonus charge

It was revealed yesterday that Jetstar - the budget airline whose slogan should be "The One That's Not Tiger" - would be starting an exciting new PR experiment based on the premise "what decision could we make that would garner us the most abuse on Twitter?"

The thing they apparently settled upon was adding a new surcharge for babies currently carried on their parents' laps, to help defray the cost of their taking up no extra seats whatsoever.

From now on, passengers who chose not to stow their offspring in their checked luggage will be paying an extra $30 on domestic flights and $50 on international ones, zero dollars of which would go to the passengers who got to sit next to - and absorb the drool of - said infants. 

And this is an utterly shocking development: who would have thought Jetstar would have overlooked such an obvious bonus charge for so embarrassingly long? 

After all, passengers already pay extra for such luxuries as "choosing a seat", so whacking on an bonus fee for what is essentially a piece of carry on luggage with the same surname seems like a weird oversight.

Now, it should be made clear that Jetstar have presumably been absorbing all the costs of making their overhead compartments so kid-friendly up until now, but even so this decision seems like the first act in a heartwarming Xmas film that ends with Jetstar CEO David Hall discovering the true meaning of budget air travel.

And it looks unfair at first glance - after all, Virgin and Qantas don't pretend that babies on laps force a plane-wide weight imbalance that can only be stabilised with money - but it makes perfect sense when you take into account the costs of accommodating our more portable citizens. 

For example, those tiny seatbelt connectors that clip onto the existing belts are handcrafted by artisans working in Monte Carlo's most exclusive seatbelt boutiques, and each of those infant life jackets are bespoke creations by an ever-changing line up of this season's hottest designers. This stuff costs money, people, and it's about time Jetstar stopped carrying the can for it.

Still, this new impost will help smooth the way for what one assumes will be a slew of new fees ahead of the end of year peak season, such as the legroom fee (first leg's free, second one carries a charge), the snake-free cabin tax, and of course the vital new wings-stay-on levy. 

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And sure, this new impost might not actually be about the seating but be brought in because people with babies are almost invariably hulking extra luggage with them like prams and bassinets, and this fee now allows passengers to bring up to four extra pieces of luggage, but... oh, that sounds pretty reasonable, actually. 

Still, you'd think Jetstar would maybe have spun this more as "hey, families: here's a new luggage deal that allows you to bring more necessary stuff!" rather than sniffily issuing statements containing corporate-approved sentences like "The infant fee for domestic flights brings us in line with the other low cost carrier in Australia, which has had an infant fee since 2009" if they wanted to avoid a fairly predictable online outrage-fest.

So with that in mind: hey, Jetstar - need some quality PR consultation with regards sidestepping obvious faux pas? My fees are very reasonable - although I should add that since Monday I now charge extra when I'm carrying my infant son.

You're cool with that, right? 

It's the first birthday of Dom Knight and Andrew P Street's Double Disillusionists podcast - which they celebrate right here.

This article What's up with Jetstar's new child tax? was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald.

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