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1173 Flying on a Budget Airline

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,173 – Flying on a Budget Airline.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,173. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Visit our website at ESLPod.com. Become a member of ESL Podcast. When you do, you can download a Learning Guide for this episode. You can also take a look at our ESL Podcast Store when you’re on our website. And why not like us on Facebook? Go to facebook.com/eslpod.

In this episode, we’re going to talk about flying in an airplane that doesn’t cost very much money. There are some good things about that and, well, some not-so-good things. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Anton: It’s amazing that we were able to get these airline tickets so cheaply.

Federica: It’s great, isn’t it? We can fly to Lawrence City for a fun weekend. Let’s check in using this kiosk.

Anton: Hmm, this is asking me to pay $50 to bring a piece of luggage aboard. I didn’t know there were such strict baggage restrictions.

Federica: I didn’t realize it either.

Anton: And we have to pay another fee to reserve a seat. I didn’t know that the default was open seating.

Federica: Me, neither.

Anton: Did you know that we’re not flying directly to Lawrence City, but making two stops on the way?

Federica: Oh, no!

Anton: And there are other hidden fees for what they consider add-ons, things we would normally get for free on other airlines, like a soda, snack, blanket, and in-flight entertainment?

Federica: No, that’s news to me.

Anton: Here’s the kicker. We’re not flying into Lawrence City Airport but to a remote airport 60 miles away. We’ll pay a lot for ground transportation to our hotel. Should we get a refund and forget about the trip?

Federica: Sorry, one thing I do know is that there are no refunds or changes allowed.

Anton: I should have known flying on a budget airline would be like this. It doesn’t seem like such a good deal now, does it?

Federica: No, this airline has turned nickel-and-diming into an art form!

[end of dialogue]

Our dialogue is called “Flying on a Budget (budget) Airline.” Something that is “budget” is something that is cheap. So, this is an airline – a company that uses airplanes to fly you from one place to another – that doesn’t cost very much money. Well, we find out in our dialogue that that isn’t always a good thing. Anton begins by saying, “It’s amazing that we were able to get these airline tickets so cheaply.” Federica says, “It’s great, isn’t it? We can fly to Lawrence City for a fun weekend.” I’m not sure where Lawrence City is exactly, but it sounds like it’s a great place.

Federica says, “Let’s check in using this kiosk.” “To check in” is a two-word phrasal
verb meaning to report for your flight or reservation – letting the company or someone know that you are ready to go or that you are going to be using this particular service. If you fly, “checking in” usually can be done either on your computer 24 hours before you fly or at the airport. It’s telling the airline that you are there and you are going to be taking this flight. Well, it doesn’t exactly say that you’re there if you check in online, but it says you will be there and you will be going on the airplane.

You can also check in at a hotel if you have a reservation. You call the hotel and tell them you want a room. Then when you arrive at the hotel, you can check in. You can say, “Yes, I’m here. Please give me my key.” A “kiosk” (kiosk) is a small structure that could just provide information, but at an airport is used to check in. You are able to give the computer the information about your flight, and usually the kiosk machine can give you your boarding pass, which is a piece of paper you need to get onto the airplane.

Federica suggests to Anton that they check in using the kiosk. Now, it is still possible in most American airports to check in talking to a real live human being rather than using a machine like a kiosk. Anton says, “Hmm, this,” meaning the kiosk, “is asking me to pay $50 to bring a piece of luggage aboard.”

A piece of luggage is something like a suitcase or a briefcase. “Aboard” means on the airplane with you. You can either take your luggage with you as you get on the airplane, or you can give it to the airline and they will put it down on the bottom of the airplane and then you pick it up again when you arrive. That’s called “checking your luggage.” Anton says that this particular airline is going to charge him $50 dollars to bring a piece of luggage aboard.

“I didn’t know there were such strict baggage restrictions,” Anton says. “Baggage” (baggage) is another word for “luggage.” “Restrictions” are rules and limitations, usually, that prevent you from doing certain things. In this case, the baggage restrictions for the airline say that if you want to bring a piece of luggage aboard, you have to pay $50, which is an awful lot of money. Federica says, “I didn’t realize it either.”

Anton continues, “And we have to pay another fee” – that is, more money – “to reserve a seat.” “To reserve” means to make arrangements to do something in advance. “To reserve a seat on an airplane” means to select your seat so that when you get on the airplane, that seat is already yours – no one else can sit there. Anton says, “I didn’t know that the default was open seating.” The “default” (default) of something is the normal way that this works or the normal way that something happens.

In this case, the normal way that things happen on the airplane is “open seating.” Open seating is a system where there are no seats that are reserved, or we might also say “assigned (assigned) to someone.” Everyone just gets on the airplane and the first person who gets on gets to pick the best seat, and so forth. No one has a reserved or assigned seat. Federica, again, didn’t realize this either.

Then Anton asks, “Did you know that we’re not flying directly to Lawrence City, but making two stops on the way?” “To fly directly” somewhere means to go from one city to another without stopping at a third city to get there. For example, if you are flying from Los Angeles to New York City, you can fly directly, meaning your plane will go up in the air in Los Angeles and come down in New York City. You could also have what are called “stopovers,” or simply “stops.” These would be places where you stop in between where you’re coming from and where you want to end up.

So you might make a stop in Denver, or in Minneapolis, or in Detroit, or in a number of other cities in between Los Angeles and New York. “To fly directly,” then, means that you don’t make any stops. You don’t have what are called “layovers” (layovers). Federica wasn’t aware of this either. She didn’t know they were going to be making two stops in order to get to Lawrence City.

Anton says, “And there are other hidden fees for what they consider add-ons.” A “hidden (hidden) fee” is money you have to pay that you didn’t realize you had to pay, usually because the company doesn’t tell you directly. An “add-on” would be something additional or something that the company considers additional – things that are not included in, in this case, your airline ticket.

Anton gives a list of some of these add-ons that he and Federica will have to pay extra for – things that normally you get free on an airplane such as soda, snacks, a blanket, and in-flight entertainment. “In-flight” means while you are flying, while you are traveling. “In-flight entertainment” would be things such as TV shows, music, perhaps movies that the airline would in many cases give you for free, although many U.S. airlines no longer do this. Federica was also ignorant of this. She says, “No, that’s news to me,” meaning “No, I didn’t know that either.”

Then Anton says, “Here’s the kicker.” A “kicker” (kicker) is an unexpected piece of news, an unpleasant piece of information – something that you didn’t expect. Anton says, “We’re not flying into Lawrence City Airport, but to a remote airport 60 miles away.” A “remote (remote) airport” would be an airport that is at a great distance from the place where you plan on visiting.

“We’ll pay a lot for ground transportation to our hotel,” Anton says. “Ground transportation” refers to the way or the means of transportation you use to get from the airport to your, say, hotel. This could include taxis, buses, trams, shuttles, subways, and so forth – anything that goes from the airport to where you want to go such as a hotel. Now that Anton knows about all these additional costs, he asks Federica, “Should we get a refund and forget about the trip?”

A “refund” is when a company gives you your money back for something you’ve already paid for. Federica says, “Sorry, one thing I do know is that there are no refunds or changes allowed,” meaning the airline will not give you your money back if you cancel, if you decide not to go on your trip. Anton says, “I should have known flying on a budget airline would be like this. It doesn’t seem like such a good deal now, does it?”

The expression “I should have known” means had I been more intelligent, or had I thought about it more, I would have realized that this was the case – that, in this case, budget airlines are not always a good deal, meaning they’re not always cheap, because they have all these additional fees and expenses.

Federica says, “No, this airline has turned nickel-and-diming into an art form!” A “nickel” (nickel) in U.S. English refers to a five-cent coin – a coin worth five pennies, basically. A “dime” is a coin worth ten cents. The verb “to nickel-and-dime” means to charge people lots of little fees, small fees for all sorts of things. You don’t say, “Well, the price is this much and includes everything.” Instead, you give the person a low price, but then you charge them for everything that the person may normally expect to be free.

This is what airlines do nowadays, at least in the U.S. It used to be that you got a free meal on an airplane when you flew from one city to another in the U.S. Nowadays, you have to pay for it. That’s an example of what some people would consider nickel-and-diming you – to charge you for every little thing.

Frederica says the airline “has turned nickel-and-diming into an art form.” “To turn it into” something means to make it into something. An “art form” here refers to anything that requires creativity. Federica is joking here. She doesn’t mean that the airline is actually doing something artistic when it charges you for all of these small services and products. “To turn something into an art form” here means simply that the airline has become very creative in taking your money.

Now, let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Anton: It’s amazing that we were able to get these airline tickets so cheaply.

Federica: It’s great, isn’t it? We can fly to Lawrence City for a fun weekend. Let’s check in using this kiosk.

Anton: Hmm, this is asking me to pay $50 to bring a piece of luggage aboard. I didn’t know there were such strict baggage restrictions.

Federica: I didn’t realize it either.

Anton: And we have to pay another fee to reserve a seat. I didn’t know that the default was open seating.

Federica: Me, neither.

Anton: Did you know that we’re not flying directly to Lawrence City, but making two stops on the way?

Federica: Oh, no!

Anton: And there are other hidden fees for what they consider add-ons, things we would normally get for free on other airlines, like a soda, snack, blanket, and in-flight entertainment?

Federica: No, that’s news to me.

Anton: Here’s the kicker. We’re not flying into Lawrence City Airport but to a remote airport 60 miles away. We’ll pay a lot for ground transportation to our hotel. Should we get a refund and forget about the trip?

Federica: Sorry, one thing I do know is that there are no refunds or changes allowed.

Anton: I should have known flying on a budget airline would be like this. It doesn’t seem like such a good deal now, does it?

Federica: No, this airline has turned nickel-and-diming into an art form!

[end of dialogue]

Our scriptwriter has turned writing scripts for podcasts into an art form for sure. Thanks to Dr. Lucy Tse for all of her wonderful scripts.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
to check in – to report for a flight or other reservation, letting someone know that one has arrived and is ready to use the service

* When you arrive at the hotel, please check in, leave your bags in the room, and then come meet us in the lobby.

kiosk – a small structure used to provide information, especially with an electronic or digital display that people can interact with

* The library has installed kiosks so that people can check out books by themselves, without needing assistance from a librarian.

baggage restriction – rules and limitations and the types, quantities, and weight of items that people can bring when traveling

* The baggage restrictions doesn’t allow for these heavy boxes without expensive additional fees.

to reserve – to book; to make arrangements to have or do something at a specific date and time in the future

* Did you remember to reserve the meeting room for our meeting this afternoon?

default – the standard or basic setting that happens automatically unless someone changes it

* By default, this computer program saves your work every 10 minutes, but you can change the setting to save more frequently.

open seating – a system where people can sit wherever they want, without having assigned seats

* This theater has open seating, so let’s get there early to get good seats.

to fly directly – to fly to one’s destination in a single flight, without stopping anywhere else

* Is it possible to fly directly from Boise, Idaho to Milwaukee, Wisconsin?

stop – a layover; a period of time spent at an airport between two or more flights on a journey to one’s final destination

* We had a two-hour stop in Salt Lake City, but that wasn’t really enough time to leave the airport and explore.

hidden fee – amounts of money that must be paid for a particular purpose, but that the buyer is not aware of until it is time to pay them

* When you get a mortgage, read the contract carefully for any hidden fees.

add-ons – optional, desirable features or components that are priced separately

* The resort fee wasn’t very high, but once we got there, we spend hundreds of dollars on add-ons, like special meals with characters in full costume and admission to see the parade.

in-flight entertainment – movies, TV shows, video games, music, and other distractions used to entertain passengers on flights

* The in-flight entertainment system allows each passenger to choose what he or she would like to see on a small screen directly in front of each seat.

kicker – an unexpected, often unpleasant discovery or additional piece of information

* We knew there would be some minor delays, but the kicker was when our software developer said that they were more than six months behind schedule.

remote – far away; not nearby

* They live in a remote cabin about a two-hour drive from the nearest town.

ground transportation – busses, taxis, shuttles, and subways that provide transportation to and from an airport

* When you get off your plane, follow the signs for ground transportation and look for the hotel’s free shuttle.

refund – a reimbursement; money that is returned to the buyer if he or she returns a product or is unhappy with a service

* If you’re dissatisfied with your purchase, bring it back within 30 days and we will issue a full refund.

budget airline – a low-cost airline; an airline that offers low-priced services with very few or no luxuries

* Flying on a budget airline can save you hundreds of dollars, as long as you don’t mind the uncomfortable seats and lack of food and drink.

to nickel-and-dime – to collect a lot of money from people by charging small amounts for many small things

* The phone company offered a low-priced plan, but then nickeled-and-dimed customers by charging them connection fees, bill mailing fees, emergency dialing fees, taxes, and more.

art form – an activity that requires a lot of talent and creativity

* At that store, they have made their clothing displays into an art form.

Comprehension Questions
1. What are they doing at the kiosk?
a) They are watching a movie.
b) They are purchasing their flight tickets.
c) They are letting the airline know that they are at the airport.

2. What does Federica mean when she says, “No, this airline has turned nickel-and-diming into an art form”?
a) The airline is very good at charging customers for lots of little things.
b) The airline has special pricing for artists.
c) The airline has the lowest prices of any airline.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
open seating

The phrase “open seating,” in this podcast, means a system where people can sit wherever they want, without having assigned seats: “If you want to have a window seat, make sure you are one of the first people in line, because with open seating, the window seats are usually taken first.” An “open bar” is a bar where alcoholic drinks are served to guests for free: “The drinks are free at the open bar, but please leave a tip for the bartender.” Finally, an “open house” is an event where people can go into a building to become familiar with it, especially when a house is for sale: “The school has an open house each fall and invites the students’ families to come and meet the teachers.” Or, “The real estate agent recommends that we have an open house to let buyers see the home.”

kicker

In this podcast, the word “kicker” means an unexpected, often unpleasant discovery or additional piece of information: “The children were very poorly behaved at the restaurant, but the kicker was when they began to throw food at the other diners.” The phrase “to get a kick out of (something)” means to thoroughly enjoy something: “We really got of a kick out of Grandpa dancing to modern rock at the wedding reception. He was so funny!” The phrase “to do (something) for kicks” means to do something for entertainment and enjoyment: “Teenagers race down this road on Saturday nights for kicks.” Finally, the word “kick” describes a strong flavor, or especially the strong effect of alcohol: “Wow, that drink has a kick! I didn’t realize it had that much alcohol.”

Culture Note
Airline Aggregators

In the past, people worked with “travel agents” (people whose job is to help others plan their trips) to purchase “airline tickets” (tickets to fly on a plane). Then, with the “advent” (arrival and growth) of the Internet, people began to buy their own tickets directly from airline websites. Today, many people prefer to use “airline aggregators,” or companies and websites that collect travel information from many different airlines and display the “results” (what was found in an electronic search) on a single web page for easy “comparison” (observations about which flight is better or cheaper than other flights).

Consumers can use a single airline aggregator to identify the best “route” (where and when one will fly) and price for their desired “itinerary” (travel plans, including where one plans to go and when), rather than visiting the websites of many different airlines, which can be too “time consuming” (requiring a lot of time). Seeing the results from multiple airlines on a single page “simplifies” (makes easier) comparisons.

One of the disadvantages of the airline aggregators is that they often combine flights from multiple airlines. This can be good for consumers if it results in a lower price. However, if the first flight is delayed and the traveler misses the second flight, that second airline may not offer an alternative flight. Or, if it does, it might charge a very high fee. In contrast, when both flights are offered through a single airline, that airline will typically take responsibility for any delay and offer to “re-route” (schedule with different travel plans) the passenger as needed to get him or her to the “final destination” (where one wants to go) as quickly as possible.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - a