Friday, January 27, 2012

The Price of Free, Part I

The airline industry has an interesting way of defining free: by charging you for it.

In fact, the airline industry complicates “free” so much, that it’s going to take a few One Big Yodel posts to cover just how complicated free can be.

Let’s start with fares for infants, since Ms. One Big Yodel now has one.

Supposedly, infants (defined by children under two) fly free. I decided to test this theory by booking a flight.

Here’s what “free” means, defined by two different airlines for the same round-trip flight:


Infant price:

-Fare CHF 44

-Fuel Surcharge CHF 328

-Airport taxes CHF 52

TOTAL “FREE” FARE: CHF 424 ($460)

ZURICH to CHICAGO on UNITED (same code-share flight as SWISS)

Infant price: $106.40 (includes one 5-minute dropped call, one 45-minute phone call with a non-native English speaker, and plenty of bad on-hold music to determine)

TOTAL “FREE” FARE: $106.40


1) As we all knew, nothing is free in Switzerland

2) The USA is no longer the Land of the Free but is still much cheaper than Switzerland

3) The only thing free about the infant ticket was the headache it took to figure out the best price

Have you been amazed by the airline industry recently?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Baby Bureaucracy

The Frau has been writing a lot. But not on this blog. Because having a baby is a lot of work. Having a baby abroad is even more work–at least when it comes to paperwork.

There are Swiss and international birth certificates, foreigner cards, passport applications, reports of birth abroad and social security forms, plus photos required for several of these forms, not to mention in-person visits to the U.S. Consulate office in Zurich, the migration department in Aarau, and the city office in Baden. All with a baby who can't even hold her head up yet and a mother who wishes she could put hers down on a big, fat pillow.

Oh, and even more interesting—the price you pay for all this bureaucracy:

Swiss and international birth certificates: CHF 30 each, we ordered three and were also charged CHF 1 for shipping.

Swiss foreigner card for baby (side note: somehow, the Swiss are able to even make a two-month-old look criminal in the photo), valid for four months until it must be renewed again, along with the parents’ cards: CHF 143

Passport photos: Three for CHF 10 (ordered from—I highly recommend this site for any passport photo)

U.S. passport/birth reports/social security card: CHF 184

TOTAL: CHF 428 (free headaches included)


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