How You Can Get Airlines to Stop Raising Bag Fees

I feel like I’ve approached this topic before, but in light of the airlines raising bag fees once again to $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second, I thought it was worth revisiting. There are a lot of people complaining about bag fees going up, but that’s not going to do any good. You need to take action if you’re not happy.

It’s a time-honored tradition for travelers to hate everything that airlines do. Airline management knows that and has to take all Marie Antoinette on Bag Feesfeedback it gets as part of a larger picture. So just because you say you hate bag fees, doesn’t mean they’ll believe you. Let me explain.

People say they hate things but then they don’t change their behavior. This has happened with nearly every change that has stuck in the airline industry. People always complain, but if they keep flying, then the revenue is usually worth it in the mind of the airline manager. Airlines also tend to move in packs, so you don’t often have much time to switch your business to show your displeasure. When one moves, they all move.

But there’s a unique opportunity when it comes to bag fees because of a couple of holdouts. Southwest won’t charge you for your first two checked bags and JetBlue won’t charge you for the first. If you really aren’t happy with bag fees, you should switch your business to these guys and then write a letter to your previous favorite airline letting them know. If enough people do that, the airlines will reverse where things are going with bag fees. If not, then they’ll just keep jacking them up until they can’t anymore. It’s that simple.

Ready to change the world? This won’t be easy, because remember, elite frequent fliers don’t pay bag fees. That means that the people the airlines deem to be most important aren’t going to care if there are bag fees or not. So it’s just the unwashed masses who have to get together to fight the power. And it’s only some of the unwashed masses who check bags. Families with kids, people going on long vacations, etc – they’re the ones impacted the most. That’s an uphill battle.

So, if you want to fight the power, stop complaining and change your behavior instead. And when you do it, tell someone with specific details. You can start with the comment section on this post. Airline people read this blog, so this is one way to reach them. Or, if you’re looking for something more effective, send them an email, give them a call, or send them a postcard from the trip you take on another airline. If you don’t like bag fees, that’s the way to get them changed.

Complaining about it won’t be enough.

71 Responses to How You Can Get Airlines to Stop Raising Bag Fees

  1. A says:

    Speedybob wrote:

    I don’t care if they raise bag fees to $200 per bag. My LAST airline flight was a year ago on United. I now either drive or don’t make the trip I WILL NOT fly on any commercial airline again!!!.

    I know a lot of people like you Speedybob. For nearby destinations that can be reaced via auto in a day or less, I almost always drive it the time allows. #1, it’s cheaper to rent a vehicle and pay for gasoline providing I don’t count my cost of time. #2, you’re not getting hassled by TSA or sitting for hours on end on some tarmac. #3, no nickle and diming me or charging outrageous prices for dry sandwiches in a captive environment.

    Honestly I think the legacy carriers got it wrong when they cut service and started trying to compete with the LCC’s. For example, I actually have paid more to fly CO on a longer flight because I knew they’d serve me some crappy meal without asking for $7. If the service on WN is the same as some legacy carrier of course I’m going to WN just to save the bag fee. Now if the legacy is $50 more but I get free checked bags, a hot meal, maybe a drink or two and some decent IFE, I’m more than willing to cough that up. But when you provide absolutely nothing over the Southwest & JetBlue’s & charge more add on fees, well, the choice is simple.

  2. LoneStarMike says:

    million miler wrote:

    Since fees seem to be here to stay, maybe we need to level the playing field?

    I agree. I remember reading an article in the NYT dated Nov 14, 2009 with the headline “Worried About Losing Tax Revenue, Congress to Investigate Airlines’ Fees”

    The gist of the article was that all airlines have to pay the 7.5% excise tax on the fare you pay. However, fees, for the most part, are not taxed, so the government is concerned it is missing out on extra revenue that could help airports. If this happens, the airlines may decide to pass along to their customers the cost of the additional taxes.

    I personally hope this goes through.. I don’t think it’s fair for an airline like Southwest to include the basics as part of the fare (ability to change an itinerary, redeposit an award, check two bags, etc) and then pay the appropriate taxes, while most of the legacies match Southwest’s fare (wink, wink) and then add on a bunch of junk fees that they -don’t- have to pay taxes on.

    Some might ask – why would you want to do that? That’ll just make everyone’s costs go up. Well, no it won’t. It won’t affect elites because they aren’t charged the fee to begin with. It won’t affect most people flying Southwest unless they’re paying a UM fee, a pet fee or an early boarding check-in fee. It will mostly affect non-elites at the legacies, which in turn will drive more of them away and onto other airlines with either no fees or at least more reasonable fees.

    Just another way to “level the playing field.”

  3. CF says:

    Ron wrote:

    Cranky, I understand the thing about moving your business away if you don’t like the fees, but not the part about telling the airlines. What makes you think they even read the comments you send? Ten days ago I stepped off a US Airways flight to find one of my checked suitcases ripped. It was the end of a 24-hour journey with 2 kids and I didn’t feel like dealing with it at the airport, so instead I sent them an email the next day. Haven’t heard back yet. If this is how they treat correspondence from their own customers, what makes you think they’d pay attention to a letter saying that you flew another carrier? It probably goes straight to the trash.

    There’s no question that they do read every letter that comes in, but I wonder if there’s some backlog keeping them from responding in a timely manner. They say on their website that complaints will be processed in 3 to 4 days. If you don’t hear back soon, call them. If you still don’t get resolution, file a complaint with the DOT. That’ll get their attention.

    Here’s my take on this. When complaints come in, they’re analyzed by the customer relations team and sent out to the various departments. They and the marketing people will respond to the softer indicators like these. Meanwhile, the revenue guys will be focused on the numbers. So if there is enough erosion in passengers, they’ll see it in the numbers and get alarmed. It’s pretty common for the marketing/customer people to disagree with the revenue people on things, so this attacks it from both sides of the coin.

  4. frank says:

    @ Ron:

    Let me see, you leave the airport without showing the airline the damage to your luggage? Yet, you email them and expect to resolve the issue via home? LOL.
    Most major airlines have several HUNDRED THOUSAND customers a day. Over 50 to 100 MILLION per year. Yep, they have a couple of emails to respond to, dont they?

  5. Brad says:

    A wrote:

    If the service on WN is the same as some legacy carrier of course I’m going to WN just to save the bag fee.

    Of course, the service on WN is never the same as a legacy carrier — I’d much rather wait for an hour at a random WN gate (with comfortable chairs and power at every seat) than United’s business-class lounge at LHR. The legacy carriers think they can compete with low fares and good service by raising fares and cutting service… I don’t know what they’re smoking, but maybe the FAA should send some inspectors to drug-test airline management.

  6. Consumer Mike says:

    Hard to believe the legacy carriers don’t se what is happening and get the message. They are forcing their customers to use SW and Jet Blue like gifts. In a dimenishing customer base this is not only stupid, it’s suicide. The legacy airline management must have a death wish. It appears they are alumni from the same schools as the GM management attended. It is only a matter of time before you see the same results. Slow learners, I guess.

    Just remember people – VOTE WITH YOUR DOLLARS.

  7. Ron says:

    @ frank: LOL all you want — sometimes just getting home is more urgent than getting that $25 voucher or whatever. That doesn’t mean I should give up the compensation.

    @ CF: US Airways doesn’t even list a phone for complaints! I think when I filled out the customer relations form the web site said response time was 6-7 days, it’s taken longer by now. Looking back at the web site I see there’s a separate form for central baggage resolution, maybe I’ll try that next (though customer relations also has a baggage category). If that fails, then I’ll write to DOT.

    Now, will I stop flying US Airways because of the ripped baggage incident? Do I believe they’re worse than other airlines in this respect? I’m not sure.

  8. frank says:

    @ Ron:

    I think it’s funny that you expect compensation for damage to your luggage when you didnt even allow the airline to VISUALLY SEE IT and submit a CLAIM.

  9. Ed Kelty says:

    @ Ron:
    It is critical to report damage claims immediately on receipt of luggage. They can sometimes replace it on the spot. Once you leave the terminal, they have no proof that they are responsible.

  10. Ed Kelty says:

    I can remember the old days about ten years ago when many airlines had metal containers in which your carry-on bags had to fit, or they would have to be checked. This presumably was for safety reasons and to speed turn-around.

    Now, we serve as porters and cram as much as possible into the overhead bins. This not only is a schlep, but provides some revenue to the airlines and allows them to reduce the size of their ground crews.

    I hate the crowded aisles getting on and off with passengers bopping me with their roll-ons.

  11. Consumer Mike says:

    Well Ed, the higher the baggage fees, the more you and all of us will have to endure the filled, overstuffed overhead bins as well as the delays in loading and unloading the same. SW is sounding better by the minute!

    @ Ed Kelty:

  12. Kathy T says:

    I try to avoid checking ANY luggage – initially as a result of having had lost luggage in the past, and I do write about how we tend to pack as lightly as possible.

    That said, I’ve gotten a good deal of insight from all these comments, and learned quite a bit as a result. I do understand how difficult it is for a lot of travellers to pare it down to one carry-on (especially if you’re travelling with kids or sports gear). I love the suggestion DeltaPMFlyer had about going with as large a bag as allowed if you’re going to have to pay a fee anyway.

    I also liked Andrew’s comments – I enjoy seeing different angles to these issues, and appreciated this string of discussions.

  13. frank says:

    Consumer Mike
    January 21st, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Well Ed, the higher the baggage fees, the more you and all of us will have to endure the filled, overstuffed overhead bins as well as the delays in loading and unloading the same.

    The TWO BAG RULE went into effect in 1988, yes, 1988. Bags have ALWAYS been a problem in the cabin, especially with the onset of rollaboards, which came onboard aircraft beginning in 1989.
    NO ONE wants to check bags. They want the convenience of deplaning and leaving the airport, skipping the baggage claim.

    THIS HAS ALWAYS BEEN A PROBLEM. Bags in the cabin.

  14. Consumer Mike says:

    I agree with the old carry on problem. It is still happening. Rarely do I see the 2 bag limit being enforced – especially on international flights.@ frank:

  15. Scott says:

    I can’t take the credit, but a friend recently said to me: “What they should do is charge people for carry-on bags.”

    I have no idea why I never thought of it, but he’s was right — it actually would make a lot more sense if airlines allowed one personal item on board for free and then charged $35 (or the going rate) for the first carry-on.

    In general terms, the fee would likely target business travelers (or anyone willing to pay a premium to skip the bag claim) rather than leisure travelers and families (since they are more likely to check bags anyway). It certainly wouldn’t be inconsistant with past and current practices for the airlines to squeeze the business travelers first. Plus, then you’d actually be paying for a CONVENIENCE rather than incentivizing folks to carry-on… which only slows the boarding process and creates more hassles than if you were to disincentivize carry-ons.

  16. Consumer Mike says:

    Cranky, that would be the poison pill for the first airline that tried it. It would be similar to paying to use the potty. Same reaction, in my opinion. I’m not saying it won’t be attempted, just that the reprocussions could be devastating to the line that does it. Most passengers would give it the kiss of death.@ Scott:

  17. Ron says:

    @ CF, @ frank,
    @ Ed Kelty: Well, US Airways did come through, 15 days after I sent them my email. They said that damaged baggage should be taken back to the airport within 7 days of an international arrival, but since they were so late in getting back to me, I could take it back now and just show the email at the airport. Any airport. Which is nice, because they have a baggage office at LGB so that saved me a trek to LAX (actually, I do pass by LAX on the way to work every day, but it’s more convenient to just hop to LGB from home in the evening).

    So this evening at 6:30 I took the suitcase in to a sleepy LGB (the final US Airways departure was already boarding), and presented my case to the lone baggage staffer. She was a bit confused as to why I was bringing the suitcase to LGB rather than LAX and why it has taken me so long, but I explained the email, she conferred with a supervisor, and they agreed to take my suitcase. It will be sent to central baggage, and they will either repair it or replace it. Hurrah!

    Now back to my unanswered question of how this will affect my future business with US Airways. I think it won’t affect my business either way. I’m not happy that they ripped my bag, but I don’t realistically think that the chances of this happening again are greater than with another airline. I’m not happy with how long it took them to respond, but I am happy with the way I was treated afterwards, and having a baggage station at LGB is definitely a plus (I know that in order to keep it I need to fly that service, but this would require connecting through Phoenix every time). Of course, the ultimate resolution remains to be seen — how my bag will come back from repair.

  18. Lisa says:

    @ David Parker Brown:

    Listen, my issue is this. I don’t agree with baggage fees because baggage is inherant with travel! Its like charging to put your groceries in your shopping cart at the supermarket. Come on! If our airline industry is suffering so much, and they are, then they should figure out better ways to reduce waste and maximize earnings without charging the customer for every breath they take while on the plane!

  19. Lisa says:

    @ Dan:

    I have to agree with Dan here. If you are able to put a link that leads you directly with a form letter to send directly to the appropriate person would help the cause alot. Not just laziness, it’s too time consuming to figure out the where’s and who’s. But it is important that we raise our voices to be heard en mass.

  20. Daphene says:

    I really prefer South West for many reasons! I am 79 years old,and fly only when I have to.However my oldest son and his family live in Texas.Now I have two great grandbabies there,so I do some flying! South West airlines are the most courteous and helpful people I have encountered. In flying to Alaska on another airline there was simply no comparsion! South West allows 2 bags check in the baggage area.They allow a carry on bag,and a tote bag that you put at your feet. This should be ample baggage! My husband was a military man for 24 years.We traveled all over this country and others,with three children.Some of it had to be by plane.That was about the same luggage I used with all of us,at that time.SOUTH WEST IS THE BEST.

  21. pmpatel says:

    Then we have to petition congress to have the fees removed not just refunded if the airline looses the passengers luggage!

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