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. Jonathan says:

    Weak suggestion since Southwest and Jetblue don’t serve any of the destinations I usually travel to, and certainly don’t fly them nonstop.

    A better suggestion is to not check any bags. Make them slow down every flight for gate checking your oversized carry-on. How does that improve their revenue?

  2. Dan says:

    Hi,

    Why not post links to the appropriate customer service email contacts here to make it easier to write? I agree with you but, people are lazy and anything you can do to make it easier to complain will ensure more people do so. Why do you think the customer service phone number is so hard to find on most websites?

  3. Robert Esler says:

    I have done what you suggested, plus have canceled my Midwest and American MasterCard accounts. I switched to a Chase rewards card a few months ago and now earn cash instead of miles. My next flight (in March) is on Southwest, paid for with the cash from this reward card. I will write letters to the four businesses involved (Midwest, American, Southwest and Chase) letting them know the primary reason for the switch is the bag fee. I live near Milwaukee and am very happy Southwest starting serving our area. I will become a loyal customer.

  4. Andrew says:

    Just for fun, I’m going to play devil’s advocate.

    Let’s say I’m an airline. With the advent of internet booking/price comparison and continued route competition despite consolidation and reductions, especially for vacation destinations (seriously, is anyone anywhere in the U.S. hurting for options to get to Arizona or Florida?), there is constant pressure to keep ticket prices low. It’s too risky to raise fares on these competitive routes, because one false move and a stronger competitor will have a full plane and you will not.

    However, my business is also always one step away from disaster: Fuel prices, new regulations, security requirements, labor unrest, and those to-the-bone discount fares give me few options to generate enough revenue to keep the lights on. How to raise money, then? A-ha! Fees. Fees that are, at their heart, discretionary for my customers. It may be difficult for them to be discretionary, but they’re discretionary all the same. Fees are easy for my competitors to match because we can all still claim “low fares!,” and my most important customers — the frequent fliers — I can keep happy by waiving those fees in return for their loyalty. They’re likely not fare-scraping as vigorously as Mr. and Mrs. Vacationer anyway, so I make my money off them in other ways.

    ——

    As long as the flying public is obsessed with paying as little as possible for their *ticket*, and as long as the industry is resolute in serving that obsession, I don’t see a solution to the rise of bolt-on fees. Nor do I particularly fault the airlines for using them, as long as they provide some manner for me, the smart flyer, to try and avoid them — either by maintaing elite status, or varying fare levels with fee-waiving bonuses (e.g. Frontier), a program that gives me reduced or waived bag fees in return for a membership fee, the ability to use frequent flyer miles to pay for bags, etc (actually, that’s not such a bad idea — I wonder why no airline that I know of offers that? Reduce award ticket redemptions, and yet still ad value to your miles program).

    And perhaps this is the misanthrope in me shining through, but, I feel like someone has to pay the real cost of air travel, and I fail to see why it shouldn’t be Mr. and Mrs. Vacationer who only steps on a plane once a year and bitches about the whole experience every step of the way.

  5. Ryan says:

    Jonathan wrote:

    A better suggestion is to not check any bags. Make them slow down every flight for gate checking your oversized carry-on. How does that improve their revenue?

    Unfortunately many airlines are getting better at spotting these bags before you have a chance to hold them up. It’s only a matter of time before airlines start either sizing your carry-ons at the ticket counter, or charging you a checked bag fee penalty at the gate when they deem your bag is oversized according to carry-on policy limits.

    It’s one thing when you have a small bag and there is literally no space left in the overhead bins. They can gate check it for you. But if you bring an oversized carry-on and an airline wants to get picky, they’ll size your bag and charge you for a normal checked bag. Two can play at that game and if people keep bringing oversized carry-ons, they’re going to end up getting charged more.

  6. Katie says:

    Jonathan wrote:

    Weak suggestion since Southwest and Jetblue don’t serve any of the destinations I usually travel to, and certainly don’t fly them nonstop.
    A better suggestion is to not check any bags. Make them slow down every flight for gate checking your oversized carry-on. How does that improve their revenue?

    Umm…no. If you just stop checking bags, you’re still buying a ticket on that airline. If you switch to another airline, not only are they not getting bag revenue from you, they’re not getting ticket revenue from you as well. And if you can tell them that their bag fees are the reason they lost all of your business, that is way more effective than just not checking bags but still sticking with that airline.

    It might not work for you if Southwest/JetBlue don’t fly where you want them to, but it’s still a more effective solution that what you propose.

  7. Brad says:

    at the top of your post you state this: “So just because you say you hate bag fees, doesn’t mean they’ll believe you.”

    then, you go on to suggest that ppl send emails and post comments to try to affect change?? What happened in the intervening paragraphs to force you to regress and suddenly think that voicing an opinion with anything other than your wallet would bring anything other than mild catharsis?

    Followed your blog for awhile now and was expecting your suggestion to be both A) grounded in economic realities, and B) creative and unique.

    Airlines like the bag fees because it provides a significant bump in revenue that is outside of the GDS channels they normally have to deal with. Unless GDS commission rates reverse their upward trends, we can expect a similar a correlated rise in bag fees.

  8. Davester says:

    I agree….
    Don’t pack so much stuff. Pack the carry-on pieces to the gills. Gate check the carry-on pieces. (This adds to the time it takes to turn around a flight, and I don’t think the airlines collect fees for gate-checked pieces).
    Try mailing stuff ahead of your trip. Buy stuff at your destination. Donate them before your return, or mail them back home. Fly Southwest or JetBlue!

  9. Personally, I am ok with the concept of bag fees. I say concept because I like the idea except when I am at the airport paying for them.

    Like you say, obviously customers are ok with it, because they keep paying. I want airlines to succeed, so if it is a way for them to make money, then go for it.

    However I wish I could get more out of my baggage fees. I really like Alaska Airlines 25 minute guarantee. If you bag isn’t spinning around the carousel 25min after the plane gets to the jetway, you get a $25 discount or 2500 miles (I put it to the test and it only took 15m19s: http://www.airlinereporter.com/?p=1718). I feel ok paying the $15 to check my bag with them, since I know I am not likely to be delayed at baggage claim

  10. Daren S says:

    Last summer I flew to the US from the UK on VS and then changed planes in IAD. Despite paying nearly $500 for a seat on a United Express flight I had to pay to check my first bag. As an international traveler and therefore unlikely to reach elite status on a US carrier and having to check a bag for a two week vacation I felt aggrieved at having to pay, especially since I was flying on an EMB145 where virtually anyone with a carry-on has to check the bag at the gate anyway. I do understand the realities of the airline industry and just how difficult it is to raise fares, but it just leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Unfortunately neither JetBlue or Southwest flies to where I wanted to go.

  11. David says:

    Air Canada doesn’t charge for the first checked bag and is only proposing to charge for the second, so if you’re going to Canada or major cities in Europe or Asia, there’s an alternative if fares and other costs are equal. This especially applies to UA/CO codeshares on AC metal. It’s a way for Star Alliance members to escape first checked bag fees when traveling between Canada and the US. (Yes, AC-ticketed customers have to pay UA and CO bag fees when traveling on AC codeshare flights on UA or CO aircraft.)

  12. Dyana says:

    re: not checking bags. I’d love to not check bags but as a woman, I need crazy outlandish things like, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, lipstick, nail polish, sunblock, i.e. things that are not allowed unless in teeny containers that last all of one day. Also, they won’t let me carry on my dive gear.

  13. SirWired says:

    Amen, Cranky! None of what the airlines do will change until people vote with their wallets!

    JetBlue and SouthWest don’t fly direct to where you don’t want to go? Well, if you continue to fly the majors, you are sending a message far louder than any complaint letter or blog posting. You telling the airlines, in the only language they truly understand, that bag fees, lousy service, surly employees, late flights, poorly kept planes, etc. are unimportant compared to the route network.

    If you want change, vote with your wallet. If you like complaining… well… you can see for yourself what that has accomplished so far.

    I’m flying this weekend on SW instead of AA solely because of bag fees, so I’m doing my part!

  14. Jim says:

    People have figured out how to beat the fees, Carry on bags have grown larger and larger, multiple carry on bags no less. It took 50 minutes to load the Delta flight from west palm beach to atlanta, yesterday. Management must notice the longer turn around times.

  15. flyguy says:

    Andrew pretty much has nailed the case! Great comments on the issue. Airlines will continue to charge for everything they can, because that is the new business model. Every dollar counts in keeping the lights on. Only history has given us the impression that anything other than transportation is is what you pay for. That is what you are buying ..transportation. It cost money to handle the bags and fuel to carry them. Sure, you can complain and take your business to another airline, however, there is always someone behind you on the computer ready to buy that $99.00 seat you don’t wont anymore. Any yes, the airlines are starting to charge at the gate for checked luggage, so it will be hard to bypass the system.

  16. LONDONAN says:

    I have been flying out of Denver to and from Tulsa monthly for about a year now, a route that United, Frontier and Southwest cover. I have switched permanently to Southwest for 3 reasons: primarily the baggage fee–outrageous, especially now that security has tightened once again, Southwest flies a regular 150+ passenger plane, (sorry guys, I’m not a airplane expert, don’t know the body types!), full to capacity, by the way, every single time I have flown, while both United and Frontier are flying soup cans with wings, (crammed to the gills and too small for most carryons anyway) AND, Southwest has a regular gate and jetway whereas United and Frontier are relegated to tarmac loading at both ends. The folks at Southwest are friendly, helpful, courteous and appear to be happy with their jobs and the service they are able to offer their customers. Unfortunately, I am no longer able to say that about Frontier and haven’t said that about United for over 10 years!

  17. Total says:

    “What happened in the intervening paragraphs to force you to regress and suddenly think that voicing an opinion with anything other than your wallet would bring anything other than mild catharsis?”

    Dude, what part of ‘don’t fly with the airlines that charge for the bags’ did you not read or understand? Yeesh.

  18. A says:

    LONDONAN wrote:

    Southwest flies a regular 150+ passenger plane

    This actually is a major reason I fly WN. I know for a fact that I’m on a mainline 737 every single time. Many of the flights I used to take on NW and now DL have been downgraded to CRJ’s. (Something I did complain about fiercely in writing to Delta as I’d much rather take less frequency for the larger aircraft.) Also switched a lot of my travel to AA since an ancient MD-80 still beats any CRJ and twice on a late night flight.

    As for bag fees, never paid them until over the holidays. Always always always carry-on and pack light. Then while up at YYC I’m told absolutely no carry-on and had to check it. Delta has told me “tough luck” it wasn’t our decision. If only WestJet would fly somewhere in the states that wasn’t a snowbird destination, i.e. Chicago would work.

    I don’t like loading the cabin to the gills with baggage, but agree the best way to make them notice is to delay departure and have the FA’s running all over finding every nook and cranny to stow carry-on’s.

  19. Bill says:

    They’ve still go your money under your scenario; delay at gate? They don’t care@ Jonathan:

  20. PeteyNice says:

    I would love to be able to fly Southwest, but the cost in gas, time and parking (can’t take MARTA to BHM) to get to Birmingham from Atlanta makes any checked bag fee seem insignificant.

    Alaska has a great idea with the pizza delivery play. I had to gate check a bag from Newark to Atlanta on CO after Christmas and it took almost 90 minutes from when the plane door opened to when I got my bag. If I had to pay for that I would be furious. I was still upset since whenever I gate check things to ATL on DL they are waiting at the carousel when I get there.

    It’s not just the bag fees that are outrageous. I was looking at redeeming some miles for a ticket and the fees cost almost as much as buying the ticket outright.

  21. CF says:

    Jonathan wrote:

    A better suggestion is to not check any bags. Make them slow down every flight for gate checking your oversized carry-on. How does that improve their revenue?

    As many have already said, this isn’t a better suggestion for a host of reasons. Many people who are charged the bag fees now can’t fit everything in a carry on, and they can’t get their liquids through security even if they could. You’ll also just anger the rest of your fellow passengers by delaying the flight, and you might not be able to get your bag into the overhead anyway. My suggestion isn’t a weak one – it simply isn’t one that works for you. But it’s the only suggestion that will get anything to change.

    Dan wrote:

    Why not post links to the appropriate customer service email contacts here to make it easier to write?

    Great idea. Here are links to the customer service section of websites for various US airlines that charge for bags:
    AirTran – http://www.airtranairways.com/contact/contact_phone_numbers.aspx
    Alaska – http://www.alaskaair.com/as/www2/help/contacts/contact-info.asp
    American – http://www.aa.com/contactAA/viewContactAAAccess.do?selectedFileName=aaCustomerRelations.html&selectedCategory=Customer+Relations
    Continental – http://www.continental.com/web/en-US/content/Contact/customer/default.aspx
    Delta – http://www.delta.com/emailus/servlet/EmailUs?cmd=go
    Frontier – http://www.frontierairlines.com/frontier/customer-service/contact-us/service-departments.do
    Midwest – http://www.midwestairlines.com/AboutUs/Contact.aspx
    United – http://faq.ua2go.com/al/12/1/article.aspx?aid=1362&tab=browse&bt=4nb&r=0.3324978
    US Airways – http://www2.usairways.com/en-US/contact/customer_relations.html
    Virgin America – http://www.virginamerica.com/va/contactUs.do

    Andrew wrote:

    Just for fun, I’m going to play devil’s advocate.

    Good comments, Andrew, but I don’t know that this is really a devil’s advocate type of thing. This is just the way things are! I actually don’t have a problem with bag fees personally. I wrote this post as a response to all the complaints I’ve seen publicly. This can help give guidance for those who want to see them go away. It is all about economics, so if people stop flying because of the fees, then that’s the way to effect change.

    Brad wrote:

    at the top of your post you state this: “So just because you say you hate bag fees, doesn’t mean they’ll believe you.”
    then, you go on to suggest that ppl send emails and post comments to try to affect change?? What happened in the intervening paragraphs to force you to regress and suddenly think that voicing an opinion with anything other than your wallet would bring anything other than mild catharsis?
    Followed your blog for awhile now and was expecting your suggestion to be both A) grounded in economic realities, and B) creative and unique.

    Seriously? I’d suggest reading the post more carefully instead of just firing off some response without reading it fully. You need to change your behavior and then tell the airlines about it. The key is changing behavior, so it is clearly a) grounded in economic realities.

    Davester wrote:

    Try mailing stuff ahead of your trip.

    That’s a good one as well. My guess is that we’ll see airlines start bumping up against the cost of mailing a bag some day. And when that happens, then it will be a no-brainer to ship your stuff ahead.

  22. JayB says:

    I must admit that charging a fee for the first bag is foreign to my idea of what a basic ticket fare should cover. But, as someone who is elite on one airline, flies almost entirely via that airline, thus, is not impacted by the bag fee, it’s hardly an issue that moves me. When I fly another airline, I almost never have a checked bag so again, the fee not an issue. Yet, if I had to pay the fee, I’d be outraged!

    I would be interested in knowing the percentage of travelers who are paying bag fees. Are we talking about 50% are, 50% aren’t? Perhaps less than half aren’t? I don’t have a clue. But, unless the bag fee payers are a significant percentage, that can easily be steered toward Southwest and JetBlue, I don’t see much changing,

    But, I give Sothwest all the credit in the world for their “bags fly free” campaign” and hope it does steer a good number of people its way.

  23. Jared says:

    Of course nobody LIKES paying baggage fees, but let’s be honest: Fares are cheaper than they were 25 years ago. Even if you add a first bag fee to the fare, it’s STILL cheaper than it was. In 1981, I remember TWA offering sale fares from JFK to SFO for $99 each way. Virgin America’s sale fares from JFK to SFO are, uh, $99 each way now. Almost 30 years later. Flying is a steal, baggage fees or not.

    And, oh, you can avoid flying the majors and not pay their fees, and they can then go out of business, and we can complain that service has disappeared. That’s a pretty miserable option, too.

    Ancillary fees are a cost of doing business now as an airline passenger, and part of the cost of having access to the major airlines’ global networks. Good luck flying Southwest and JetBlue on your next flight to Paris.

  24. Ron says:

    I have already changed my flying. Since bag fees started I have only flown Southwest. I make several trips a year and before the fees had never flown Southwest. Now I love them and tell them every time I check in “thank you for your free bag policy as this has made me a new dedicated customer”.

  25. LONDONAN says:

    @ A:
    Always always always carry-on and pack light.

    yes, normally I carry on as well, but this Tulsa travel is business and I carry supplies with me. Because I lived in London for 4 years, I became accustomed to really great customer service and once I had flown British Airways, swore I would only ever fly them transatlantic…not United, not Continental, only BA. Yep, this decision may hasten the demise of US airlines, ala purchasing well made, excellent quality Japanese autos contributed to the demise of the US automakers, but surely, sooner or later, American corporations will learn these lessons…?

  26. David M says:

    JayB wrote:

    I would be interested in knowing the percentage of travelers who are paying bag fees. Are we talking about 50% are, 50% aren’t? Perhaps less than half aren’t?

    American Airlines says 25% of their domestic customers pay bag fees, the rest either are exempt or aren’t checking bags:

    http://aa.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=2827

  27. Andrew wrote:

    Just for fun, I’m going to play devil’s advocate.
    Let’s say I’m an airline. With the advent of internet booking/price comparison and continued route competition despite consolidation and reductions, especially for vacation destinations (seriously, is anyone anywhere in the U.S. hurting for options to get to Arizona or Florida?), there is constant pressure to keep ticket prices low. It’s too risky to raise fares on these competitive routes, because one false move and a stronger competitor will have a full plane and you will not.

    This ideally will be fixed as the GDSes start to include information on the add on fees, providing a full view into the TCT (total cost of trip) not just the ticket price. Airline technology unfortunately lags the rest of the world a bit, due to the needs to make sure any improvements are cost effective and actually needed.

  28. Kathy says:

    I have to say..not a big Southwest fan, but I ended up traveling on them twice this year, instead of another airline, in large part because of their ‘no bag fee’ policy. Those two instances.. I needed to check bags, when normally I don’t. Once for a party of 6, and once for a party of 4, so Southwest got some revenue from me this year, when normally I wouldn’t choose them.

    They’re not that great an airline, in my opinion, pretty much the same as any other airline for the travel experience, but the no fee thing did capture my business, albeit reluctantly.

  29. J Guffey says:

    Living in paradise aka Hawai’i….no choices here. No Southwest…no way to leave the islands except by air. Packing in carryon for a two-week trip is difficult but not impossible (I suppose)…I’ll try it next time I’m traveling.

  30. Jim says:

    I’ll add my testimonial to the fray …

    Last year, we took a party of six (my wife and I, our two kids, and my parents) to Orlando for a week’s vacation (you can guess where). We had the choice of flying out of FNT or DTW, with a wide variety of airlines. Ultimately, we ended up flying Southwest, because we were going to have a boatload of luggage for a week in Orlando with kids (one with medical needs). When you factored the cost of baggage fees into the total cost, Southwest was cheaper than any of the competitors.

    Yes, we had to pseudo-connect once (plane landed in BWI on the way back from ORD), but the cost differential was absolutely worth it. Plus, without worrying about baggage fees, we checked much more of our luggage than we would’ve otherwise, making the boarding and unboarding process much easier for us — and those around us.

    I don’t know how often we’re going to make that particular pilgrimage. But I can certainly tell you that we’ll look carefully at baggage fees when we make those choices.

  31. Merry Alexander says:

    Yes, I have already switched to JetBlue. I was definitely a Delta girl previously but their fares are usually a bit higher and if not, the bag fee certainly puts it over the top. I even switched having a great deal of DL frequent flyer points. I think the bags fees are ridiculous so my allegiance is now with JetBlue. Do you hear me Delta?

  32. Bill Hough says:

    Southwest and JetBlue must be commended on their reasonable checked baggage policy.

    Airlines must make a profit to stay in business; however I fail to understand the logic of nickel and diming the passenger with extra nuisance fees on top of the airfare. I’ve discussed this with my co-workers, friends, family and business associates, and there is a general consensus among us that airlines should charge one honest fare and eliminate the extra fees. I plan on flying Southwest and JetBlue whenever possible.

    If these airlines can continue to differentiate themselves from their competitors in this manner, they will attract disgruntled former customers from other airlines tired of their nickel and diming ways.

  33. Pingback: How You Can Get Airlines to Stop Raising Bag Fees « Rob Lipman's Travel and Tech

  34. Wonko Beeblebrox says:

    Three of my last four trips have been on Southwest. The only leg that wasn’t on WN was on AA because I was stupid enough not to think about flying out of FLL when the cruise ship arrived in MIA (I only realized that error _after_ my AA ticket was purchased…).

    My next two flights are on CO/UA… a frequent flyer mileage ticket, and WN does not fly to the destination in question. I’m trying to burn up all the existing free tickets I have from accounts on the airlines that still charge baggage fees.

    Honestly airlines, baggage fees change our behaviour. You may not see it, but it does…

  35. Oliver says:

    @ JayB:

    > I must admit that charging a fee for the
    > first bag is foreign to my idea of what a
    > basic ticket fare should cover.

    What else should the basic ticket fare cover in your opinion? A hot meal? Booze?

    If airlines had always unbundled the cost of moving suitcases from the cost of moving people, it wouldn’t seem so foreign to you that they now want to charge extra, I think.

    Personally, I have no problems with a reasonable fee that is somewhat proportional to the cost of the service provided.

    I might see things differently if I was always flying the cheapest possible carrier, alas I am sometimes paying more to fly my preferred carrier and build/retain/benefit from elite status.

  36. frank says:

    @ Andrew:

    ANDREW!!!!!!!!!

    Amazing post. YOU GET IT.

  37. DeltaPMflyer says:

    Does no one know how to play the game. Really. Everyone. This is too simple. In golf, you have to know the rules and make them work for you.

    1. Get status anywhere. You can get status some way for free. I got a BMI silver for free just for sign up. Then fax to other airlines and have them match. Bingo free bags.

    2. Get a Debit card for $25 a year and then 1st bag free Continental. Done.

    3. UPS. Really. Sometime cheaper.

    4. Pack BIG for the fee. Get a golf bag HARD CASE. Pack it full with all the light stuff and pack all the heavy stuff in the tiny one you bring on board!

    5. Ski bag. Sounds funny but you can pack a TON in it and most let a 2nd “boot bag” free. So, get 2 bags for price of 1. Yes it is funny to send a ski bag to Florida but hey, it is IN THE RULES.

    6. I could go on and on and on. But just learn the rules, then play them at their own game. I flew 2 times last year and spent $1000 and got 640,000 miles, 7 nights free in hotels and go PM status. You can to ( thanks to frugaltravelguy shout out btw )

    See you up in the air!

  38. million miler says:

    Seems to me there is an element missing in this conversation. Truth in advertising, or more accurately, full disclosure when purchasing tickets on the web. Most people probably do some comparison shopping for pricing and schedule, but how many booking sites actually show the total out of pocket cost – bag fees, snack on board, cold beverage of your choice, etc?

    I gather there are a couple of airline sites that let you prepay these fees, but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

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

  39. You go Cranky…Well done.

    I agree in the full disclosure fact that all extra fees & costs should be outlined in the final outline when booking and people should read the details before hitting the send button, they worry about the prices but don’t look at the details.

  40. Consumer Mike says:

    The customer ALWAYS has the most effective weapon to deal with a bad or greedy business – his/her money. Rather then complain endlessly about the mounting gouging of air travlers you need to – if possible – change your flying habits. Choose the airline that is most competitive for your business and appreciates it. The increase of nickle and diming passengers is the hidden fare increase for those “low prices”. It effectively raises the price of each ticket. Thirsty? Pay for a beverage. Hungry? pay for that snack. Cold? Pay for the blanket. Next: Need to use the restroom? Get out your quarters. Get the picture? The airlines will charge for whatever the market will pay. On some trips there is no escape of paying fees. However, I believe the majority of travlers do have a choice. Your travel habits tell alot to each airline, don’t fool yourself. They ALL lip read the picture on the money.

  41. Marks says:

    Jonathan wrote:

    (snip)
    A better suggestion is to not check any bags. Make them slow down every flight for gate checking your oversized carry-on. How does that improve their revenue?

    Ah well, of course the next step is to charge for carry on bags.

    Gotcha.

  42. Oliver wrote:

    Personally, I have no problems with a reasonable fee that is somewhat proportional to the cost of the service provided.

    Except that it isn’t. Because the airlines aren’t charging elites for the same service, it’s the non-elites that are bearing the cost of the service provided.

    You want to charge $20 a bag for everyone, elites included? Now you’ve got a system where everyone pays for the service provided. (Plus, you get rid of this nonsense where the second bag is somehow more expensive to process than the first bag.) Somehow, though, I don’t see any airlines daring to offend their precious elite flyers … which leaves the rest of us … um, holding the bag(s).

  43. Ron says:

    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.

  44. myriamparis says:

    I’m totally fine with the bag fees, but then again, I don’t have kids. I’ve travelled with only carry-on for years, including overseas, and the few times I decide to bring home a bottle of wine I’ll be sure to factor in the cost of bag-check. I’d rather have the low fare and have control over what extras I’m paying for, then have it all bundled in whether I use it or not.

    The thing I can’t STAND however is when my small overnight bag, my laptop in a slim-line case (no briefcase), and my purse get me stopped at the gate. Come on. These items all together are noticeably smaller than one roller-board. Just because I need a purse, I have to prove to you that my bags can all fit inside each other to equal the magic number of 2? And you need to the hold up the line while you watch me do it, only for me to hold up the line one more time when I get ON the plane and have to take the bags back OUT of their russian doll nesting? There was a reason I had them seperated, thank you. (This rant dedicated to the Pheonix folks at US Airways.)

  45. Patrick says:

    I hate to burst your bubble, but the gate agents do not have time at the last minute to be checking bag size and then charging customers. The bag will be checked at the gate and no fee will be charged. The airline loses! I see this every day on every flight. I am the guy loading these 75 pound (carry on) bags. The place these bags should be turned around at is the TSA check point.

  46. myriamparis says:

    I should mention that one of the reasons I abide by a carry-on only policy is because of multiple problems with badly ripped bags, like the poster above me. If I had paid a fee for that kind of service I would have been seriously affronted.

  47. Speedybob says:

    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!!!.

  48. Pingback: How You Can Get Airlines to Stop Raising Bag Fees | Travel News and Tips

  49. Yep! Carry-on bags are larger and they hold up the line which makes the flight crew and employees at the gate very cranky. It’s up to the consumer to decide what he/she wants. Higher bag fees? Lower airline tickets? It’s about supply and demand. When will consumers realize they drive the market. It’s all in an Economics class :)

    Of course, the simplest solution is to bring a carry-on. When in doubt, leave it out! You can always buy what you need when you arrive at your destination.

  50. Scott says:

    Well. It’s interesting to see how many comments the subject of baggage fees has brought up! One major number that speaks to the strength of Southwest’s no fee for bags policy is market share. From October 2008 to October 2009 it increase nearly a full percentage point, from 12.78% to 13.69%. This may appear trivial, but we’re talking about the entire US domestic air travel market. 1% is HUGE. Keep in mind that’s a percentage, so even though the number of air travelers has dropped, that means a lot more of who is left flying is flying Southwest, and they were people who flew someone else in 2008. The legacy carriers have become a pack of sheep. If one carrier can get away with deepening their gouge, the rest see dollar signs and hop right on board.

    Also, Southwest’s policy of allowing customers to check bags free reduces the number of carryons in the cabin, allowing them to maintain their 15-35 minute turns for which they are famous (yes, there are still some 15 minute turns in the system!) – which increases productivity, lowers costs, and allows them to get away with *not* charging for bags in the first place. One might think after three decades of rollercoaster profits and losses the legacies might figure out gouging fliers isn’t consistently making them money, but in the words of Gordon Bethune, “It’s a stupid industry run by stupid people.”

  51. 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.

  52. 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.”

  53. 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.

  54. 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?

  55. 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.

  56. 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.

  57. 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.

  58. 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.

  59. 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.

  60. 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.

  61. 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:

  62. 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.

  63. 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.

  64. 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:

  65. 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.

  66. 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:

  67. 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.

  68. 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!

  69. 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.

  70. 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.

  71. 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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