Cranky on the Web (January 30 – February 3)

American, Seats, Spirit

Why Spirit Airlines Is RightConde Nast Daily Traveler
Admittedly, this post was meant to stir the pot up a little. I do see merit in what Spirit is doing in fighting the feds on one hand, but that doesn’t mean I think the rule should necessarily disappear. Still, fun to look at it from Spirit’s side.

The Pros and Cons of American Airlines’s New First Class and Business ClassConde Nast Daily Traveler
Just a little piece on American’s new 777 interiors. Not much more than what I wrote about here.

Waiting to board with Brett Waiting to Board
I did an interview with Cheapflights talking about the blog and some travel tips.

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14 comments on “Cranky on the Web (January 30 – February 3)

  1. “shedding further light on the issue of over-taxation of this industry”

    Wow, is that a joke or what? Just about every new route that an airline starts these days gets a subsidy from the city or state. The federal government subsidizes dozens of airports all over the country, sometimes hundreds of dollars per passenger. The FAA, TSA and other aviation-related agencies get millions of dollars from Congress every year. It’s almost impossible for an airport to build a runway without a federal grant. If anything, the industry is grossly undertaxed. Those who do not fly should not have to pay taxes to subsidize aviation.

    Spirit has built its business model on advertising misleading fares. The government isn’t requiring it to hide anything. It can still display the ticket cost and tax separately right from the very first screen if it wants to.

    1. That’s a different issue you are talking about. When you buy a ticket, some portion that is the taxes and fees really does go to the government and airports. When a city or state subsides a new route (which are generally temporary) that money comes from the city or state, which get none of the taxes that you pay for your ticket. If you want that to stop, write to your local government and vote for someone who will stop giving out those subsidies.
      And there still is the discrepancy between airlines having to display all-in fares while basically no other industry or service does.

      1. The reason the airlines have to display fares that include taxes is because taxes vary based on the flight. If I want to fly from San Francisco to New York, the taxes might be different depending on whether I have a layover in Chicago or in Houston or not at all. At Macy’s, all the items have the same tax rate, so I can compare prices and decide what to buy without worrying about the taxes.

  2. Spirit is full of it. A $9 fare is $19.80 with govt taxes. If a $9 fare is $40, the other $20 is airline fees not govt taxes. It’s a $29 fare with total cost of $39.80, not a $9 fare, which is the advertising fraud the govt is putting a stop to. Can’t believe you are taking the anti-consumer (and anti-truth) side of this one.

    1. A very good point here. This rule does solve the one “optional” fee that bothers me – the bullcrap passenger usage fee. Spirit and Allegiant both charge a fee to book online or over the phone. It’s technically optional in that you can avoid it by booking directly at the ticket counter. This rule now requires that to be displayed in the fare, but it also in a way makes it harder to know that you can get out of it by buying at the airport. This is now actually more deceptive, even though it was already deceptive before in my mind.

  3. “It’s true, and the heavy tax burden on the industry really hurts demand.”

    Is there really an issue with low demand? Most flight I’ve been on in the continental US are packed to the rafters and often oversold.

    Domestic US flights are generally pretty cheap, particularly compared to neighbouring regions like Canada or Latin America. If anything, I think the government should RAISE taxes and put the revenue towards investing in more environmentally-friendly transportation like rail.

  4. Why the government has to meddle in this industry which gets more and more regulated and more and more stressful is outrageous. They should make ALL businesses show the full price of a product or service; not just airlines. Better yet, they should show their major donors to their campaigns and offices from businesses, corporations and special interest groups on their website too.

  5. Brett,
    Have you soon the cover of the latest edition of Bloomberg Businessweek??? It takes Airplane Porn to a whole new level — hardcore airplane porn.

  6. Hotels show you an estimated tax because you typically pay when you stay, and taxes may change between the booking time and the actual stay. Air taxes (and airport charges etc.) are typically paid to the airline at booking time. But when does the airline forward these to the government, airports etc.? If not immediately, then does the airline assume the risk of changing taxes and fees?

    1. Taxes don’t change that fast. Normally, if a tax increase passes, it will take effect January 1 of the following year, so the airlines will have plenty of time to update their software. I’m not sure where you heard this about hotels, but I don’t think it’s the case.

  7. “I do find it strange that airlines are required to include taxes in their prices when very few other industries face the same requirement. Hotels don’t include taxes in their rates, for example. Heck, hotels don’t even include that obnoxious mandatory resort fee, while airlines are required to include all mandatory fees.”

    Ah, but now you’re hitting a pet peeve of mine, Brett. Hotels *should* disclose those things in pricing. Anything tax or fee that’s pretty much required should be advertised as a part of the price as prominately as the come-on rate, be it hotels, travel agency garbage fees, cell phone service, or auto tires. (And just a small-print “taxes and fees extra” at the bottom of an ad doesn’t cut it — they know what those fees are, and they need to give a dollar and cents number to go with it.)

    Using the “why should we do it when they don’t” is just a lame excuse, especialy when you have companies like Spirit (aka RyanAir-Western Hemisphere) that have abused it.

    1. I agree. It should be all or nothing (and “all” is perfectly fine with me) because when people look at travel, they evaluate prices the same way for flights, hotels, cars, etc. So it’s unfair to include the tax on fares but not on hotels.

      And hotels are the worst in my opinion. Resort fees are mandatory fees. If airlines had a resort fee, it would have had to be included in the quoted fare for the last several years. Why do hotels get to skate by?

  8. I see the point that many of the real taxes are hidden via subsidies, but I also chuckle at the gripe many people make that airline service is going downhill while they gleefully pay only $40 for airline tickets even if $31 of that is in taxes. Yes, much of those costs cannot be fixed by government (such as “fuel surcharge”) but billions are going to the TSA for security theater.

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