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April 6, 2010 10:20 AM   Subscribe

The natural progression of airline fees has reached its apex (or nadir, depending on how you look at it): Spirit Airlines is now charging for checked and carry-on baggage. (via)
posted by backseatpilot (111 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've never understood all the outrage these airline fees / charges seem to create. It makes no sense at all to me. Nobody freaks out about the normal price increases / decreases that the airlines engage in all the time. Why do people feel there is or should be an unwritten law that a ticket to travel should always be bundled with a free option to transport some other stuff along with you? Why shouldn't airlines charge people with bags more than people without bags?
posted by Perplexity at 10:23 AM on April 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well, so now a Spirit trip has to be at least $50 cheaper than the next equivalent in order to make it worth booking.

This is something people (I assume) forget when they go through sites like Orbitz or Kayak and just look for the lowest fare—it'd be handy if those services started showing on mouse-over the assorted fees.
posted by klangklangston at 10:25 AM on April 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


"I've never understood all the outrage these airline fees / charges seem to create. It makes no sense at all to me. Nobody freaks out about the normal price increases / decreases that the airlines engage in all the time. Why do people feel there is or should be an unwritten law that a ticket to travel should always be bundled with a free option to transport some other stuff along with you? Why shouldn't airlines charge people with bags more than people without bags?"

Because it's a hidden cost that makes comparison shopping more onerous. And because pretty much everyone who does travel does also bring luggage (at least to avoid being watchlisted).
posted by klangklangston at 10:26 AM on April 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


Well, they aren't yet charging for the seat separately from the flight itself... so there's surely room for them to go further.
posted by evilangela at 10:27 AM on April 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


it'd be handy if those services started showing on mouse-over the assorted fees.

Or even let you say what kind of luggage you were planning to bring and then price in the cost of baggage fees.
posted by jedicus at 10:27 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Perplexity (eponysterical?): Because it makes price comparing very hard. If I have a $117 dollar Spirit fare and a $134 Delta fare, which one costs the least? Well, to figure that out I have to do several steps of fee checking, and even then who knows what the gate agents will whip out of their asses at the last minute? Also, they charge way more at the gate, which sort of screws me over if I can't guarantee exactly what I will need to pack in advance.
posted by bunnycup at 10:28 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Klang: "Because it's a hidden cost that makes comparison shopping more onerous."

This.

It's like those eBay auctions where an item has a ridiculously low 'buy it now!' price that you almost click, until you look and see that the shipping cost is $50 more than it should be.
posted by mullingitover at 10:28 AM on April 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


Who flies without any bag at all? Some small percentage that is not zero but is awfully close to it. Charging for any baggage amounts to charging for an option that's not really optional.

It amounts to a hidden fee over the ticket price, so that they can do what unscrupulous Ebay merchants do, selling tickets or goods for $1 and then charging $350 for shipping.
posted by ardgedee at 10:28 AM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kayak links reasonably prominently to a neat fee comparison table that I've never seen before.
posted by Perplexity at 10:29 AM on April 6, 2010 [23 favorites]


see, I think it should be one fee for the seat, and x amount of luggage if you opt not to bring luggage then you get a small refund. Give people a carrot and they'll be happy just knowing they could be saving money of they wanted to.
posted by edgeways at 10:32 AM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Why do people feel there is or should be an unwritten law that a ticket to travel should always be bundled with a free option to transport some other stuff along with you? Why shouldn't airlines charge people with bags more than people without bags?

I think it's because consumers expect "the price" for something should actually be the price they will have to pay, perhaps with some taxes added on. But, similar to purchasing concert tickets through just about any ticketseller these days, that is increasingly no longer the case. Sure, they quote me a price of $100 for the flight, but then there is an "airport fee" and a "tourism tax" and now "baggage fees", and soon that $100 ticket is $140-150. Why not just quote the price of $150 from the get-go, so there's some amount of honesty in pricing?

Consumers have enough psychological games and tricks played on them in the name of marketing. They don't need them played with the pricing, as well.
posted by hippybear at 10:32 AM on April 6, 2010 [13 favorites]


Who flies without any bag at all? Some small percentage that is not zero but is awfully close to it. Charging for any baggage amounts to charging for an option that's not really optional.

I remember that when we wanted to travel light for NYE2K, we UPS'd everything to the hotel, for them to hold for our arrival, and then the day before our return, dumped pretty much everything back at UPS for the return let.

FWIW, showing up at the hotel, and knowing our luggage was **ALREADY THERE** was sweet.
posted by mikelieman at 10:33 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just flew to/from Hawaii on US Airlines this past week (well, weeks). I was totally blown away by the fees and prices. $7 for a can of beer? Really? Why bother using the fuel to carry it at all? The pricing has become downright punitive. Maybe that's the point, who knows.
posted by nevercalm at 10:33 AM on April 6, 2010


I'd like to see a weight based fee. You, your luggage, and anything else you are bringing with you step onto a big scale. There is a per pound fee assessed that is pegged to fuel prices. Bring as much or little as you want and you'll pay accordingly.
posted by Babblesort at 10:33 AM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Didn't eBay fix that shipping problem? I recently sold a video game on eBay and the max I could charge was $4 for shipping & handling even though USPS First Class mail + Confirmation + bubble mailer cost me closer to $5.
posted by yeti at 10:36 AM on April 6, 2010


From the first article: Would you like to fly for 1 cent? Spirit Air can make it happen, if you'll just join their airfare club and pay their upped baggage fees. Thus there's two parts to today's news on Spirit Airlines: new baggage fees and airfares for a single penny. (Emphasis mine.)

But they're being shady about. Also from the article:

"Penny Plus" sale from Detroit—Las Vegas
Ticket: 1 cent
Carry-on baggage paid at airport: $45
Fuel: $54.22
Taxes & Fees: $18.70
Total: $117.93

Now double that if you want to do a round-trip, and you're at a level competitive with the regular tickets from legacy airlines.

It's an attempt at a marketing trick. "Ooh, 1 penny to go to Vegas? Let's go!"

RyanAir was doing this back in 2008, augmenting their cut-rate flights with a myriad of add-on costs.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:39 AM on April 6, 2010


Seriously, if they're going to charge for checked bags, I hope this catches on so people will stop bringing huge f-ing bags onto the plane then giving me the stink eye for daring to put my leather jacket in the overhead instead of wearing it for an entire coast-to-coast flight even though I have my one small carry-on under my seat. GRAR.
posted by JoanArkham at 10:40 AM on April 6, 2010 [6 favorites]




Spirit Airlines isn't really charging you for a carry on, as a backpack or briefcase that fits under the seat is still free. They are really charging you to use the overhead storage space. So it may not be that far of a reach to...

Spirit Airlines. $1 RT anywhere in the USA. (Seats extra, and mandated by law).
posted by COD at 10:42 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm with Babblesort: charging by the pound makes a lot of sense. I'm convinced the only reason airlines don't do it is that they don't think they can get away with it.

To people wondering why these fees are offensive, it's because it's so incredibly hostile to consumers. The flying experience was bad enough before 9-11-nevar-forget, it's gotten worse since all the new security theater. Airlines deliberately obfuscating their pricing just makes it worse.
posted by Nelson at 10:42 AM on April 6, 2010


$7 for a can of beer? Really? Why bother using the fuel to carry it at all?

If you think you need to drink to feel comfortable flying, you'll pay that much. If you don't care to drink while flying, you're likely to just drink whatever's free.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:44 AM on April 6, 2010


I remember that when we wanted to travel light for NYE2K, we UPS'd everything to the hotel, for them to hold for our arrival, and then the day before our return, dumped pretty much everything back at UPS for the return let.

Ha, that is a fabulous idea! It would be especially useful for travels where I have a lot of detours to make between airport and hotel.
And it probably reduces the odds of it getting lost...
posted by Theta States at 10:45 AM on April 6, 2010


My new theory is that the entire aviation industry, including the DHS checks at the airport, are actually covert guerrilla Greenpeace members who want to do away with the burning of fossil fuels by airplanes, and so they're really, really, really trying to discourage people to fly.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:46 AM on April 6, 2010


How dare these companies adapt their own prices how they see fit?! How dare they force us to use only their services?!
posted by jpcooper at 10:48 AM on April 6, 2010


My new theory is that the entire aviation industry, including the DHS checks at the airport, are actually covert guerrilla Greenpeace members who want to do away with the burning of fossil fuels by airplanes, and so they're really, really, really trying to discourage people to fly.

What, so that each individual person will drive their car instead? I thought they were all over my ass to take public transportation. Or do they just want us to stay home and tend our compost heaps? I can never keep up with what's current in enviro-guilt.
posted by bunnycup at 10:48 AM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


If I could believe airlines actually were discounting tickets so that people with fewer bags paid less than they normally would, i.e. making a hidden fee that everybody paid into an explicit fee only paid by those who used it, I would be fine with that.

All evidence, however, indicates it's just padding for the bottom line.
posted by kmz at 10:48 AM on April 6, 2010


I'm with Babblesort: charging by the pound makes a lot of sense. I'm convinced the only reason airlines don't do it is that they don't think they can get away with it.

Among other things, it would mean that, on average, men would pay higher airfares than women. I suspect that alone would kill it.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:50 AM on April 6, 2010


"Excluded items" include my camera equipment, the six books or so I usually bring to read on a flight, coats and jackets, and snacks for the trip. So, I could see packing all of my clothes-type luggage for a weekend trip in a backpack that fits under the seat in front of me (my "personal item"), and just carrying some big tote bags full of "excluded items". This is benefiting the airline how?
posted by booknerd at 10:51 AM on April 6, 2010


If you think you need to drink to feel comfortable flying, you'll pay that much. If you don't care to drink while flying, you're likely to just drink whatever's free.

Is any of it free any more?
posted by JanetLand at 10:51 AM on April 6, 2010


What, so that each individual person will drive their car instead? I thought they were all over my ass to take public transportation. Or do they just want us to stay home and tend our compost heaps? I can never keep up with what's current in enviro-guilt.

To further elaborate my theory, they're hoping that you will go so long without seeing your friends and relatives that live thousands of miles away that you will begin to hate each other, and you won't want to drive to see them or turn on your computer to email them or leave the light on if they do come to visit.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:52 AM on April 6, 2010


I don't have a problem with them charging for carry-on baggage, as one could conceivably avoid its use. I do have a problem with them charging $54.22 for "fuel" unless there is some way to use the ticket without paying for fuel. That is a deceptive business practice as far as I am concerned. I wish we had some European-style consumer protection laws and regulators with teeth.
posted by grouse at 10:55 AM on April 6, 2010


In 1981, a really good budget airfare between Boston and San Francisco was $400. I just checked Orbitz and there are multiple options for less than $250.

So, we have 30 years of inflation including a 60% increase (approximately) in the price of fuel, but airfares along major routes are about half as much.

People like to get all bent out of shape about how terrible air travel is, but then when you go to book a flight it's all about price, price, price.

If the average flyer was willing to pay $1,000 to fly between Boston and San Fransisco, the airlines would be able to offer the same level of service they offered back then. But people don't want to pay that much. They want to pay as close to $0 as possible. Those are the values that people bring to the airlines, and the airlines are giving it right back to us. We're getting what we're willing to pay for.
posted by alms at 10:55 AM on April 6, 2010 [18 favorites]


Make all baggage carry-on baggage, get rid of baggage handlers, expand the main cabin into the lower deck, and charge by volume and weight.
posted by swift at 10:55 AM on April 6, 2010


I remembered when the Derrie-Air lead-balloon ad came out, charging people by weight didn't fly so well.
posted by porpoise at 10:56 AM on April 6, 2010


Anything that pushes us closer to the end of horribly environmentally destructive and inefficient jet travel is fine by me. Travel by jet should be ten times or more expensive than it is, for how much damage it does to the environment and how much of our dwindling supply of fossil fuels it uses. Not to mention it contributes horribly to our modern culture of NOW. Being able to fly anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours is insane.

I keep saying: solar powered airships. They won't get you there today, sure, but instead of a cubic meter of personal space and an inability to actually appreciate the fact that you're FUCKING FLYING, you get a sleeping compartment, dining service, and the ability for everyone to watch the countryside roll by beneath you, at your leisure. Sometimes I wish I'd become an engineer, because if I had I'd be designing one right now. If our civilization is to even have a future, this is the future of air travel.
posted by Caduceus at 10:59 AM on April 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


Spirit Airlines isn't really charging you for a carry on, as a backpack or briefcase that fits under the seat is still free. They are really charging you to use the overhead storage space. So it may not be that far of a reach to...

My carry-on bag does indeed fit under the seat (and fits in the smallest overhead storage) though I have had to press this point with slightly over-assertive gate agents who wanted to gate-check my bag unnecessarily. I don't like policies that will increase the probability of a pointless debate with sundry stressed-out airline personnel. Look, I'm polite to all the staff at the airport, including security, vendors, and gate agents, and flight attendants. I just want to sit in my goddamn window seat and be left alone.
posted by desuetude at 10:59 AM on April 6, 2010


Is any of it free any more?

Soda, juice and water on many / most airlines.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 11:02 AM on April 6, 2010


If you think you need to drink to feel comfortable flying, you'll pay that much.

Where did the poster mention that he/she needed a drink to feel comfortable flying?
posted by DieHipsterDie at 11:02 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't have a problem with them charging for carry-on baggage, as one could conceivably avoid its use. I do have a problem with them charging $54.22 for "fuel" unless there is some way to use the ticket without paying for fuel. That is a deceptive business practice as far as I am concerned. I wish we had some European-style consumer protection laws and regulators with teeth.

I agree with you on the deceptive business practice of charging for fuel.

But would counter that one could avoid having to check luggage by only having a carry-on. Why don't we split the difference and allow one bag, period, regardless of where it's carried in the plane?
posted by desuetude at 11:03 AM on April 6, 2010


Is any of it free any more?

Yes. Porter gives free beer and wine on their flights.
They are a small company, but if your destination and departure are on their map, I would recommend flying no other way.
I have never before enjoyed a stop-over as much as being delayed in Toronto, enjoying complementary espresso, tamari almonds, and using the free Wi-Fi in their plush chairs.

(and the flight was $5 cheaper than the comparable Air Canada flight...)
posted by Theta States at 11:06 AM on April 6, 2010 [4 favorites]




Lufthansa got me bombed on reasonably good wine on my last transatlantic flight. For free! I did have to spend some of my sexual capital though.
posted by Mister_A at 11:12 AM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've always wondered why a seat ticket didn't simply include x-lbs of luggage weight. Then, you pay x-¢ per-lb over that included weight. Both carry-on and checked luggage would count toward that x. This could be a universal metric mandated by the FAA. At least, then, the passenger would know just how much they can pack and not have to pay extra.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:15 AM on April 6, 2010


I fully support all actions that increase train ridership.
posted by DU at 11:20 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Since they are not charging for the air you breathe yet, there is still plenty of room for them to get creative in their fees..
posted by eas98 at 11:30 AM on April 6, 2010


Normalizing the fees so that people don't bring their legal-maximum rollaboards and then break the overhead bin doors causing us to sit for 90 minutes before a maintenance tech comes and fixes it with masking tape (not even duct!) doesn't sound so bad.

I have to think that the flight attendants hate the fees for checked bags, for the same reason.

As noted above, a good fare search engine will make the added fees more transparent. But folks still overlook 'fees' when figuring a price. Much of my travel is business, so I'm not as fee sensitive as when I'm on vacation. I still don't check bags because I hate the delay.

The cumulative effect remains pissed off customers. I almost always fly on 'legacy' carriers, whose in-flight product, at least, is predictable.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 11:32 AM on April 6, 2010


I'm going to Mexico later this month and the fees on the ticket kill me. They just go nuts on international flights.

Airfare: 258.00 USD
Mexico Tourism Tax: 20.20
Mexico Departure Tax: 32.91
Fuel Surcharge: 7.00
U.S. Customs User Fee: 5.50
U.S. Immigration User Fee: 7.00
U.S. APHIS User Fee: 5.00
U.S. Federal Transportation Tax: 32.20
U.S. Security Service Fee: 5.00
U.S. Passenger Facility Charge: 7.50

32% tax and fees. And that $50 for Mexico is only leaving from there.

Funny thing is that the actual amount the airline is charging is pretty reasonable in my opinion.
posted by smackfu at 11:35 AM on April 6, 2010


I used to think I needed a drink to feel comfortable flying, but then I started taking pills.
posted by box at 11:36 AM on April 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


The "fuel surcharge" is part of the actual amount the airline is charging.
posted by grouse at 11:36 AM on April 6, 2010


Everyone talking about charging per pound or whatever is simply buying into the bullshit reasoning given for creating baggage fees. It isn't because bags are heavy, it's because they want your fucking money.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:39 AM on April 6, 2010


Spirit charges for *all* beverages, including water. And has the most hilariously shitty in-flight magazine I've read.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:41 AM on April 6, 2010


To people wondering why these fees are offensive, it's because it's so incredibly hostile to consumers.

The fees are only "hostile" if you assume at the outset that (1) you have a right to certain amenities; and (2) a single quoted price is intrinsically better than a breakdown according to specific services.

Travelers have no natural right to be served food and alcohol for free; nor to take two bags of any size on board; nor to check two items of whatever size. These are simply what has been conventional up to this point. Nor have they ever been free: we have always paid for these services, but up to this point they were included in the fare. Moreover, up to this point our fare has always subsidized the use of these services by others. If you flew with only a single carryon and refused food and drinks, you paid the exact same fare as the guy next to you who had two huge carryons, two checked bags, all the meals, and 8 glasses of wine.

I am under no illusions that these fees are instituted for any reason other than to benefit the airlines' bottom line, and many of the hidden fee structures are duplicitous. But the negative reaction here seems predicated on the idea that airlines are nefariously charging for services that should be our right. I would think instead that savvy consumers would applaud them. It may take a bit of searching, but now you can figure out exactly how much each airline charges for each service; you can reduce the cost of your flight by not using services that you don't need; and you no longer have to subsudize others' use of those services. And as alms points out, all this comes in the context of a real decrease in the price of flying over the years.
posted by googly at 11:44 AM on April 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


I like what Icelandair does. Carry on baggage is limited to 9 kg. While in theory, I suppose I could pack a huge box of feathers, this generally seems to keep carry on bags small enough that there isn't a scrum for the overhead bins while not penalizing those who check bags.

Besides, the weight is what is critical, really.
posted by QIbHom at 11:45 AM on April 6, 2010


"Nadir"? Nowhere near. RyanAir is trying to make you handle your own luggage, so they can avoid aircraft fees, and now charges you to check in.

It's not about the costs, it's the pointless pretense that they're optional. Like when BMW used to charge "optional" fees for seats.
posted by bonaldi at 11:47 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


the weight is what is critical, really.

I disagree. For checked bags, the number of bags is also critical as it will determine how much staff time is spent handling the bags. This may cost more than the marginal increase in fuel needed to move the bag a few hundred miles. For carry-on bags, the size of the bags is probably the most critical thing since they regularly run out of space.
posted by grouse at 11:52 AM on April 6, 2010


Wouldn't an easy way around this be just wear a trenchcoat with all your stuff packed in dozens of inside pockets, then once on the plane wrap the whole thing up and plop it in the overhead bin? Or will they come up with a "garment fee"?
posted by crapmatic at 11:56 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Travelers have no natural right to be served food and alcohol for free

But up to recent times this has been the assumption. The problem is that you can no longer compare apples to apples when booking a plane ticket. Airlines are trying to make the comparison process more opaque and are playing games with price comparisons. it has nothing to do with "rights" and everything to do with playing games with the market.
posted by GuyZero at 12:03 PM on April 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Kind of weird that the checked bag fee is -less- than the overhead bin fee. Where's the economics in that?

I always thought YVR with its CDN$10 exit fee to be paid at a kiosk -after- you'd checked your bags was about the silliest, though apparently they've gotten on board charging it up front now.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:03 PM on April 6, 2010


Remember the days before the Reagan administration. Direct routes between mid-sized cities. Empty seats and plenty of leg-room?

Anyone else ready to regulate again?
posted by mouthnoize at 12:07 PM on April 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think the airline industry went wrong in kind of the same way the internet did. Flying around the world in a few hours is an AMAZING FUCKING THING. It SHOULD cost a lot. It's just that they set an expectation of very low costs, and now they can barely stay in business. But if fares suddenly doubled, people would go insane. Thus all the cutbacks on services and piddly little charges like this.

Same goes for the internet. Gmail, for one, is an amazing amazing thing. If, the day free web-based email had come out, MSN or Yahoo or Google or whoever would have said, "look we have to pay for all these servers, so we're charging $20 a year," I think that would have seemed completely fair to most people. But now we have this thing that the internet "should" be free, and everyone freaks out at the slightest hint of a charge for anything. And there goes quality journalism, among other things.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:08 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyone else ready to regulate again?

Nate Dogg and Warren G.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:08 PM on April 6, 2010 [19 favorites]


Just weigh airline passengers, along with their baggage, and charge on that basis. Get it over with, let's go.

(to be followed by single-serving laxative candies and potassium pills for sale at airport magazine stands at incredibly inflated rates)
posted by Auden at 12:12 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The "fuel surcharge" is part of the actual amount the airline is charging.

True enough, but the $7 fuel surcharge isn't really the offensive part of that list.
posted by smackfu at 12:12 PM on April 6, 2010


In undergrad economics we talk about 'bundling'--forcing consumers to buy things in groups instead of individually--as a form of price discrimination. It takes AWAY values from the consumers.

While I agree that it's annoying to buy a ticket and find out it doesn't include the baggage fee, once we get to a new level of expectations we could all think of this as un-bundling. It will allow people to decide UPS is better, or to take fewer items, or not use their flight across the U.S. to move their entire living room.

I don't have strong opinions on the above argument. I do think that if they're going to charge for the bags in the belly of the plane they should charge for carry-on because it is so freakin' annoying when everyone has tons of it to avoid the belly of the plane fees.
posted by treeshar at 12:12 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


The travel websites just need to add a section where you say how many bags you're carrying on and/or checking, and then they can add this to the tickets when showing you prices, and it wouldn't be an issue. However, I guess the issue with that is the airlines need to be cooperative so you can show their prices (for example, you can't see Southwest in most of them since they prefer to run it all themselves), and they might take issue with this.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:15 PM on April 6, 2010


Kind of weird that the checked bag fee is -less- than the overhead bin fee. Where's the economics in that?

Otherwise people would be trying to carry on their huge luggage, fighting for space, chaos in the aisles, etc. Plus you can stack things a lot tighter in the cargo compartments, and the bags don't need windows.
posted by echo target at 12:21 PM on April 6, 2010


While I agree that it's annoying to buy a ticket and find out it doesn't include the baggage fee, once we get to a new level of expectations we could all think of this as un-bundling.

I am a fan of un-bundling when it means the opportunity to buy a PC and a monitor separately allow me to comparison shop for better prices and/or features with various manufacturers. When it means that my $300 plane ticket that once included baggage now costs $345 for the ticket and baggage, I am not a fan. That's not unbundling in any appreciable way - I have no meaningful opportunity to obtain competitive bids, I have no hope of receiving discounts, I have more trouble obtaining fair disclosure of a true price. I am not morally offended by the idea of charging for baggage, but to pose this as a consumer-friendly move is ridiculous.
posted by bunnycup at 12:24 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


The fees are only "hostile" if you assume at the outset that (1) you have a right to certain amenities; and (2) a single quoted price is intrinsically better than a breakdown according to specific services.

The fees are hostile because they are obfuscatory. The entire game is to show up lowest with a fake fare on a fare comparison website, then sock it to you later with charges to carry luggage, check in in person, have a drink of water, not to mention the charges to pay for charges. Oh, and fuel is extra.

I agree entirely that jet air travel is remarkably inexpensive and cheaper than ever. My objection is entirely to the deception of making it impossible to understand what a flight will cost until you are actually on that plane. I agree that selling services a la carte can sometimes be better for consumers, but only if the cost of the extra accounting doesn't outweigh the value of the service being charged for. A la carte pricing is also consumer hostile in that it makes it difficult to comparison shop. Quick, who has cheaper beer? Southwest or Spirit? Who charges more for checking in at the check-in counter? At the gate?
posted by Nelson at 12:25 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


(Ogre Lawless) Kind of weird that the checked bag fee is -less- than the overhead bin fee. Where's the economics in that?

(echo target) Otherwise people would be trying to carry on their huge luggage, fighting for space, chaos in the aisles, etc. Plus you can stack things a lot tighter in the cargo compartments, and the bags don't need windows.


Also, I think the checked bag fee SHOULD be less because it inherently has more risk of bag loss. I do expect to receive a discount over carry on, to compensate me for the risk of various types of loss and destruction. I can't remember the last time I checked a bag, because frankly I don't like to play the "Will it or won't it arrive in my destination city?" game show.
posted by bunnycup at 12:27 PM on April 6, 2010


A couple of years ago, legislation was passed here to force travel agents to include (most) additional fees in their advertisements. So now you'll see CANCUN RETURN FOR $499! (Plus $231).

Of course, they still won't integrate it into a single number so as to bypass the psychological effect of certain price points (whoah, Cancun for under $500!), but like not integrating tax into every damn listed price on every board in every shop, there's really no excuse. It's a pro-business/anti-consumer thing to permit and to do.

That people rail about airline fees in particular is part because they're hidden and partly overflow from other areas of related outrage (farcical security measures, overbooking of flights, etc, etc.).
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:31 PM on April 6, 2010


I'd like to see a weight based fee. You, your luggage, and anything else you are bringing with you step onto a big scale.

I can hear the anguished wails of the morbidly obese and the fatty-foods lobby from here.
posted by WalterMitty at 12:35 PM on April 6, 2010


True enough, but the $7 fuel surcharge isn't really the offensive part of that list.

Ooh, I disagree. I think the fuel surcharge is actually the worst on that list: it's the only one that is pretty much arbitrarily set by the airline itself and not avoidable on the part of the customer. I get irritated by the baggage fees and the $5 for a plastic glass of water once onboard, but I can recognize that there's something to be said for unbundling the amenities and allowing really cheap customers to forgo them. (After all, you could avoid traveling with a bag, or drinking any water on an international flight.) Spirit, incidently, also charges you to confirm *any* seat on the plane--the cheapest you can do is a middle seat in the economy section, which is $7. But I suppose you could also forgo that, and just be assigned a seat when you check in, although I imagine that means you're at the highest risk of being bumped from the flight if it's overbooked. (Have I mentioned that I loathe Spirit with the heat of a thousand suns?)

The separate government-imposed "fees" and "taxes" that aren't quoted as part of the price I think are getting into a gray area; the airline doesn't have control over the amount of those, but then again most companies have to pay taxes or government fees and for some reason when I grocery shop I don't get slapped with an extra "fee" on my Dole bananas based on what the tariffs happen to be today. I'm not sure why, exactly, telecom companies and airlines get away with advertising a price that doesn't include the government-mandated costs they incur by operating while other companies generally don't, but whatever. They don't set the level of those taxes and I can see an argument about how they shouldn't have to eat the cost if, say, the government of Mexico suddenly doubles the taxes per passenger on already-booked tickets.

Advertising one price then increasing the actual amount people have to pay (like with the fuel "surcharge") based on an explanation that boils down to "our input costs have risen" is total bullshit. Why not just set the price equal to whatever profit you want to make, advertise that, then make your customers pay a "gross costs to produce" surcharge? That's about as honest as a fuel surcharge (read: not at all).

Evidently I'm not the only one who makes this sort of distinction. The Department of Transportation sez:
"The department does not believe that people should be required to pay for things they do not want or need," said Bill Mosley, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation (DOT). Which isn't to say that anything goes, he added. "If a carrier tried to charge for something that is essential to a passenger's air transportation -- for example, to check in or to have any seat or to use the jetway -- we would argue that the carrier was violating our full-fare advertising rule or was otherwise involved in a prohibited unfair practice." (from here)
To my eyes it looks like a fuel surcharge falls into that category, but maybe DOT blessed that when fuel prices spiked a few years ago and now doesn't feel like it can reverse itself.
posted by iminurmefi at 12:39 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is any of it free any more?

It was never free to begin with.
posted by Slap Factory at 12:41 PM on April 6, 2010


Where did the poster mention that he/she needed a drink to feel comfortable flying?

That was intended as the generic "you", not specifically directed at the poster. Apologies if my stubby iPhone fingers typed it nonsensically.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 12:42 PM on April 6, 2010


Spirit, incidently, also charges you to confirm *any* seat on the plane--the cheapest you can do is a middle seat in the economy section, which is $7. But I suppose you could also forgo that, and just be assigned a seat when you check in

Different airline, but I recently "enjoyed" the little runaround when I declined to book seats in advance for a rather hefty fee (not anywhere close to $7) and elected instead to reserve seats 24 hours prior to flight for free... only to find that "the system is down"... for the free reservations, but somehow still "up" for full price reservations. Funny system, that.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:47 PM on April 6, 2010


The fees are hostile because they are obfuscatory. The entire game is to show up lowest with a fake fare on a fare comparison website, then sock it to you later with charges to carry luggage, check in in person, have a drink of water, not to mention the charges to pay for charges. Oh, and fuel is extra.

So, as long as these fees are disclosed adequately before a purchase is made, then they are fine, right?
posted by Slap Factory at 12:49 PM on April 6, 2010


So, as long as these fees are disclosed adequately before a purchase is made, then they are fine, right?

Yeah, the same way multi-page click-through EULAs are displayed every time you install software are fine.
posted by Nelson at 1:07 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, as long as these fees are disclosed adequately before a purchase is made, then they are fine, right?

As "the system" currently stands it is very, very hard to get a full list of these fees and all travel book websites I am aware of compare ticket costs only when showing flight options. If every airline adopts a different pricing structure it becomes impossible to compare apples to apples in a meaningful way.
posted by GuyZero at 1:12 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


If every airline adopts a different pricing structure it becomes impossible to compare apples to apples in a meaningful way.

Exactly. And I think part of the especially loud objection to carry-on baggage fees is that there will be no real way to avoid that. Previously, I could protect myself somewhat from the madness by (i) NOT checking bags, (ii) NOT picking out a fancy seat in advance, (iii) NOT buying food or drink on the plane, (iv) NOT choosing to rent/buy a previously-used possibly infested pillow, etc. But at the end of the day, I air travel mostly for business and I have got to have my laptop, portable printer and - if an overnight trip (which it often has to be now because I can't trust early flights to arrive on time) a business suit. I can't avoid the nonsense anymore. Now, true that because I fly for business the $45 here or there is not personal money and o you could argue that it may not affect me as much, but there's a LOT of travel in my industry and this will be another area of increased costs that could potentially reduce compensation, bonuses and personnel hiring flexibility. So, if we accept the fees as a necessary evil (and I can accept the arguments to do so), disclosure - meaningful, real, honest, useful, efficient disclosure - is exponentially more important.
posted by bunnycup at 1:17 PM on April 6, 2010


"If the average flyer was willing to pay $1,000 to fly between Boston and San Fransisco, the airlines would be able to offer the same level of service they offered back then. But people don't want to pay that much. They want to pay as close to $0 as possible. Those are the values that people bring to the airlines, and the airlines are giving it right back to us. We're getting what we're willing to pay for.

This. Re-regulation would be wonderful.
posted by Thistledown at 1:18 PM on April 6, 2010


Isn't this what car dealers do? They advertise a low price and then pile on the options, fees and whatever else they can think of. Pretty soon, buying a airline ticket will require an hour or two of haggling, followed by "I'll have to check with my manager" and a price that seems fair but is actually to the airline's advantage.
posted by tommasz at 1:33 PM on April 6, 2010


I think they probably do have to give passengers water for free, for general health reasons. I figure they throw in soda a juice because that's pretty cheap in bulk and pacifies the passengers pretty well.

I'm actually cool with having to pay for food; I'm just annoyed that security theater makes it difficult to bring your own. I would totally pack my own meal if the frozen juciebox I use as a chiller wouldn't give security palpitations. (Actually, I'd suggest that someone start a cheap boxed-lunch chain near major airports...) The combination of having only overpriced a-la-carte airline food available and being forbidden to bring your own food is what annoys me.

The issue with the baggage charges is similar to the trick banks have pulled where first they charge to use an ATM, and then they charge to speak to a teller... At some point it's clearly a matter of finding an excuse to hide fees.
posted by Karmakaze at 1:48 PM on April 6, 2010


Oh man, I love the apologetics of some here; in the Holy Church of the Invisible Hand, jacking customers around isn't "hostile" because you have no "right" to a product. The implication being: shut up and take it, whiners!

I have never understood this toadying attitude. But I digress.

A company doesn't have to violate my rights to be hostile to me. And the overall effect of hidden costs, surprise fees, and massive inconvenience if one wants to fly (or often, has to) is exceedingly hostile. It is anti-customer-service. It is dishonest and disgusting.

/slight derail

And while we're talking about rights--if you make it impossible for people, including the elderly, infants, and children, to avoid getting dehydrated or go to the bathroom when necessary while flying, or strand them on the runway for hours at a time without adequate ventilation, food, water, or the use of toilets, or have customers be detained for questioning without legal representation if they complain--all of which has happened--I think that yes, you are infringing on your customer's rights. Of course, not all of that came from the airlines, but the insane amount of power they have over passengers due to terrorist hysteria makes using the vaunted power of the consumer--the ability to go elsewhere to get a better product--almost entirely moot.

/derail

I'd flown all around the world with my family by the time I was 7; now I'm not sure that I'd be willing to subject myself and my family to the hostile and oppressive atmosphere that comes with flying, even if expense were no object.
posted by emjaybee at 1:52 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


American airlines are weird. Down here in the rest of the Asia-Pacific region we get free inflight personal entertainment in every seat (with a wide range of games, movies, music, and different things), free drinks whenever (alcoholic and otherwise), midnight snacks on long-haul, stationery if you feel like letter-writing (they'll even post it for you!), your own amenities kit on night flights, and even Air New Zealand is looking into having fully-flat chairs in economy. Even AirAsia is doing a million times better, and they're a budget airline with the sort of unbundled fees you're espousing.
posted by divabat at 2:01 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think they probably do have to give passengers water for free, for general health reasons.

You would think, wouldn't you? My personal experience on an international Spirit flight was that they searched our carry-on bags before boarding so they could make us throw out any liquids we had purchased post-security-gate, then charged $5 for water on the plane, with no free option.

I'm actually pretty chill about traveling, it doesn't usually bug me at all to have delayed flights or sit on the tarmac a while (I'm usually lost in my book and perversely enjoy the delay 'cause it means I get to finish a whole novel), I've given myself permission to totally disregard my budget when buying airport stuff so it doesn't stress me out, and yet Spirit broke me utterly. They are evil incarnate. I'd gladly pay an extra $100 for a flight to avoid them.
posted by iminurmefi at 2:08 PM on April 6, 2010


bunnycup: I can't remember the last time I checked a bag, because frankly I don't like to play the "Will it or won't it arrive in my destination city?" game show.

I don't blame you a bit, but I hate playing the "can my boyfriend and I get our one laptop backpack into the overhead between all these suitcases?" game now that everyone carries their luggage on board. Fortunately, the cane I use to walk also lets us pre-board and stake out a scrap of overhead compartment territory before everyone else. Membership has its privileges.
posted by swerve at 2:15 PM on April 6, 2010


The commercial airline industry is dying. This sort of thing is like a weird smudge on an x-ray.
posted by you just lost the game at 2:28 PM on April 6, 2010


A company doesn't have to violate my rights to be hostile to me. And the overall effect of hidden costs, surprise fees, and massive inconvenience if one wants to fly (or often, has to) is exceedingly hostile. It is anti-customer-service. It is dishonest and disgusting.

I'm not talking about "hidden costs" or "surprise fees." If a company is engaging in an unfair or deceptive marketing practice, then that is just plain wrong. I did not understand the linked article to say that Spirit was concealing their policy.

I am talking about a separate issue: unbundling. If an airline says -- as Spirit does -- that they are going to offer no-frills, inconvenient service for individuals who are willing to tolerate it, then I don't understand what the problem is. Frankly, I think that everyone should get a window seat or an aisle seat (their choice), that everyone should get a nice warm meal on any flight more than four hours, and that everyone should get warm-towel service before they land, no matter how short the flight. But if people don't share my preferences and want a cheaper flight instead, then who are we to deprive them. If you don't like Spirit, don't fly them. If you think that an airline is "hostile" to you because you have to pay for carry-on, then fly a different carrier.
posted by Slap Factory at 2:28 PM on April 6, 2010


"If the average flyer was willing to pay $1,000 to fly between Boston and San Fransisco, the airlines would be able to offer the same level of service they offered back then. But people don't want to pay that much. They want to pay as close to $0 as possible. Those are the values that people bring to the airlines, and the airlines are giving it right back to us. We're getting what we're willing to pay for."

This. Re-regulation would be wonderful.


I don't get it. If you want expensive, attentive airline service, you can fly first class, no? You don't need to raise prices for all of the rest of us in order to accomplish that.
posted by Slap Factory at 2:30 PM on April 6, 2010


Who flies without any bag at all? Some small percentage that is not zero but is awfully close to it. Charging for any baggage amounts to charging for an option that's not really optional.

Luggage Shipping Services.

Save Money by Shipping Your Luggage.
posted by ericb at 2:36 PM on April 6, 2010




But if people don't share my preferences and want a cheaper flight instead, then who are we to deprive them.

The way to do this, especially on things like checked baggage that have been fundamentals for decades, is to allow people to remove them from their final costs. That means a little bit of extra work for the price-hungry, while people who just want good service don't have to go through the unpleasant nickle-and-dime.

It's so very counter-productive, too. If the RyanAir flight ends up costing £70 and the BA one is £110 I'll usually take the BA one. If RyanAir had started at £70 of course I'd have been more likely to take it, but that ticket starts at £12 and then they force it up, and up, and up, and up, so by the time I finally reach the final page I'm pissed off.

(They'll also continue to make me feel cheap while on board, with their wipe-clean seats and lottery tickets).
posted by bonaldi at 2:39 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


American airlines are weird.

I guess the comparison isn't completely valid, since most of the airlines you mentioned are nationalized, but given how many times our airlines have been bailed out they might as well be.
posted by electroboy at 2:44 PM on April 6, 2010


If you think that an airline is "hostile" to you because you have to pay for carry-on, then fly a different carrier.

There's a zone between illegal and, well, immoral is the wrong word here. There's a zone between breaking the law and being a dick and Spirit has entered it.
posted by GuyZero at 2:57 PM on April 6, 2010


I'd like to see a weight based fee. You, your luggage, and anything else you are bringing with you step onto a big scale.

Airlines used to do this. Before the 50s it was common practice to weigh everything, including the passengers, that was going on the plane.
By the early 1950s, U.S. airlines largely had stopped weighing people, relying instead on standard government tables to calculate the proper weight and balance of the aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration updated those tables in 2005 with Advisory Circular 120-27E , which calculates an aircraft’s operational empty weight, cargo payload, and the weight of fuel and passengers to load for proper center of gravity. For passengers, the FAA now figures an average man in summer clothes weighs 200 pounds and the average woman, 179 pounds. On flights between November 1 and April 30, when winter clothing is factored in, the FAA adds five pounds. The standards will be revised if data from U.S. government health agencies show that the average American has gotten at least two percent heavier.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:01 PM on April 6, 2010


Rob Cockerham dutifully sets out to find the most expensive airline fees for you.
posted by Avelwood at 3:46 PM on April 6, 2010


electroboy: airasia is a budget private airline which has some sort of rivalry with malaysian airlines, sometimes to the point of petty. But even as a budget airline (with fees for check-in luggage, a variety of food & drink, and some entertainment) it is still a million times better than the pathetic excuses for north american airlines. Even air canada was disappointing.

And those of you advocating the end of air travel - i'd like to see you say that to many asians and south pacific folk who rely on air travel for employment, education, and family support. Even with those we somehow manage to make less of an impact on the climate than the US.
posted by divabat at 3:55 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bullshit like this and traffic on the highways is why I've spent every penny of my disposable income, and then some, to have my own little airplane. Take that motherfuckers!
posted by exogenous at 4:41 PM on April 6, 2010


I've spent every penny of my disposable income, and then some, to have my own little airplane. Take that motherfuckers!

It is a 1/16 scale DC-3. Wooossshhh wooosssshhh Raaaaaooowwwwrrrr
posted by clearly at 5:32 PM on April 6, 2010


spirit employ people with metal detectors (after youve been through security) to make sure you arent carrying on cans of drink at the airport. (panama airport)

the seats are nice though.
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:00 PM on April 6, 2010


Gotta love the strawman of rights, as if people were claiming free baggage is a right, and then defeating this nefarious non-existant argument.

Of course it isn't my right to a free coke and my baggage, who would claim that it is? It is my right to say they are being assholes, particularly when when they make life difficult and charge me a lot for total crap food. And my right to whine about it too. And my right to pass on the 'opportunity', all the while trying to convince others of the same.

Now, that said, the charging for checked luggage but not carried luggage has created lots of strife and trouble, so I do wish they would either charge for both or neither. Plus, 1/2 the time they have a hard time coming up with a decent receipt for the luggage charge, making it difficult to expense. And usually no receipt for said crap food, making me get a bad meal, be unfulfilled and out money I can't expense. So, fuck you airlines.
posted by Bovine Love at 8:48 PM on April 6, 2010


It's not about the costs, it's the pointless pretense that they're optional. Like when BMW used to charge "optional" fees for seats.

Right. Like the pointless pretense that more flights are "on time" than they were 10 years ago, when all the airlines did was increase the stated travel times for their routes.
posted by phaedon at 11:30 PM on April 6, 2010




Even air canada was disappointing.

I've flown on some pretty shady airlines in my life, but there are none I dislike as much as Air Canada. Several world travelers share this opinon with me.

I think the fact that Air Canada is Canada's flag carrier is a national disgrace.
posted by Deep Dish at 1:24 PM on April 7, 2010


Come on, Air Canada is OK. You get free beer in the lounges too. It's nothing to brag about, for sure, but it's no worse than the major US carriers. It's certainly below par for major international routes. As for it being the de facto flag carrier, all the other ones went bankrupt. That counts for something I guess.
posted by GuyZero at 1:26 PM on April 7, 2010


airasia is a budget private airline which has some sort of rivalry with malaysian airlines

Sort of, it looks like it started out as a government run airline and failed so badly they gave it away just to be rid of it.
posted by electroboy at 3:18 PM on April 7, 2010


Re: that semi serious suggestion that airlines charge by weight... Feel free to correct my musings if I'm wrong. Pullings average numbers using back of envelope calculations and wikipedia and google -

1. Fuel is 50% of the operating cost of a budget flight (various google quotes)

2. Passenger+baggage weight is roughly 10% of the weight of a fully fueled aircraft (various aircraft specs on wiki)

Even if fuel consumption was 100% correlated to weight (which it is clearly not - there's wind resistance etc) at MOST your personal weight contribution would only make up 5% of the cost of your flight ticket. So a person who's 100 pounds should be paying 2.5% less than a 200 pound person - hardly any reason for airlines to bother with the additional hassle of charging by weight.
posted by xdvesper at 5:57 PM on April 7, 2010


Agreed, xdvesper. This article in the New York Times supports my contention that a big savings from reducing checked bags is in staff costs (and workers' comp claims), not merely fuel.
posted by grouse at 8:47 AM on April 8, 2010


Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood weighs in:
This idea of trying to deceive people with some little amount of print that nobody can read, or somewhere tucked away, I don’t agree with that.

And we’re gonna hold the airline’s feet to the fire on this. Because we have an obligation to do it and we have the ability to do it...

We have a rule in process, and all the things we’re talking about, they’re being considered.

We’re on this. Stay tuned.
posted by grouse at 3:14 PM on April 12, 2010


Man, I thought they gave LaHood transportation as a token gesture, but he's really been knocking them dead.
posted by electroboy at 3:18 PM on April 12, 2010




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