Dear Airline Executives,
As a frequent flyer, who has averaged over 200000 flown miles every year since 1998, I have a vested interest in your survival as an industry. I completely understand your need for revenue – however a few recent developments have caused me to question not only the wisdom of your decisions, but also whether or not the people making the decisions have actually flown in the last seven years.
I completely understand that things like water and soft drinks aren’t free for you, but I also know that you get some sweet deals in terms of pricing on these items in return for announcing that “your airline is proud to serve soda X”. I also know that I just paid a hefty price for this ticket. So, it’s a bit ridiculous to ask me to pay $2 for a bottle of water that cost you $.35. Buying onboard food – fine, if I want other food I can bring it from home. Keep charging the $5 for beer and wine too – but don’t rape me for something that was free a few months ago back when fuel prices were, hmm, exactly where they are again now! And especially when that particular item can’t be brought through security anymore.
But even more troubling is the new baggage insanity fee. Again, I’m all for making money – but in a smart and equitable way. Your recent requirement to pay $15-25 for a checked bag has done nothing but cause passengers to attempt to stuff their entire apartment into a roll-aboard and backpack (neither of which can fit into the overhead bin without using a crowbar and personal lubricant). The result is that bins are completely full before even half of the passengers have boarded – a process which is also slowed because of the time needed to wedge all of the oversized duffelbags into the minimal space available. And then your flight crew gets to waste even more time checking the rest of the carry-ons in the gangway – for free!!! I’ve even heard passengers giving each other tips about this very thing!
Let’s get real – there are two far more intelligent solutions to this problem. Feel free to chose either one…
First, charge a carry-on fee instead of a checked bag fee. Charge the same $15-25 for any bag larger than a standard computer backpack or briefcase size. Upon paying, issue a bag tag that is attached to the bag in order to bring it onboard. It’s far less time-consuming for a gate agent or flight attendant to glance at the rollaboards being brought on than to fill out 20 or 30 luggage tags for bags that can’t find an overhead bin space.
Not only would this free up bin space, thereby alleviating the major bottleneck in the boarding process, it also ensures that the majority of bags go through more rigorous inspection than that afforded at most checkpoints – helping to keep us all safer.
Now if you don’t like that idea, how about just tacking on the stupid $15 to the price of every ticket as a fuel surcharge? That is the reason that you’ve said you needed to add the baggage fee, isn’t it? So let’s be fair and make everyone shoulder the burden of the higher fuel costs. We’re all getting on the plane – why does my checked bag cost more in the cargo hold than the one in the overhead bin? And don’t tell me it’s a matter of weight – you already have weight restrictions – and you are able to distribute the weight in the cargo hold much more effectively than you can in the cabin. And a fuel surcharge could actually be decreased or even recended as fuel prices decrease (as if you’d ever actually do that…).
The bottom line is that we all know the economy sucks – but I also know that every plane I get on is packed to the gills. We all want you to survive and even to turn a profit, but nickel and dimeing us in a way that makes the entire traveling experience even more of a headache is the quickest way to lose any goodwill that you might still have following 9/11. And, yes I know, as a frequent flyer I am not subject to the bag fees – but I do still have to get on the plane in a timely manner. And when I can’t manage to be one of the first ones on the plane I still need to find room for my bag. Think about it – or better yet make your executive fly coach (in a middle seat) on six flights this week. I bet we’d see a lot of changes come next week. ;-)
P.S. To my readers, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my ideas – or any of your own airline stories. Comment away!