Carry On
and On and On
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Flying these days is like riding the subway, without the glamour. 
Sandy Huffaker/NYT. Like the exodus from Egypt. Passengers carry as much as possible onboard to avoid checked bag fees.
The airlines are always looking to make money, resulting in travelers paying expanded ticket prices and finding a lack of convenience and service.
Rather than modeling a respectful travel environment that welcomes all travelers, the airlines are pitting their customers against one another via scarce real estate of the overhead bins.
Instead of allowing one checked bag with the price of your ticket, the majority of the airlines have halted this.
Alaska Air, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta, Frontier, Spirit, United, US Airways, and Virgin America now all charge for the first checked bag.
As a result, passengers bring as much on-board as possible.
(Only Southwest and Jetblue still allow a free checked bag.  Southwest actually gives you two free bags and doesn’t seem to have a problem making money.)
Some low-cost carriers have tiptoed into charging for carry ons.  They include Spirit, Allegiant and Frontier. A trend that’s rumored to continue.
TSA has complained about the increasing number of carry on items they must screen, and considering that checked bags go through a bomb detection screening, and carry ons do not.


Business Of The Bins 

Last weekend the New York Times ran a prominent piece; “Airlines Cash In on Every Inch, Even the Jammed Bins Overhead”, about the battle of the bins, the preflight scrum over carry-on space with priority given to those who pay.  
The overhead compartments are valuable real estate, and these days, they go to the highest bidders.

Sandy Huffaker/NYT. Finding space onboard has become competitive as people carry more bags onto the plane.


Without rules to go along with these baggage fees, that have become so common in the past ten years, it means chaos on the plane and overload at security checkpoints.

TSA agents are swamped with the circus of suitcases, shopping bags, strollers, shoes, jackets and everything that people throw on the belt in a rush.

Perhaps we brought this upon ourselves, for not protesting sooner. 
The reality is people are very easily influenced by a low-sticker ticket price. That’s the only number we see until we actually pay. Then we get the bill for all the extra “services” (i.e. peanuts, lukewarm water, a fraction more legroom, baggage fees, etc.).
But it is the airlines themselves that created these demands by jamming the maximum payload of people onto an aircraft.
In the past we’ve written about “stand-up” flights. Instead of seats you stood, in a secure sort of way. But think of how many more people they could load a plane without the problem of legroom.
Sooner or later we’ll all just be cargo.
An Industry Ripe For Creative Destruction

The airlines claim they are providing an option travelers want.

But the statements by two airline spokesmen captures the disconnect between the airline and its passengers and should be a red flag:

“It’s something our customers desire,” said an American Airlines spokesman, Matt Miller. Charlie Hobart, a United Airlines spokesman, said, “We’re always looking for ways to make travel more convenient for our customers.”

There isn’t a customer in the world who DESIRES to pay for their bags to go with them, just as there’s no DESIRE to pay extra fees for early boarding and overhead bin space.

The reason that the airlines are getting away with this is that they have merged away competition. This is what consolidation in the airline industry has wrought. Reduced competition, higher prices, jam-packed planes, not an extra inch of space.

We’re at a fork in the road. Either we get concessions from the airlines or we have a monopoly situation.

Hold Onto Your Seatbelts. Debt Ceiling Crisis:
Washington, DC. -Fri, Oct 11, 2013.
Paul Hudson, president of, a large airline passenger organization with 30,000 members, called today on US airlines to immediately waive change fees and offer refunds to passengers whose trips have been cancelled due to the Federal Government shutdown.
He noted, “The unprecedented closing of all national parks, hundreds of tourist destinations and nearly all other federal facilities since September 30th has and will continue to require many thousands of travelers to cancel or postpone air travel.  This Federal shutdown has become a national travel emergency.  Airlines and other travel operators should not profit at the expense of passengers with high change fees and inflexible cancellation policies.”
“And unless the shutdown is lifted shortly, air travelers also face a likely air travel slow down as early as next week. FAA air traffic controllers, while still on the job, are not currently being paid, and most air safety inspectors were furloughed starting October 1st.”
“Without airlines taking proactive voluntary action, it will be ‘Traveler Beware’ time as the shutdown makes future travel planning uncertain and potentially subject to costly cancellation and change expenses.”
A survey conducted this week of major airlines found that only Delta has waived the usual $200 change fee for travel impacted by the federal shutdown.  US Airways, American, United, JetBlue and Allegiant airlines all advised that they would continue to impose their regular change of reservation fees (typically $200 per ticket) plus the difference in airfare for changes and would continue to deny refunds for nonrefundable tickets despite the Federal government shutdown. Southwest does not have a change fee, but does charge the fare difference for changes.
Most travel insurance policies also fail to cover trip cancellations due to the Federal shutdown, but travelers should consult with the insurance carrier and their policies for specific information and guidance.


Horror Story of the Week:

A reminder that the U.S. does not have a monopoly on fee gouging and airport screening ineptitude.  JK wrote to us recently about his nightmare trip:
It all started on 8-Oct in Athens, Greece while checking in 3 pieces of luggage, expecting to pay 50 euros each, I was stunned: 222euros ($300). The worst part is that they broke a wheel off my luggage and the bags never made it with me to my arrival in DFW. Two days later they were delivered to me in 
two (2) deliveries.
While going through London Heathrow 8-Oct, Security punished me for forgetting my 2oz shampoo and Amazon kindle on the carry-on and they took all my
stuff out and threw it around like they found a terrorist.
On 25 Sept, when I departed DFW, no search of my carry-on was made. Also when departing Athens, again no search of my carry-on was made.
People were shouting and pleading with the security to hurry up in their search. One woman had her bras and panties spewed all over the filthy stainless steel search counter.
I kept telling them that I had just  45 minutes, then 30 minutes, then 15 minutes to get to the gate for boarding, then finally they made me and many others lose their connecting flights.
It was a short line, not even 10 meters long. I was feeling, ok, I had 1 hour and 30 minutes to departure.  It was not the searching that bothered me, but that I had to wait over an hour in line begging to be searched.
It was obvious that the intentions of security was to go as slow as possible, to cause me to lose my flight by punishing me to send a message that I must never ever leave toiletries again in the carry-on unless they were in the plastic zip-lock baggy. The idiot was opening every item, cameras, cell phones, pouches, pencil case and pushing on the pen springs and turning pages in the two paperbacks I had with me. Even though the bag went through a security x-ray machine.
Items are also missing in my luggage. I am puzzled. How much more could I have been humiliated?
I simply now Refuse to ever fly British again, although I had many good experiences with them since the 90s.


Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights
Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights
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