Pack lightly

In an attempt to regain their lead in the race to the bottom of customer service levels, and hoping to catch up with United Airlines who announced a similar policy a couple weeks ago, US Air announced yesterday that they will only allow one free piece of checked luggage for their passengers, frequent fliers and first class cabin excluded. This sort of policy doesn’t affect me since I rarely check bags (2 weeks in New Zealand with only my carry-on!) and if I did need to check I’ve got my frequent flier status to offset the issue. Where this really starts to hit home is for the occasional traveller who shows up at the airport with a lot of luggage for their annual vacation. Before they even get on the plane they’re out $25/person for that second bag. Maybe they should’ve known that it was going to happen and maybe not. Either way, shelling out extra cash at the counter is a rather frustrating way to begin a trip.

This is yet another step in the unbundling of airline ticket prices. A ticket used to include everything associated with the trip. People Express was one of the earlier entrants in the surcharge game, with fees for snacks/sodas on board, checked luggage and other similar “perks.” They went away (consumed into Continental) and so did most of those policies, but they’re making a comeback with the European LCCs, SkyBus and now some of the legacies here in the USA.

Ironically they only do it this way because they can’t seem to raise prices to a sustainable level due to over-capacity in the industry (too many carriers/planes), so they have to get their incremental revenue elsewhere. Most in the industry hope that the pending mergers (NW/DL and CO/UA seem most likely, if they happen at all) would reduce some of that capacity and increase fares. Probably not good for passengers, but better than an airline closing up shop and putting tens of thousands of employees out of work.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.