retail news in context, analysis with attitude

USA Today this morning reports that the decision by Spirit Airlines to begin charging for carry-on luggage that has to go in the overhead bins is getting a lot of negative reaction. Both US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) are looking for ways to force the airline to reverse the new policy, and certainly the airline seems to be losing the public relations battle.

We reported on the overhead policy on MNB the other day, commenting that it seems to be a classic case of a company looking for short-term financial gain without thinking about long-term strategic implications. Not surprisingly, we got a lot of email on the issue...

One MNB user wrote:

What is missing from all the reports on this is what Spirit charges for checked luggage. If the goal is more efficient boarding, then checked luggage should cost less. Let’s be honest - paying to check your luggage encourages people to do more carry-ons, which in my opinion creates more hassles and safety risks during boarding and departing the plane as people stuff more in the overhead bins. So is their goal more efficiency or just plain greed?

I checked. If you do it online, the first checked bag costs $19, the second costs $25, and third through fifth bags cost $100 apiece. If you do it at the airport, the first and second bags cost $25 apiece, and the third through fifth are $100 apiece.

Another MNB user wrote:

I will bet Southwest Airlines will love this announcement and they hope all airlines continue to try and make their bottom line by raising prices and adding fees! Are airlines becoming just like banks and think the only way to make money is to charge more fees?

Southwest Airlines over the last decade has been the most profitable airline around by giving great customer service and avoiding extra fees and charging a fair rate in order to have full flights!

If you want to be successful in today’s business environment you need to have low prices and give great customer service!

Another MNB user wrote:

Just wanted to chime in on the luggage charges.  First of all, I wish they’d just hide it in the airline ticket price and get it over with.  Secondly, it’s very irritating when at least half of the people decide they don’t want to pay the $20 or $25 bucks to check their bag knowing full-well that it is bigger than a carry-on bag.  It’s hard enough to make a connecting flight without these folks trying to stuff an oversized bag into the compartments, people snarking at each other about overhead space, then (big surprise) taking them back up front so the staff can put the orange tags on, etc. (no charge-and they get away with it).  It’s happened on every flight I’ve been on in the past year. Money-maker for the airline (but poor enforcement) and rude/inconsiderate of the passengers to fellow passengers.

Still another MNB user wrote:

You must be one of those flyers who don't check luggage and take it all with you in the cabin.  Now I haven't flown much in the last few years but did a reasonable amount in the past.  Did I lose checked luggage? Yes. Did it cause great problems?  Yes.  Did I then take it all with me in the cabin? Yes.  Did my finding a place for my stuff present a problem if I didn't board in the first third?  Yes. 

I think that Spirit Airlines has a point.  Will I fork over $45 more to be able to put something (computer) under my seat and then my bag in the overhead plus seat first?  Yes.  Spirit says it will speed up boarding and deplaning and I can see their point,  I would be interested because my fare will be going down and I get to take it all with me vs the lost luggage (or delayed) routine.  I don't know what their fares are currently or will be but I would probably do it if I was flying a lot more.

Another MNB user chimed in:

Charging for checked bags, charging for carry-on bags, having to get to the airport an hour early at a minimum to clear security, gouging taxes on rental cars art airport locations,  etc.

All of this has altered my personal "consumption" of airline services.  I now drive to places that I would formerly have flown especially for personal trips.  When there are two of us the economics are favorable even if an overnight stay on the way might be required (especially using Priceline).   I am sure I am not alone.  Just as other grocery stores are not the only competition for grocery stores, other airlines are not the only competition for airlines.

MNB user Keith Smith wrote:

On your article “Unfriendly Skies”, I must disagree.  With airlines charging for checked-through baggage, but not carry-ons, passengers have started carrying on bags they would otherwise check.  These are large bags that often go past the maximum for carry-on size.  Along with attempts to put more passengers on per plane and (at times) changing legroom capacity (by rearranging seat lay-outs), air travel has become crowded compared to previous years.

If Spirit Airlines does drop the ticket price accordingly, I would find myself MORE likely to grace that airline.  In no way, do I find “retailers should use this as a model for what not to do.”  On the last several flights were passengers dragged on these supposed carry-on behemoths, I found myself wishing an airline would do exactly what Spirit Airlines has done.

Another MNB user offered:

Kevin, this is totally ridiculous, $45 to carry on a small 22 inch bag for overhead storage. What’s next? Putting a 0.25 cent coin machine to use the bathrooms? What is business coming to? Why doesn’t Spirit raise their prices for a normal airline ticket instead of charging an “A La Carte” up charge on carry ons. As a consumer I would make a decisions to either pay a little extra for an airline ticket on Spirit Airlines or never fly them again because of this silly up charge on carry on baggage. Who is Spirit’s marketing or PR advisors? They should be fired, then tortured (by flying their own airline).

Well, let’s not go there. Torture is against the Geneva Conventions.

And BTW...RyanAir in Europe reportedly continues to consider turning its on-board bathrooms into pay toilets.

MNB user Deborah J. Maestu wrote:

We could all use FedEx or UPS to send our overnight bags to our destination hotel. Let's face - there's almost no such thing as a business day trip anymore.

Send everything express if we're going to be paying for it anyway, and that way we have nothing to carry, nothing for the airlines to loose or damage and no waiting time for luggage to wait for.

I disagree with your suggestion that there are no business trips anymore. I take almost nothing other than business trips, as does Michael Sansolo. Between us we give 40-50 speeches a year...which means we are on the road constantly.

MNB user Geoff Harper wrote:

Although I agree that the carry-on fee is a big mistake, the idea of reducing carry-ons is laudable.  I don’t fly as much as you do, but when I do, the hassle over some passengers’ carry-ons is very annoying.

MNB user Gerry Buckles wrote:

I love numbers!

I weigh 188 pounds and I bring a 20 carry-on so my total weight to be lifted into the air and moved from point A to point B is 208 pounds and I would pay for the carry-on.

The guy flying next to me weighs 250 pounds but did not bring a carry-on bag so he only pays for his ticket.

Hmmmm. I’m pretty sure it is weight that is the concern and not cubes – although his total cube is probably bigger than me and my carry-on.

I get the whole speed and efficiency theory but can’t help thinking the girl that is a 100 pound health enthusiast is getting a raw deal.

Hey Sprit Airlines, say hello to Braniff Airways in your afterlife.

Listen, I understand that airlines have to find ways to get profitable, which is hard in the current economic environment. But I still think that the carry-on baggage fee is a bad idea.

I’d be a lot happier if airlines were a lot more diligent about enforcing the limits on how big a carry-on can be. So many of the bags that get carried on have no business being in the overhead, and somehow people just cram them in, crushing everything nearby and taking up so much space that people with smaller bags get screwed.

(I am religious about checking bags that are oversized, BTW. And while my bags rarely have been lost, I’m careful in such cases to have a small carry-on bag with a few necessities in the event that a bag is lost. It seems ironic that an airlines wants to charge me for bringing a bag that is meant to protect against their own incompetence.)

And while I’m ranting...y’know what really annoys me? It’s these clowns that are seated in row 27, but come on the plane and stick their bags above row eight or nine, leaving no room for people actually sitting in those rows. Heads on pikes - that’s my solution to solving this problem.
KC's View: