What hath the airlines wrought?

I’m spending entirely too much time shuttling between Atlanta and Chicago for business.  I’m booked on the same flights for each trip, and the patterns have become way to obvious to ignore:

The baggage fees are destroying flying for the customer – on top of all the other overhead that you need to deal with in the course of flying (travel to the airport – 1 hour, TSA crap – unknown, endless waits, flights cancelled at the last minute, fellow passengers wider than their seats, etc).

On my Tuesday flights up to Chicago, I’m on a regional jet.  For a regional jet, it’s a big one, but baggage space in the cabin is at a premium.  The result is that almost everyone who isn’t a Medallion member (for Delta) ends up having to check their roll aboard bag at the side of the airplane.  This means a lot of hassle and bitching as business travelers pull their laptops and valuables out of the luggage, while trying to get onto the plane. 

Two weeks ago about 20 people had to BACK OUT OF THE PLANE during boarding in order to start rolling luggage out of the cabin so it could be checked.  This does not make the traveler happy, and it really irritates that cabin staff, who has to deal with angry and frustrated customers as well as nag people about not putting coats in the overhead bins.

Okay, so that’s on a regional jet, you might figure that it’s different on a larger one.  Well, it’s pretty much just as bad on the flight back from Chicago which is on an MD-80 – a typical 5 across medium range jet.  The exact same problems occur.

Here’s the reality check – before these baggage fees were applied, a lot more people checked their bags, meaning that in the cabin you at least had a decent chance to find a place for your bag.  Now, because of the (originally $15 / $20) $25 to $35 fee, people try to carry on things that they never would have dreamed of before.  To top if off, the bags that are “checked” at the side of the aircraft – no fee!  So the airlines have incentivized people to try to carry on as much as they can in order to save some money.

Be sure to remember that these fees were added to offset the cost of fuel going up – but they never went away as the cost fell.  And the reality is, the cost of fuel is built into the airfare.  It was and is just another money grab.  Under our economic model they’re welcome to it, but as soon as I can fly Southwest, I’m there.

When you pile this on top of the lack of ‘free’ food, and the assumption that you only want a glass of soda rather than a can, they have squeezed the most out of the flying public.  I cannot imagine what charge they will think of next.  Deb suggested charging people by weight…

I should note that when I flew Air France from Atlanta to Paris, the service was great, the food was great, the in-seat entertainment system was great, and there was plenty of room in the Airbus for luggage.  The flight back from Paris on Delta, well, there was plenty of storage space…

Happy travels!