Wednesday, May 28, 2008


American Airlines, you may have heard, has begun charging for any bags passengers check for a flight.

In case you think this is an outraged consumer rant, please let me establish that I was perfectly in favor of dropping complimentary meals and adding snacks for the $5 fee.

The airlines, quite rightly, went to some lengths to encourage passengers to check baggage more and carry on less. After delays, before even security, the most annoying part of air travel for me is the other passengers that insist on pushing the limits of the carry on rules so they won’t be required to check any bags. This leads to:

Running out of overhead space - I have seen the competition lead to shoving
Big hassles in boarding and disembarking (read as: delays)
Slower through security – even assuming the offending passenger is prepared and knowledgeable about the “liquids” rules
Absolute fire hazards at the gate area

With this one fee, American Airlines has taken a major step backward.

Perhaps this is not much trouble for the frequent business traveler. Already the worst offender in the carry on game, the business traveler is least likely to be bothered by a $15 fee that the employer will be paying. I imagine that since the business traveler is the meat and potatoes of the industry, American thinks it can get away with this stunt.

Think about the family of four headed to Disney World. Four plane tickets. Hotel room. Park tickets. Disney cost of food and everything else. As you are making your budget, you have to build in $90 - $120 roundtrip for checking luggage. I’m thinking that driving is starting to look more attractive.

My hometown airline, United, has not implemented this fee yet. But when one airline increased the “changed flight” fee, the others followed. When one did the “second bag” fee, the others followed. So I am not optimistic.

Lucky for me, I like a good road trip.

No comments: