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Pecked to Death by a Duck

Carol Sottili

Will airlines, hotels, car rental companies, and the like ever run out of creative ways to squeeze another dollar out of us? The latest is Spirit Airlines: The discount carrier announced that, starting Feb. 10, each passenger will be allowed only one piece of checked luggage; a second bag will cost $10. The carrier says the measure is just another way to keep its fares low. It's the first airline to charge for a second checked bag. Most airlines allow two free checked bags per passenger, up to 50 pounds each. Southwest allows three free bags.

This is just the latest in fee creep. Most hotels now sock you with a "resort fee" to use the facilities. Airlines are charging $2 a bag to check your luggage in at the curb. And forget about a free drink: even Air Jamaica, which used to be very generous with the free Red Stripes, is charging $2 a beer. I feel as if I can't keep enough small bills in my wallet when I travel, and they're not all going toward tips anymore.

By Carol Sottili |  February 6, 2007; 2:32 PM ET  | Category:  Airline Industry , Carol Sottili
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At this rate, by 2015 we'll be paying $500/flight to ride around in baggage, no checked or carry-on bags allowed without (more) exhorbitant fees...and only if you weigh under X lbs, else there will be a fee.

Maybe soon people will say enough is enough and the market will dictate that prices go down and services go up?

Posted by: I understand this, BUT... | February 6, 2007 3:24 PM

Sheesh. Couldn't they just add $5 onto the airfare, figure some people will bring a second bag, some won't, and cause way less counterside annoyance? This just sounds like a public relations disaster. You know their counter attendants are the ones who are going to feel the force of passengers' wrath. And all to make their fares appear a tiny bit lower.

Posted by: h3 | February 6, 2007 3:31 PM

Think of the the new era of cheap travel as bus rides in the sky.

Before the advent of the super cheap airlines, the amenities you are bemoaning the loss of were subsidised by ridiculously high airfares. All those petty perks were a way of trying to convince the consumer that their 800.00 ticket from Oakland to Seattle was worth the money. I hope you are not saying you would prefer for history to reverse itself.

As for the extra hotel charges, you must have just graduated from the school of MOTEL 6 patrons. These charges have been in effect for decades.

Posted by: realistic | February 6, 2007 7:18 PM

This is what you get in a deregulated airline industry. Before de-reg, all of this stuff was a part of the airfare, no nickel-dime stuff, and I recall food worth eating too. Most airlines are near bankuptcy, some are in it... can't have dirt cheap fares for long and expect to stay in business. I hate what de-reg did and hate to fly these days. These days, if one airline ups a fare even a few bucks, a competitor uses that info to clobber them with lower fares, even if they lose money, they want to fill the seats. What we have with a totally un-regulated industry is a return to bare-knuckle capitalism with all the excesses, shortcomings and stupidities at work. If the Feds would at least bring back a "rate floor" - below which fares were not allowed to go - airlines could make a buck and provide good, safe, service without silly charges or fare games.

Posted by: Former Transporter | February 7, 2007 7:55 PM

I agree in principle with the comments about deregulation -- now that airlines have to watch every penny, pax are getting "pecked to death by ducks." Unfortunately, the more serious consequence is that as cost-cutting pressures increase, little things like aircraft maintenance, crew training, and crew workload will suffer, leading to possible compromises of safety.

Bottom line: I pretty much detest flying dommercial any more. Next time we go West to ski, it will probably cost $100-200 in "excess baggage" charges for our skis and equipment. I would drive to Utah to go skiing if it were practical.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | February 9, 2007 1:17 PM

It doesn't bug me. In fact, I just read another article today that explains how these "nickel-and-dime" fees allow the airlines to offer the lowest possible base fare while allowing for customers to get only the extras they want. (http://www.forbes.com/2007/02/07/bain-airlines-profits-oped-cx_mg_0208bain_print.html) Maybe lowering my fare so it doesn't have to cover someone else's second bag means I can pay for an extra $2.00 Red Stripe, if that is my preference.

On the other hand, do those of you who want to re-regulate airlines also favor regulating hotels or car rental companies? Why not have a rate floor for rental cars? Then baby seats, insurance, and GPS could always be included. And sure, this cutthroat competition between hotels has to go before they make them any more affordable for someone who just wants a bed to sleep in, too.

Posted by: DC occasional flyer | February 9, 2007 6:28 PM

Spirit Air's fee pales compared to the new fee structure British Airways has announced. A second bag on on of its long haul international flights will cost $236. Yes, you read that right: $236. Passengers will be allowed one bag of up to 23 kilograms (50 lbs) or can split that into 2 bags as long as they keep under the maximum weight.

Posted by: Heather Dolstra | February 11, 2007 5:21 PM

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