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Airlines Fees From Shoehorned Travelers

10/28/2011

Let me preface this piece by stating that I’m a capitalist. I support free-market fundamentals and have participated in the generation of profits for company’s large and small.

As a consumer and a marketer, however, I find the whole concept of airline fees frustrating. If you’ve flown commercially anywhere in the past 2 years you know what I’m talking about. Fees for checked bags, fees for changing itineraries,  fees for different seat locations within “coach”, and on it goes.

This week on a flight to Denver I was “fortunate” enough to be seated in “Economy Plus”. Apparently Economy Plus is the old “coach”. Now it is considered an upgrade from Economy because Economy Plus has more leg room than Economy. Ironically the “Plus” leg room is the same as the old coach – but now its as upgrade. What?

On the return flight the attendant came by and swiped the small-screen console on the seat back in front of me. $6 to watch some lame TV clips. I said, “No thanks!”.

Yesterday it was reported the country’s largest airlines collected $1.5 billion in fees from checked luggage and reservation changes in the second quarter of 2011. That, by any measure, is a boatload of money. The airlines appear to be oblivious to the disservice and lack of customer consideration these fees have caused.

The fees for checked bags has created on new on-board real estate crisis for carry-on luggage. Passengers in order to avoid paying fees for checking their bags are more apt to carry on. Most aircraft are not equipped to hold this volume of luggage. So passengers get frazzled, attendants become space managers – and no one wins.

I predict that soon the government will be stepping on this – just as it did with credit card fees in the banking industry. But for now, the airlines have become addicted to this revenue stream. Changing their habit will be tough.

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