Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse for airline passengers, here comes news that Frontier Airlines will charge you a fee for carry-on bags.
Now, to be fair, Frontier is adding these fees by promising to reduce base fares by 12%, as the airline is aiming to become a fee-dependent airline like Spirit and Allegiant.
But this is a slippery slope that foretells the big three airlines (American, Delta, United) doing the same – without reducing fares.
This is because the airline model is broken for passengers, and the airlines themselves give not one whit about it. Let me take a step back. The airlines don’t care as long as things go well in the short term, which is why you see airlines adding fees and, more importantly, consolidating to help the bottom line.
The reason for consolidation is that, when two big airlines merge, they can reduce redundancy with a merged company, cutting costs on both sides of the merger. The reason for the additional fees is simply to add revenue at the expense of passengers who are held hostage by, basically, monopolies and their loyalty programs.
So, the bottom line looks good, the CEO leaves and gets a giant parachute for his efforts. Then, when the advantages of the merger run out, it becomes someone else’s problem and that leads to more fees.
The fees for carry-on baggage will come from the big airlines because they have put themselves in this spot. When they added fees for checked luggage, many travelers (especially business travelers like myself) simply carried on their luggage.
Have you boarded a flight from the big three lately? It’s a chaotic mess with most passengers trying to find space in the overhead to put their carry-on bags. They squeeze luggage in as tightly as they can, trying to jam a bag in that just won’t fit. It’s a race to the gate, because the earlier you get on the plane, the more likely you’ll be able to find enough space.
So here come the fees for that. Although this sounds like a rant, I don’t necessarily mean it to be. Instead, it’s a plea to the airlines to think about the future of the airline industry, their own airlines and what each one can do to be actually become preferred. (We can help.)
But I’m not crossing my fingers.