Flying the friendly skies…it’s not friendly any longer?

I try really hard not to use my blogs “to rant,” but since I have an audience, even a small one, I want to take this opportunity to address something that really bothers me, and I’m sure that it bothers many of you, too!

Today in the news, it was announced by the Associated Press that Spirit Airlines will charge up to $45 each way for bringing carry-on bags onto the plane. This, apparently, doesn’t apply to items that “fit under the seat in front of you” which, as the article says, would be things like your purse, a briefcase, or a laptop bag. Oh, the humanity!
As a flyer, I despise carry-ons. I always check my luggage, grudgingly paying the $15 or $20 or whatever it is they charge now (it varies from airline to airline) for your bags to go into the cargo hold beneath the plane. I check my bags because I dislike lugging them through the airport, and I do not want to trudge them from connection to connection. On a recent flight to visit a friend in California, I flew from RDU to Chicago. Then from Chicago to Seattle. And then from Seattle to Oakland. Not something that I wanted to do while wheeling luggage around all those airports.
Having the bag with me is just an extra thing to worry about. Now I have to worry about it getting stolen, or getting in my way when I go to the bathroom, or getting in the way when I sit down at the bar to have a drink before my flight, or it gets in the way of other people as they are trying to get around the airport. But some people don’t mind it, and if it’s your thing, then more power to you. I don’t fault people for wanting to avoid the baggage fees. Some people refuse to pay out of principle and others because they simply can’t afford it. I sympathize.
Since airlines have instituted these baggage fees, more and more people are bringing their bags onto the plane. Some of them are too big to even go on the plane! On my trip to California, I saw a couple, husband and wife, presumably, take on four suitcases – two each. And these were gigantic. I watched them as they held up the flight because they refused to pay to check their bags — they said, “We simply can’t afford to pay $20/a bag.”
Can you blame them? I can certainly think of something to do with $80 other than giving it to the airline. And if it was me, I probably would have done the same. But now that Spirit Airlines plans to charge for bringing luggage into the cabin, wouldn’t those people who thought they could save $80 be even worse off?
What astounds me is this — did airlines think that passengers would just fork over their money to check bags? Wouldn’t it have been smarter to adjust their ticket prices accordingly? Was this maneuver by the airlines simply an attempt to make money or were they try to force us to carry our bags on board so that they could “easily” layoff ground staff who would no longer be needed because of a “decrease in passenger baggage”? Now that passengers have wised up and no longer check their bags, the airlines are saying to themselves: “Hell, we’re losing a revenue stream here! Let’s now CHARGE people to bring anything onto the plane!”
I wouldn’t object to paying this fee if I knew that it would save someone’s job. Heck, I don’t want anyone to be unemployed or lose a job just so that I can save $20 on checking my bags. Or what about quality of service? The flights on my trip to California and back were some of the worst and now you want me to pay more money for horrible service, late connections and overpriced food and sandwiches on the plane. (You know, it’s hard to get something to eat in the airport when your flight is late because of the airline’s error and that two hour connection that you had because five minutes leaving you virtually no time to grab a snack at the also at one of the airport’s overpriced food vendors — I’m sorry, but a piece of banana bread half the size of a deck of card and burnt coffee should not cost me $7.95!).
Airline ticket pricing needs to be more transparent, but we know it never will! We pays these fees because this is how airlines make their money, and we believe that we simply don’t have a choice. They undercut the prices of their flights to compete with each other, leaving them scrambling to make money by selling food on the plane (I remember when it was free!), charging baggage fees, as well as charging for other amenities like onboard wi-fi, phone calls and headphones to take advantage of the in-flight entertainment!
As consumers and travelers, we have to take a stand against greed and stop ourselves from being used. We fly to put money into the pockets of shareholders, and it’s time that airlines treat their customers as they deserve to be treated. You shouldn’t have to fly first class to get first class service. Flying is stressful and difficult these days, and airlines seem to do almost nothing to make the process better.
Be warned — other airlines may follow Spirit Airlines in charging for bringing bags into the cabin! It’s time that we, as consumers, put a stop to this nonsense by telling these companies that we are not happy with these fees anymore!
The next time you book your vacation, think about what you’re really paying for. When you’re wronged, take a stand and show these companies that you mean business. Enough is enough on hidden fees! I’d rather stay home this summer or drive than giving my hard-earned money to airlines who, frankly, just don’t deserve it!
I came up with some things that you can do to save money and send a message to these airlines:
  • Fly airlines that have the lower fees or have none at all, like Southwest or jetBlue.

  • Avoid airlines that charge for ridiculous things, like bringing carry-ons. Spirit Airlines doesn’t deserve your business, in my opinion!
  • Some of the other airlines, like Delta, American, etc. don’t charge baggage fees for elite customers or those with special frequent flier privileges. Take advantage of that while you can!
  • Bring snacks or meals with you and grudgingly buy water at the airport once you’ve cleared security.
  • Avoid checking bags when you can. There are some services that will mail your luggage to your destination and have it arrive, sometimes far cheaper than airlines checked baggage fee. This might be more cost effective if you have a number of bags to take with you. When I fly to my parents for the holidays, I get a box. Throw some clothes in it as well as toiletries and other necessities. Tape it up and send it to them. Last Christmas, I paid $7.95 to ship that medium-sized box. And on the way back, my mom simply mails that same box back to me. That’s better than $15, $20 or $25 I’d be paying to the airline.
  • When you receive poor service, complain. Write letters. Call them. Be a pain. Make a nuisance of yourself. You’d be surprised what perseverance can do for you. Better yet, tell your friends and let other travelers know. Word of mouth can be a powerful thing.
ADDENDUM: I wanted to let readers know that I have written to the US Congress about my concerns about the airline industry.