Sunday, April 18, 2010

Much Ado About Nothing

[Updated 4.19.2010 See below.]

Am I one of the few people who find the whole “fees for carry-on baggage” imbroglio hilarious? Everyone seems to be taking it so seriously.

First it was Spirit Airlines declaring that it will begin charging passengers “up to $45 to place a bag in an overhead bin.” [NY Times]. Then, it was New York Senator Charles Schumer gaseously spewing that he was going to draft a law against carry-on fees. A law? Come on, Chuck, get angry at many things in this country, but baggage fees?

Now, in a remarkable show of solidarity, five U.S. airlines (American, Delta, United, U.S. Airways, and JetBlue) have “committed” to No-Fee Chuck that they will not institute fees for carry-on bags. (Of course, let’s not forget the phone-reservation fees and checked baggage fees and change fees and .... oh, you get the idea.)

The serious-sounding NY Times article notes that, “Notably absent from the list was Continental Airlines, which is said to be in merger talks with United.” Like, duh, what difference would that make? United may or may not also be in merger talks with U.S. Airways. And also “notably absent” from the list were Southwest, Alaska, Frontier, oh, you get the idea. Maybe one of the absent airlines will find something light and humorous (and intelligent) to say about all this.

The Times also noted that “Schumer and five other Democratic senators ... are supporting legislation that would tax airlines if they charged carryon bag fees.” Wow. Another tax that benefits... the government; not the consumers who are subject to the fees. This rather reminds me of the new tarmac-delay fines. Passengers get inconvenienced, but the airlines pay fines to the government.

Even Spirit’s CEO, Ben Baldanza is sticking to a serious tone: “Our plan was never predicated on anyone matching us.” Come on, Ben, say something funny, like: We really just wanted to yank everybody’s chain, and since Ryanair has already claimed to be considering pay toilets, there weren’t many ridiculous fees left that we could be first with.

The real “serious” travel news right now is about volcanic ash blanketing Europe and virtually shutting down air travel for half the world. So give us some levity here, Ben and Chuck. Say something funny. Find the absurdity in all this. I sure do.

UPDATE 4/19/10 – Somebody DID say something funny. Senator Gasbag (aka Ben Cardin) was quoted on The Cranky Flier as saying: “Carry-on luggage is where people keep items essential to their health, work, and safety like laptop computers, medications, food to eat on the plane, baby formula, eye glasses and other items that need to be kept close at hand. These are personal items that airline passengers should not be charged to keep with them in the cabin.”
Cranky’s response: “Thanks for playing, Senator, but everything you mentioned there remains free on Spirit. The airline is still allowing a personal item (like a purse, briefcase, etc) and things like diaper bags are free too.”
Yes! Now it’s starting to sound fun(ny).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spirit Airlines Bunches Ray LaHood’s Undies

Almost everyone has their panties in a wedge (in one way or another) over the fact that Spirit Airlines has announced it will be charging a fee for carry-on bags. Even our Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, seems to have nothing better to do than say: “I think it’s a bit outrageous that an airline is going to charge someone to carry on a bag and put it in the overhead. And I’ve told our people to try and figure out a way to mitigate that. I think it’s ridiculous. ... I don’t think they care about their customers. That’s what I think.”

Good for you, Ray, actually thinking. But I think that this is not a federal issue. It’s business. Most consumers always seem to shop for the cheapest anything, and (in this case) the airlines are happy to oblige – with the cheapest tickets. Air consumers don’t WANT service or amenities (although they say they do, yet they obviously won’t pay for it), so of course airlines “don’t care about their passengers.” Exactly. The airlines care about making money and satisfying their shareholders. As much as I hate most everything about domestic airline customer service (or lack thereof), I feel this is a business decision. Besides, from what I hear (I’ve never flown them), with Spirit we’re talking lowest-common-denominator here, sort of the Ryanair of America.

Personally, I choose to spend a little more for a few more amenities (legroom, decent seats, even if I have to sit in economy), so I try to fly international carriers and a few domestic airlines that provide such semi-decent service – JetBlue, Frontier, Alaska.

If customers want cheap, well, that’s what they’ll get – Cheap. Ya gets what ya pays for; and if ya don’t wanna pay fer it ya ain’t gonna get it.

Our pols in Washington should find something better to waste their time on.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

How Many Ways Can You Spell "Stupid?"

It’s already all over the internet, so I’ll just note the headline from the UK Daily Mail: “The mother and daughter who ‘tried to smuggle corpse on to plane’.” Read the full article.