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).