Transportation & Logistics

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Sports Planners: Be Aware of Baggage Fee Hikes for the Holidays

2 Dec, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Scrooges. Grinches. Bad Santas. Certain airlines seem to be doing everything they can to try to make themselves disagreeable in time for the holidays – and it would behoove sports travel planners to know who’s on the naughty list.

According to an article in Yahoo! Finance, last month, Frontier Airlines announced plans of raising both checked and carry-on baggage fees by $5 to $10 for flights operating between Nov 19, 2015 and Jan 5, 2016. Likewise, Spirit Air announced an extra $2 payment for each way on all standard-sized checked bags for fliers during Dec 16, 2015, to Jan 4, 2016, as stated to FareCompare.com.

According to the article, the airlines say the measure was taken “in order to boost ancillary revenues as well as to efficiently manage the anticipated excess in baggage.”

And that isn’t the end of it. According to an article in Conde Nast Traveler, travelers who made it through 2015 without paying for a carry-on bag or a soda on a domestic flight should consider themselves warned. Three airlines, all quickly adding planes, will spend the next few years persuading you to change how you Americans pay for travel.

Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and Allegiant Air have been offering deals, like $19 each way from Denver to Las Vegas, to travelers on the tightest budgets. But with so many new planes coming—Frontier and Spirit will roughly double their fleets over the next seven years, while Allegiant says it will buy almost as many used planes as it can find at good prices—the trio must convince more people in more cities to pay $25 or more for a carry-on, $20 for a decent seat, and $3 for a Dr. Pepper in exchange for a cheap fare.

Asian and European discount carriers have had success with getting customers to accept the concept of low-cost flights with multiple charges for add-ons – but that doesn’t mean Americans are going to be equally accepting, or at least not initially. And definitely not at the holidays.

Of course, that’s not to say the airlines are unaware of the resentment. In August, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Spirit received 15.42 complaints per 100,000 passengers, the most in the industry, and roughly 17 times the complaint rate of Southwest Airlines. But Spirit spokesman Paul Berry says most complaints come from first-timers expecting the usual goodies, like drinks and advanced seat assignments, even though they paid little for their tickets. Earlier this year, Spirit said its average one-way traveler pays about $68 in fare and $54 in fees, though customers who plan ahead can usually save some on fees.

In addition, Spirit tried to make nice with passengers. Conde Nast noted, Spirit launched a campaign earlier in the year to help explain its pricing model to customers. It then went one step further and actually began rewarding complainers, offering 8,000 frequent flier miles to passengers (up to 1 billion miles total) who griped about Spirit—or, for that matter, any other airline. All travelers had to do was sign up through Spirit’s website (which, yes, means they’d get added to the company’s email list—that’s a perk for them), and the miles will be added to their Spirit account. The company released a video to go along with the campaign, which pulls some of the crankiest tweets about the airline—one person claimed they’d “rather eat broken glass” than fly Spirit again. (Can you say YIKES?)

It might take a while for that to happen, though. In a decade, Allegiant, Spirit, and Frontier combined should have slightly more than 300 planes, still about 650 fewer than American Airlines has today. And there are airlines such as Southwest that allow two free checked bags, in addition to the regulation carry-ons that passengers can bring on board.

In addition, the concept of traveling at deeply discounted fares and being charged for extras, for many Americans, brings back unpleasant memories of the short-lived and unreliable People Express Airlines in the 1980s.

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