Sometimes, I feel sorry for the airline industry - a little, but not much.
Since deregulation began in the late 1970s, airfares, when adjusted for inflation, have plummeted. For anyone who travels frequently for business, like me, or the occasional family vacation, it’s been a boon.
But it’s made life difficult for many air carriers, as the fluctuating prices of jet fuel and economy’s affect on tourist and business travel make it hard to reliably earn a profit.
And after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks sent the industry through a near-death experience, most carriers are willing to take chances on eliminating free perks if it ensures bigger profits. That’s why free meals in coach, already rare by 2001, vanished. Snacks are still absent on many flights. And some airlines have even experimented with dropping the free coffee, water or soft drinks for coach-class customers.
If it helps keep fares low, many airlines figure consumers will eventually accept it.
That’s what led to the proliferation of checked-bag fees. Many travelers were incensed when airlines started charging $15, then $20, then $25 or more for one checked bag on most flights. But although they grumbled, they paid it, and the fees stayed.
Still, what Spirit Airlines is attempting really makes me mad. And I don’t think - at least I hope - it doesn’t stay or start a trend.
In case you haven’t heard, the discount carrier is going to impose up to a $45 fee for passengers who carry on their luggage and store it in the overhead bin. Besides the added revenue, officials hope it will speed up boarding and exiting the plane.
Spirit mostly flies to Florida and seasonal vacation destinations, so it has never relied on business travelers, but even the occasional leisure traveler may say enough is enough. As someone who has flown Spirit a few times for work and prides myself on a well-packed carry on, I’m angry. Airline officials add the fee will be waived if the bag fits under the seat in front of you, but unless you're willing to have very wrinkled clothes shoved into a duffel bag or backpack, that won't work.
I'm starting to wonder what's next.