Think Airline Fees Can’t Get Worse? Think Again.

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At least one airline, Spirit Air, is now charging for carry-on bags. End of the fee frenzy? No way. It's just the tip of the iceberg: there are dozens more ways to degrade your experience. Here are some of my ideas.

“In addition to lowering fares even further, this will reduce the number of carry-on bags, which will improve inflight safety and efficiency by speeding up the boarding and deplaning process, all of which ultimately improve the overall customer experience,” says Spirit’s Chief Operating Officer Ken McKenzie. “Bring less; pay less. It’s simple.”

This corporate double-speak was actually printed in a press release issued on April 5th by Spirit Airlines as justification for charging up to $45 for carry-on bags, a policy that it will begin on August 1st. Spirit is the dominant carrier at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, currently carrying about 17% of the airport’s traffic.

In it’s press release, Spirit doesn’t mention the additional revenue they expect to make from this outrageous move, focusing instead on how they’re “helping” their passengers by charging them more money to bring something on the plane. (So far, at least, you can still bring something that will fit under the seat without charge.) Here’s more of their logic:

“In order to continue reducing fares even further and offering customers the option of paying only for the services they want and use rather than subsidizing the choices of others, the low fare industry innovator is also progressing to the next phase of unbundling with the introduction of a charge to carry on a bag and be boarded first onto the airplane.”

In the “spirit” of continuing this category of innovation, I’d like to enlist your help in offering Spirit, and other airlines eager to help their customers by unbundling their fees, some additional ideas. Here are some of mine… add yours at the bottom of this post and when we’ve accumulated enough, we’ll send Spirit a link.

  • Charge customers by the pound. Weighing bags is fine, but let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. If reducing carry-on bags improves inflight safety and efficiency by speeding up the boarding and deplaning process, the same logic applies to fat people. It’s simple. The more you weigh, the more it costs to move you. Why should I subsidize your addiction to McDonald’s?
  • Charge for clothes. The security screening process was obviously designed to remove any shred of human dignity; otherwise they wouldn’t be prodding you with wands, rifling your dirty undies in public with rubber gloves and deploying machines to see through your clothes. Let’s stop this charade and just go where we all know we’re heading anyway. Naked flying will speed up security and boarding, make flying safer and probably keep a lot of people in their seats and out of the isles. Only drunk people walk around naked, and with the price of booze on planes?
  • Pay-toilets on planes. To be honest, I don’t know why they haven’t done this yet. It’s completely unfair for me to subsidize tiny bladders. As far as I’m concerned, take that toilet out, sell the space and make my flight cheaper. I’ll bring an empty water bottle along for emergencies. (Is there a charge for that?)
  • Charge old people more. Or better yet, don’t let them on the plane at all. They’re way too slow. If they really need to connect with their relatives, they should be using the phone or video conferencing. Airports and airplanes are no place for dawdlers. I’m sick of subsiding them.
  • Let people smoke: for a price. I understand that smoking’s not pleasant for those not so inclined. But think about it. These people are addicted. They’ll be willing to pay more which means we pay less. (And if cigarette smokers are willing to buck up, why not crack smokers?)
  • Charge more for kids: a lot more. Children shouldn’t get a break on ticket prices just because they fit on their parent’s lap. They should, in fact, pay at least twice as much as other passengers no matter where they sit. They’re potentially disruptive, virtually useless in an emergency and the antithesis of efficiency. I’m already subsidizing the stupid choices of others by paying property taxes used to support schools. Can I at least get a break at the airport?
  • Charge more for experienced pilots. It’s time the major carriers learned what the regionals have known all along: less experienced pilots work cheap. If you’re chicken, fine. You pay extra for experience. If I can save a buck or two, I’m fine with a wing and a prayer.
  • Charge more for maintaining the airplanes. Speaking of prayers: if you’re religious, your reward awaits. Why should you subsidize people who are obviously afraid to die by diverting so much of your ticket price to maintenance? If you’re worried, bring a parachute. If it fits under the seat, it’s still free. So far.
  • Charge stupid people more. Like children, stupid people are by definition highly unlikely to “improve inflight safety and efficiency by speeding up the boarding and deplaning process, all of which ultimately improve the overall customer experience”. It’s obvious: they need to either pay more or ride the bus.
  • Eliminate flight attendants. While flight attendants have always been advertised as important to passenger comfort and safety, they’re a luxury we can no longer afford. As for safety: If you can’t find the exits on a plane by now, you’re stupid and should pay more. (See above.) And as for comfort: If you have the money to actually buy something from a flight attendant, you shouldn’t be on this flight in the first place.

Well, that’s my first pass at some additional ideas for Spirit and other budget-conscience airlines to help us help ourselves by only paying for the services we truly need and not paying to subsidize the choices of others. Add yours below and get a more complete list to them so we can all “improve the overall customer experience!”

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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