Emotional Baggage or Baggage Emotions

By | April 29, 2009

The Boston Globe theorized last week that JetBlue would soon match other airlines in charging for a first checked bag. Southwest and JetBlue are the only major carriers who do not charge for the first bag.

Dave Barger, CEO of JetBlue advised that no decision had been made and that he was “wary of being perceived as ‘nickel-and-diming’ customers on fees.” JetBlue has the distinction in our opinion of looking for good ways to justify fees, compared to some other carriers. They started charging pillows and blankets and offset them with a gift certificate to Bed Bath and Beyond over some more horrendous fees. Barger said he could possibly see levying a charge, but one that would come with an enhanced guarantee. Perhaps that your bag would be available a defined number of minutes after you land.

Southwest Airlines is convinced it is prospering because it is not charging fees. We believe that we’re having a meaningful impact and creating awareness among customers that we are virtually alone in not charging the bag fee, and that is translating to higher demand for Southwest Airlines,” their CEO, Gary Kelly said. The airline also has a reputation for going above and beyond in customer service.

Alaska Airlines announced it would start charging $15 for the first bag, offering a guarantee on its delivery in 25 minutes or you’ll be entitled to either a $25 voucher or 2500 frequent flier miles. As the Cranky Flier(welcomed back from his honeymoon), commented, “Alaska seems to be trying to prove that there are, in fact, ‘good’ bag fees by being the first to offer a guarantee in return.”

We mentioned this earlier under our thoughts on the JetBlue approach to fees. They want the money but they don’t want the customer outrage. We have pointed out in the past that paying a fee to check baggage should imply such a fee will be returned, just as if your flight is cancelled by the airline, you are entitled to your money back. Of course, Alaska excludes the guarantee in event of force majeure, which is reasonable as long as they don’t extend events out of their control to include almost everything. A little goodwill goes a long way. We wouldn’t call them ‘good’ bag fees, more that they are less onerous with a value-added part to it.

To add insult to injury elsewhere, US Airways will be charging a $5 fee for those who do not prepay for luggage online, now that they’ve debuted their new baggage payment system. We love increasing self-service options, and the fact you can prepay and speed things up…but $5 for the privilege of having an agent swipe your card? We could understand this, but only if the airport kiosks charge the same as the website and they’ll waive it if for some reason, you cannot use self-service.

Delta Air Lines, however, has decided to extend its baggage fees to international service effective July 1st. It will charge passengers a $50 fee for the second bag on these flights. Certain Delta frequent fliers and active military will be exempt from the new fee for international passengers. There is no fee for the first checked bag on international flights. This is the first fee of its type by a US Airline, but we doubt it will be the last.

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