Posts Tagged ‘hidden fees’

People don’t mind paying for premium service.  They don’t mind cost so much when they know what they are getting into.  But imagine going to dinner in a restaurant, ordering from the menu, and then discovering that there are extra charges for the dishes, glasses, and silverware.  That glass of water?  Cha-ching.  Oh, and remember when you asked to move away from the kitchen door, to that empty booth in the corner?  Oh yeah, that’s gonna cost you big time.

In this crazy scenario, I believe that most folks would soon stop dining out.

But is this not exactly what the airline industry is doing to its customers?  Methinks it is.

We're happy to serve you... for a fee. Or, several fees.

U.S. airlines collected $2.1 billion in fees and extra charges from passengers in the second quarter, up 13 percent from the first three months of the year, so sayeth the US Department of Transportation’s Bureau of  Transportation Statistics’ recent quarterly report.  This $2.1 bil has been raked in for the following: baggage fees, reservation change fees and miscellaneous operating revenue, including pet transportation, sale of frequent flyer award miles to airline business partners and standby passenger fees, as well as revenue from seating assignments and on-board sales of food, drink, pillows, blankets, and entertainment.  Business, apparently, is booming.

Oh, and by the way, I haven’t noticed a whole lot of customer service awards being granted to airlines these days. Seems like all of them regularly run behind schedule, and a lot of their personnel are pretty grumpy.  There are a couple of airlines that seem to “get it,” but for the most part, the customer experience is pretty mediocre-to-poor.  So what’s a customer to do?

Well, the Consumer Travel Alliance , the Business Travel Coalition, and the American Society of Travel Agents have launched the website  To date, they have collected over 50,000 signatures, including mine, on a petition they plan to present to the Department of Transportation (DOT) today (9/23/2010).  I think when fifty thousand of your customers speak up against how you are running your business, and they are mad enough to go to the government about it, you kinda hafta listen, dontcha?

I will be very interested in seeing how this plays out.  At least one of the airlines that “get it” is making the fact that they do NOT charge for checked baggage a big part of their advertising campaign.  Good idea on their part, but at the same time, kind of sad that NOT charging a hidden fee is viewed as a competitive advantage.

I am old enough to remember when flying was still a big deal to most folks.  (No, my name is not Orville or Wilbur!  I’m not that damn old!)  But as a kid, I recall that most people used to dress nicely to fly.  Even as a college student and into my mid-twenties, I used to regularly wear a jacket and tie when flying.  My reasoning was, hey, ya never know who you’re gonna meet, and you wanna look your best.

Nowadays, everybody flies.  They roll out of bed, throw on a t-shirt and some gym shorts, and hop on.  I’ve got no issue with that, and I, too, have gotten slightly more casual in my travel apparel.  But my point here is, flying is now like riding the bus in any city.  Ain’t no big thang (except for the cost, that is).  But the Golden Rule of Economics – the law of Supply and Demand – has not been applied to the airline industry.  The Golden Rule of Greed has replaced it.