Airlines’ Same Old Story: More Fees, Higher Fares, Fewer Perks, Tougher Restrictions

  • Share
  • Read Later
Getty Images

Last summer, travelers griped about the onslaught of airlines fees—for early boarding, seat assignments, checked and carry-on baggage, and on and on—that could easily wind up adding 50% to the price of a flight. The summer before that, it wasn’t too difficult to come up with 20 reasons to hate the airlines, including disappearing amenities and unreasonable restrictions. Guess what travelers can look forward to this summer?

Yep, more fees and restrictions, as well as fewer perks and higher fares to boot. Thanks in part to higher gas prices, airline fares have risen for domestic and international flights alike.

Among the latest customer-unfriendly developments in airline travel:

Allegiant’s New Carry-on Fee
Allegiant, a smaller carrier that already collects 29% of its revenues from ancillary fees (i.e., charges above and beyond the price of a flight), just announced that it will charge passengers for carry-on bags. While the vast majority of airlines allow carry-ons for free, Allegiant has decided to follow the lead of America’s most fee-happy carrier, Spirit, an airline that actively fought against regulations forcing flight prices to be advertised with all mandatory taxes and fees included.

(MORE: Will High Gas Prices Bring on Another Summer of the ‘Staycation’?)

Spirit added carry-on baggage fees in 2010, and travelers who book with Allegiant will also have to pay up to place items in the overhead bins, with fees ranging from $10 to $35 per bag. So far, no other carriers have announced plans to join the carry-on fee movement, but the fear is that any and every airline fee will inevitably spread. Remember, after all, that it wasn’t too long ago that nearly every airline passenger was able to check two bags free of charge. The idea of a carry-on baggage fee was once laughable as well.

Delta’s New No-Change Fares
Last week, Delta introduced a new “Basic Economy” airline ticket on select flights between Detroit and four Florida airports. The new fare class promised a savings off the standard nonrefundable coach ticket, but the savings wasn’t all that significant—perhaps $15 to $20 on a round trip. What travelers give up in order to get that savings is significant, though: A Basic Economy ticket cannot be changed once it’s purchased, not even for an additional fee. If you can’t make the flight, you’re simply out of luck and must eat the cost of the ticket.

What’s more, no seat assignments are allowed with the fare, meaning that customers who book Basic Economy are all but guaranteed to wind up in the middle seat.

(MORE: The Jobless Generation: How Unemployment Will Affects Young Americans)

Frontier’s Cookie Disappearing Act
Airlines once had signature perks—little treats and customer service extras that made passengers actually look forward to flying with one airline or another. In the never-ending quest to cut costs and increase money paid out of pocket by customers, airline perks have been disappearing for years. The latest casualty is complimentary warm chocolate chip cookies from Denver-based Frontier Airlines. Airline spokeswoman Lindsay Carpenter told the Denver Post that taking away cookies from passengers was just one of the many “exciting changes” Frontier had in store:

“During that review, it was determined that the cookie did not align with either the perception or the financial reality of a low-cost carrier,” Carpenter added. “We were the only domestic low-cost carrier offering a free perishable snack.”

Can’t stand out from the pack, now can we?

(MORE: Why Hotel Rates Spiked in February)

Ryanair Supports a “Fat Tax” on Passengers
Via Consumerist, the Independent reports that Europe’s perennially offensive, brash, fee-crazed Ryanair—known for removing in-flight bathrooms and charging fees to customers who pay with non-affiliated credit cards—has been actively trying to cut weight on-board flights. All airlines try to do this because the heavier a plane is, the more fuel it needs to fly, and therefore the more money it costs to fly. But Ryanair is going to unusual lengths to get lighter: It’s encouraging airline personnel to lose weight, waving the possibility of appearing in the carrier’s annual swimsuit calendar as a prize, and it has been a vocal supporter of a tax that would charge overweight passengers higher fares by the pound.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

0 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest