Are Airline Bag Fees A Ripoff?

I thought this would be good for a discussion. I was curious as to how everyone feels and this was written so well that I’m just using the story from WCCO . I couldn’t have done it justice.

“We pay for food, for checked bags and now some of us will pay to check a bag. Spirit Airlines just announced it would charge up to $45 for carry on bags. Do the airlines really need this money to be profitable, or are baggage fees just another money grab and rip-off?

“They do need the revenue, and it is a lot of revenue,” said airline analyst Terry Trippler, the founder of

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the airlines took in more than $2 billion in baggage fees in the first 9 months of 2009. One survey indicates that 3 out of 4 air travelers checked a bag last year.

But the big 5 legacy airlines still lost $3.8 billion in 2009. They’re projected to lose $1.8 billion in 2010.

“They’re not losing as much as they were losing, but they still have a long way to go,” said Trippler.

There are benefits to charging for checked bags to the airlines: baggage handlers report fewer injuries, and fewer bags creates more space to haul more lucrative cargo.

However, it’s created a negative side-effect: more people are carrying bigger bags into the cabin of the airplane.

“I don’t think anyone is looking at Spirit and thinking here’s a huge new revenue source. They’re going to watch operationally. Can you speed up the boarding time?” said Trippler.

Because of the increase in carry on bags, boarding and disembarking is taking longer. Spirit may be able to make that move more quickly.

“Take an airplane, knock 20 minutes off boarding time that makes 4 stops, you’re over an hour now. Maybe it’s a set-up where that plane could make another run,” said Trippler.

And that could make a difference in profitability.

Even if revenue for the airlines stabilize, Trippler doesn’t expect the baggage fees to disappear.
“I don’t think they’re gonna ever do away with it. They went through so much negative publicity to get those fees in, why pull it back? Instead they will fluctuate the fares,” he said.

Some wonder why the airlines don’t just fold the baggage fees into the airfares? Spirit claims to be dropping airfares on average $40 to make up for the cost of the carry on baggage.

However, according to Trippler, the airlines are worried that removing the fees and raising airfares would put them at a competitive disadvantage in a world where people do most of their travel shopping online and by price.

If one airline didn’t go along, the price hike would have to be rolled back, and it would be difficult to reinstitute the baggage fee.”

So, how do you all feel about charges like this?

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12 Responses to Are Airline Bag Fees A Ripoff?

  1. Joy says:

    I find this whole thing pathetic. It just says that one way or the other, they’re gonna get your money. One way or the other. Call it what you want but the bottom line is you’re paying more and the people around you have to suffer while you try and make big bags fit in small places.

    I don’t see the difference if you pay more for a ticket and have all these added on charges. You’re still paying more in the long run. I think they hope people are stupid and buy the lame excuses. If they want to charge more that’s fine but don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

  2. SKL says:

    I think it sucks, but the airlines are suffering financially, so they are going to figure out some way to pass it through to the customers. As long as there is true competition, if you are a well-informed traveler, you will be able to get a flight that reflects the true market value. An extra charge for baggage will blindside some travelers temporarily, but in the long run, travelers will figure that into the overall deal they are getting.

    I think the long-term effect of all these changes is that travelers will figure out ways to be more efficient. They’ll figure out how to pack less, bring travel-friendly food, and be smarter about planning trips, including driving when it makes sense. Once you’ve figured out how to be an efficient traveler, those skills will continue to save you money and improve your travel experience, so it could be a good thing in the long run.

  3. Vicki says:

    I think this is rediculous, this should all be included in on the price of the ticket, i can see charging extra if you have more then one bag each. this charging u for a carry on bag, I THINK THEY ARE NUTS and im totally against it.

  4. Sue says:

    I heard one “experts” opinion on the story and he said something to the effect that the less you bring the cheaper it’ll be. That’s great, but am I suppose to go on vacation naked???????

  5. sweetiegirlz says:

    Sadly airlines know that people won’t stop flying because they charge for bags…. I think it’s a gouge to the consumer. They already hike up seasonal tickets to da’ moon.

  6. Laura says:

    I kind of agree with both sides. I completely see SKL’s point – the airlines must make a profit in order to stay in business, and they are prisoner to things like gas prices, just like we are (except Southwest – I’ve heard that they pre-purchase their fuel when the prices are low. Smart)

    But I do think that there’s a smarter way to do business than the way they’re doing it now.

    The price of ONE suitcase/large bag should be factored into the price of a passenger ticket, as well as ONE carry-on item. (and I mean ONE carry-on item, not one carry-on bag plus a purse or a laptop or whatever. For that three-hour stretch of time, you can put your purse in your carry-on bag. I’ve done it. Most ladies don’t need those suitcases they carry around anyway).

    If an airline is worried that this is going to cause them to lose customers, they can spin it through advertising… “We want you to have a relaxing, complication-free travel experience. That’s why we have one-price travel. The price of your ticket includes your suitcase, your carry-on, and even a small snack and beverage! No nickel-and-dimeing on OUR airline!” Then, if there are extra fees that are required, if someone has two carry-ons, for example, they can be charged on top of the initial fee.

    I do think that people pack WAY too heavy for trips. I know someone who packed a FAN to bring with her on a vacation because she needed the ambient noise when she slept!

    But the thing that bugged me from the article is this statement:

    “There are benefits to charging for checked bags to the airlines: baggage handlers report fewer injuries, and fewer bags creates more space to haul more lucrative cargo.”

    I’m sorry airlines, you are in business to move PEOPLE, first and foremost. Your loyalty is to us. Get us, AND OUR LUGGAGE, onto the plane first for a fair and reasonable price. If you want us to pack lighter, perhaps we can help you with that, but treat us fairly. Do not tell me that I can’t bring my regular stuff with me (and I’m a light packer), and then charge me for it, so that you can have that extra space for the widgets that you’re getting more bucks out of. If cargo is so lucrative, launch another plane for just that stuff. But don’t pick my pocket so you can make money elsewhere.

  7. SKL says:

    I really think that in a free, capitalistic country, the airlines have a right to prioritize “more lucrative cargo” over passengers if they want to. As long as they meet their contractual obligations to their passengers and follow safety procedures.

    I never flew on a commercial plane until I was 22 (one round trip), and then I didn’t fly again for many years. Why? Because it was expensive, a luxury, or something you paid a lot for because you had no choice in an emergency. I’m not sure what changed, but nowadays it seems people expect flying to be cheap and convenient. We have come to take it for granted. But the airlines aren’t required to meet our every expectation. It would be nice if they did, but it’s really up to them what they decide to market. If some of them choose badly, everyone will vote with his/her pocketbook and put them out of business.

    Honestly, I don’t see this as much different from telling private insurance companies that they have no choice but to sell high-risk policies for below-market rates. That’s not how free markets operate. Personally I would go out of business as soon as I could if the government tried that with me.

    With all its flaws, our traditional free markets still put us way ahead of most other countries, in terms of both affordability and consumer experience per dollar. Recent changes may chip away at that, but the model does work if it’s allowed to.

    • Joy says:

      Paul and I have talked about this several times SKL. Flying used to be a special thing to do. It was more of a privilege than a right. We appreciated flying. We’d get all dressed up we’d have a meal on our flight or a snack and drink. I think so many people are flitting from here to there that nobody appreciates it anymore and act like the airlines should do all this stuff for us and not make money anymore. It is their business after all.

  8. akamoms says:

    I totally agree with SKL and couldn’t have said it better myself.

    We have to remember that people go into business to make money, to be profitable. If you aren’t there is no point in being in business. The airlines are not a none profit organization providing travel to the masses. They are a for profit business and this a way that they hope to be more profitable.

    If it were your business hurting you would have to find ways to make money. Which is why layoffs happen and why there are added costs and fees. The airlines did many lay offs and now they are trying to figure out how to keep people in their jobs and still be profitable.

    Flying isn’t cheap by any means and this is just something we will have to factor in when we fly.

  9. Nikki says:

    Air line tickets can be very pricey! The earlier you buy the cheaper. When they started making you pay for you bags, I just thought, “well they need to make some extra money obviously.” I didn’t have a problem doing that. I only fly every couple years though. It was only $25 for each bag. I could see how that would add up if traveling was apart of your job. What really irked me was when they took our meal away. Tickets are more money, baggage is now being charged and now we have to pay how much for an itty bitty meal! At least you still get free beverages, one I believe! Big whoop!
    I understand they are in it for profit, any smart company would be. Customers, their passengers should still be considered a priority and I just don’t think they are anymore. I do not think they should charge for your carry on. BUT if they don’t they will get you somewhere else, so I guess it’s a losing battle for us. Those who fly, they most likely won’t stop.

  10. I don’t like the thought of having to pay for carry-on bags. So far, the airline I fly most frequently is not charging.

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