04 SEP 2018: When it comes to taxes and fees the travel industry leads the way.   Look no further than the recent baggage fee increase by JetBlue followed quickly after by Air Canada and WestJet.  Hearing about the increases made me think back to actor Peter Finch’s immortal line in the 1976 Hollywood film Network, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  

Unfortunately, governments and airlines imposing these fees see consumers as lap dogs – we will just growl for a bit and then pay these numerous taxes and fees simply because there is no choice.

When US or foreign airlines began introducing baggage fees about 10 years ago, airlines in Canada responded by saying they would review the fees before making a decision.  In some cases it may have been many days, weeks or months before following suit and increasing baggage fees.  Now, before you could down a cup of java, Air Canada and WestJet immediately followed JetBlue’s lead and raised baggage fees from $25 to $30 Canadian on a first bag for domestic, transborder as well as Caribbean and Mexico flights. 

Depending on your frequent flyer membership level or if you are a member of the military you could be exempt paying for one or more bags. For the average consumer traveller however, pay up or take the bus!

BAGGAGE FEES SOAR

Seeking to justify their actions, the airlines said this was the first hike since 2014. Taking into account Canada’s inflation rate has hovered between 2% to 3% in recent years; the baggage fee increase is still well above the average inflation rate.  The baggage increase is 20% on the first bag and a whopping 66% increase on the second from $30 to $50.   The airlines cite huge fuel increases and say that to keep fares low they must impose the baggage fee increase.  

I don’t dispute that airlines are paying more for fuel and have seen costs rise.  But the price of jet fuel is still lower than what it was a few years ago.  Airline bean counters leverage and play the markets and negotiate contracts.  I have nothing against airlines making a profit and they should be in the black – why else would you stay in business.  But the ones that are really hurt in these increases are the little guys.  Service isn’t better which would make a fee increase more palatable.  

True the first bag is only $5 more per bag – but that’s for one person, one way.  If you are a family of four those baggage fees can add up especially travelling with children where you have so much to bring you probably won’t be just taking carry-on.  And for those who love to shop don’t even think of bringing a second or third bag unless you want to take out a second mortgage!  

CARRY-ON CHAOS

Why not just do carry-on?  I don’t know about you but my travels usually combine a variety of activities and clothing styles from active to formal.  I also have my camera gear, laptop and work files.  Things just won’t fit in a carry-on.   The problem with carry-on is that there isn’t an industry-wide standard for luggage dimensions. What’s good for the goose is not always good for the gander as many passengers have found out and then have had to dole out huge baggage fees at the gate.  

Extra baggage fees have created chaos in the boarding and deplaning process and caused more stress and turbulence on the ground for cabin crew and passengers than turbulence in the air!  Have you been on an aircraft the past few years?   No matter if it’s a small prop plane or a large 787 jetliner it’s the same scenario.   Passengers taking way more than what carry-on baggage allows – not just a personal bag (handbag or similar) and carry-on, but multiple other items.  They try to jam it all into the overhead compartments blocking the aisles as other passengers wait in frustration (until it’s their turn to jam things in and frustrate the ones behind them).  I can’t tell you how this infuriates me, all in the effort not to pay baggage fees.

The cabin crew generally seem bemused and then when it looks like there is no way the bag is going to fit they tell the passenger they need to check it.  An irate passenger now complains (even though they know they have exceeded the carry-on limits).  The result – angry passengers having to check their luggage that won’t fit, other passengers frustrated at the delays, and the crew now in a foul mood before the plane has even left the tarmac. So tell me airline executives, besides the profits is this the best way to create loyal employees and passengers?

TURBULENT PASSENGERS & CREW

Have you noticed how stressed passengers and airline personnel (cabin crew, pilots, check-in agents) seem lately?  You don’t see too many smiling faces strolling through airports these days.  Unless you are in one of the airline frequent flyer lounges the rest of us are herded around like cattle.  

Perhaps it’s because of all the nickel and diming (if only it were only nickels and dimes) of passengers that is going on.  In addition, as airports and airlines are implementing supposedly more efficient procedures from check-in to security with kiosks and DIY online and mobile apps, are we losing the personal touch that focused on the care and comfort of passengers.   I know this will never happen but it would be my wish to eliminate the first bag fee – I have no issue with second bag fees and excess baggage fees.

It would make passengers and crew happier and reduce many of the delays while boarding and deplaning.   Imagine a pleasant flying experience - something rarely experienced in these days of no food (unless you buy on board, minimal service and no entertainment unless you are in business or first class.  Perhaps one day soon smiles will make a welcome comeback to the cabin.

Airlines go ahead and make your profits.  But remember, passengers and yes economy ones too, are your lifeblood so please give us a little consideration and appreciation – without us, those planes aren’t flying.  

May the baggage be with you!


email icon facebook logo twitter logo

author

Chris Ryall

An industry insider with strong, outspoken opinions that readers enjoy, whether they agree, or take issue with his point of view.

Read more from Chris Ryall

comments powered by Disqus