Airline Fees That Could Make A Difference

In yesterday’s New York Times, Susan Stellin has an excellent article about airline fees.  Among other things, Stellin points out how many of the fees that exist are set at levels that exceed a reasonableness test.  For example, ticket change fees, now as high as $150 for domestic tickets, are much higher in today’s online world, than they were in the days of paper tickets.  The effort to change an electronic ticket would not seem to justify a larger fee.

I don’t have a problem with airlines charging fees to offset costs that they incur due to passenger behavior.  For example, airlines have charged for a third piece of luggage or overweight luggage for as long as I can remember.  These fees always made sense to me, because airlines let you bring on two bags already.  More bags could mean more fuel and an added cost.  Those that wanted the plane to carry the weight of their extra luggage should foot some of the cost.  Now that most airlines charge for any bags, this fee is nearly a thing of the past.

I don’t have a problem with airlines charging fees for “extras,” such as food on very short flights, headphones or even premium meals.  If you want better service or more amenities, sometimes you have to pay.  I would include fees to board early in this bucket.

Where I have a problem is when airlines charge for things that make no sense.  Stellin feels this way about stand-by fees, and I agree.  If I am willing to wait in the hopes of getting a seat that would otherwise be empty, why does an airline have to charge?  The plane is flying anyway, with or without me.  If I get on, you have a seat open on the later flight.  If I don’t, then you have done just enough work to put me on the list, nothing more.

Fees should be used directly to influence behavior to benefit the airlines and other passengers.  If you raise the stand by fee, fewer passengers will fly stand-by.  If you increase fees for checked bags, then fewer people will check bags.  With that in mind, here are airline fees I’d like to see put in place immediately that, if enforced, would end stupidity and rudeness and make things flow faster.  By making things flow faster, planes would leave on time, customers would be happier, and the airlines would be happier and more profitable.

If You Don't Have Your ID Out at the Checkpoint, You Pay a Fee Under My Proposal

  1. $50 if you can’t figure out how to swipe your credit card or passport in the ticketing kiosk. Come on!  Push the credit card in and pull it out.  It’s not that hard.
  2. $25 if you do not have your identification out of your pocket before you hand the TSA agent your ticket. You have just stood in line for 15 minutes watching each person show identification to the TSA agent, but it didn’t occur to you to have your ID ready?
  3. $100 if you have to ask the TSA whether water is allowed through security. I am reminded of the TSA agents who shout, “Ladies and gentlemen, water is a liquid.”
  4. $150 if you hang around the boarding area before your row or group is called such that people can’t tell if you are waiting in line or not. Frequent flyers call these people lice.  Just stay seated.
  5. $25 if you try to board a plane before your group or row is called. Listen to the gate agent.  Ask a fellow passenger if you need to.   You aren’t special.
  6. $50 if you have frequent flyer status and try to cut the line after general boarding starts. You know what?  You missed your chance.  You aren’t special either.  Back of the line.
  7. $75 for using an overhead above someone else’s seat when yours is empty – paid directly to the passenger whose space you took. If only.
  8. $75 for not heeding a flight attendant’s request to put one bag in the overhead and one under your seat and, instead, putting both bags above your seat. Again, you aren’t special.  You are one of many travelers on that flight.
  9. $150 for putting both bags up top, hoping space will stay available and not removing one when the flight attendants say there is no more space and ask again. These people are really quite special, but not in a good way.
  10. $50 for running up the aisle upon landing and not waiting patiently to disembark. I’ve written about this before.  This one boggles my mind.  Where are they going?
  11. $100 for stopping right at the end of the jet-way upon exiting to get your bearings. When you do this, you hold up the line.  Get yourself clear of the gate, and then stop to look around.  You know you are in an airport.  You aren’t lost.

Lastly, I’d add two new baggage fees:

  • $100 per bag (in addition to regular checked baggage fees), for any carry-on bag that makes it on the plane, doesn’t fit in an overhead bin or beneath the seat, and has to be checked.
  • $150 per bag (in addition to regular baggage fees) for any bag checked by a passenger who ignores the flight attendant’s warning that “there is no more overhead space” and continue down the aisle with their bag.

All of this is easily administered, as the airlines have our credit card on file.

Unfortunately, it makes too much sense to implement.


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