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Airlines Get Billions From Unbundled Services

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the jet-set-crowd-with-pitchforks dept.

Government 432

Hugh Pickens writes "In hearings before Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said that airlines reported revenue of $7.9 billion from baggage fees and reservation change and cancellation fees in calendar years 2008 and 2009 — fees on unbundled services that once were considered part of the ticket price. 'We believe that the proliferation of these fees and the manner in which they are presented to the traveling public can be confusing and in some cases misleading,' says Robert Rivkin, the Department of Transportation's general counsel. Published fares used by consumers to choose flights don't 'clearly represent the cost of travel when these services are added.' However, Spirit Airlines President and CEO Ben Baldanza defended the practice of unbundling, saying it allows his airline to charge lower fares (PDF) and allows the customers the choice to purchase the services or not."

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Airlines are (0, Troll)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944114)

NIGGAH's, figure it out. No one needs KARMA !!

Re:Airlines are (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944158)

Shut up, you double nigger.

I like it (1, Insightful)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944118)

I don't have luggage I can't handle alone, I don't drink the crap they serve, I don't eat the latex eagle they serve, so I fly cheaper.

Re:I like it (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944180)

Well on the rare occasion you take the two week Euro-trip it would at least be nice to know that there's going to be a 20% markup on the ticket when you book.

It's not about the cost, it's about the disclosure.

Re:I like it (3, Insightful)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944234)

No. You don’t. That’s the very point of this.
They unbundled it. But they did not lower the prices. So in essence it just is a sneaky way to make it more expensive.
Which in my eyes is fraud, and should result in expelling everyone involved from the country until the end of his life, making it punishable by death to ever enter the country or try to directly or indirectly start or take over a business in the country.

Why do so many people never get, that you can just go “MY COUNTRY, MY RULES!”.

Re:I like it (4, Informative)

ThreeGigs (239452) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944414)

But they did not lower the prices.

But they DID lower prices. A quick search shows this. Last year, Southwest was the cheapest to Vegas. Now, Delta and others are $100 or so cheaper. Add in the bag charges and it's back to where it was when I flew last year.

Re:I like unbundling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944488)

This simply saves me money. I don't want to pay the hidden imbedded cost of the "bundle" like it was a few years ago. Now it's better. I pay for value.

Now. I am also for full disclosure so that if I have a bag, extra bag, change in plans, or want a meal, I know what's comming

Re:I like it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944490)

Oh let me do my anecdote next!

I fly maybe 6 or 8 times a year. I've started flying without checking since they started instituting fees for checking bags. My ticket prices alone are more now than they used to be for the same flights at the same time of year. Adding in the bag charges just makes things ridiculous.

(Anecdotes are fun, aren't they?)

Re:I like it (1)

D. Taylor (53947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944562)

(Anecdotes are fun, aren't they?)

But now we have data!

Re:I like it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944504)

A lot of people say "MY COUNTRY, MY RULES!"

We call them "prisoners".

Re:I like it (2, Informative)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944542)

But they did not lower the prices

Cite?

I fly about six times per year and in almost all cases the base fares are lower than they were ten years ago (indexed to today's dollars).

Re:I like it (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944610)

I used make between twenty to twenty-five flights a year and the prices have clearly risen significantly. The original claim was that it was because of 9/11, then fuel price increases. The classic airline whine has been they were going to go bankrupt because of costs and had to add these fees (fuel surcharge, landing surcharge, e-ticket surcharge) yet strangely they still are making a profit. The biggest offender is SouthWestAirlines (SWA). TWA used to be called The Worst Airline, but SWA has them beat by a mile. Between TSA and SWA I stopped flying. I cann't afford to have TSA destroy my bags and laptops and I won't pay money to be insulted by SWA staff

Re:I like it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944658)

Fares might be lower in the states, but fares over the Atlantic are much higher due to the fuel charges (and the fact that fewer seats are available).

Re:I like it (2, Insightful)

Compholio (770966) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944236)

I don't have luggage I can't handle alone, I don't drink the crap they serve, I don't eat the latex eagle they serve, so I fly cheaper.

Actually you don't, what really happens is that they price they charge for the tickets stays the same and the "fees" just become pure shareholder profit. If anything the prices for tickets has become more expensive even when correcting for the price of fuel and labor. So, we have more expensive flights with a lower quality of service - isn't baronism wonderful?

Pure shareholder profit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944306)

If so, then good for them. The airline industry has been a huge money loser for a long time, while providing an extremely valuable service and putting up with every kind of obnoxious government interference.

How would you like to try and make a buck when you can only do business in centres set up by the government to make your service and your competitor's service available right next to each other, while regulations require your two services to be virtually identical so that you can only compete on price, and the government also harasses and intimidates all of your customers as they pass through these centres?

Airlines should probably be treated like public utilities, if not actually socialized. They are already so heavily managed and burdened by government that they can hardly be called free enterprises.

Re:Pure shareholder profit? (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944398)

Airlines should probably be treated like public utilities, if not actually socialized.

Yeah, putting the government in charge would _really_ improve airline travel.

They are already so heavily managed and burdened by government that they can hardly be called free enterprises.

Then, uh, get the government out of the way and let airlines run the airline business instead of burrowcrats.

Re:Pure shareholder profit? (1)

Chaos Incarnate (772793) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944520)

Yeah, putting the government in charge would _really_ improve airline travel.

I think the point wasn't "put them in charge to improve it", it was "put them in charge so the right people get blamed for the failures"

Re:Pure shareholder profit? (2, Insightful)

L0rdJedi (65690) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944662)

HA! So rather than let the free market handle it (and it will handle it quicker than the government will), you want to have to wait until the next election cycle and then hope that the people remember that it was some politician that caused the problem with the airline and not the people running the airline.

Yeah, I'm sure that'll work real well.

Politicians got this country into the mess it's in right now. We don't need them doing to the airline industry what they've just done to the banking industry (which will make banking more expensive for everyone, especially the people that really need the services and can't normally afford it).

Pure privatization is not really possible. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944602)

Yeah, putting the government in charge would _really_ improve airline travel.

You say that as if they weren't already in charge, through extremely restrictive regulation.

The airlines are part of the transportation infrastructure. You could as easily leave road-building to unregulated private citizens as airlines.

Jet aircraft are noisy and dangerous. Air traffic is a nuisance and a hazard. They need big areas to land in and take off from which should be as close as possible to major population centers, so they can't really be built without the application of eminent domain, and access to these airports needs to be negotiated and scheduled. People and goods coming from international flights need to go through border control, and therefore the whole facility needs to be securely under government control. It's not feasible to avoid having government stand between the customers and the service providers, except in a few special cases (i.e. regional service between airports in rural locations).

With the type of aircraft operated by airlines, going between the locations the airlines use, strict government oversight is something that is unavoidable. Perhaps in the future less costly, more versatile, safer aircraft, combined with greater energy resources, will change this, and allow air travel to be even less restricted than road travel.

Re:Pure shareholder profit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944690)

Oh Kinda like letting wallstreet take care of finances? Or maybe the Exxon handle shipping (Exxon/Valdez) or BP write emergency procedures (calling a dead man). Yeah right business are just out for the good of the people they serve

Re:I like it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944362)

Don't forget how fees and fares were jacked up in '08 due to fuel costs.

And they never came down or went away.

Re:I like it (2, Insightful)

cjcela (1539859) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944262)

You are completely missing the point. Companies are not being honest, that is the problem. With your self-sufficient attitude, you may as well go to the place walking. But your approach is selfish. Maybe one day your grandma or your pregnant wife would not be able to handle her luggage by themselves, or will need to eat something at the plane, and they will be taken advantage of. Of, course, you will not have a problem with that, would you, big guy?

Re:I like it (5, Insightful)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944310)

You are completely missing the point. Companies are not being honest, that is the problem. With your self-sufficient attitude, you may as well go to the place walking. But your approach is selfish. Maybe one day your grandma or your pregnant wife would not be able to handle her luggage by themselves, or will need to eat something at the plane, and they will be taken advantage of. Of, course, you will not have a problem with that, would you, big guy?

If the fees they charge for these services are in line with the cost of providing them, then no, I don't have a problem with that. TANSTAAFL. OTOH, if they're overcharging for them in order to subsidize a cheaper price on the ticket than it should be, then yes, it's a problem.

Re:I like it (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944486)

Which, as you well know, is exactly what's happening. Nice how you just cowarded your way out of an argument you couldn't win.

So what happens when... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944280)

1) You are going somewhere with a large climactic difference from your present location.
2) You are going for say, a month. Oh and yes it is on Business so you need suits and formal shirts.
3) you need to take a laptop.
4) the flight is say 10+ hours.

Then the airline only allows 5 or maybe 10kg of carry on which they weigh every item.

Frankly you are stuffed. You have have to pay.
Kerching. Kerching. Kerching. Dig deep my friend. You have just made the airline lots of money. Welcome to the Machine aka Cattle class on budge airlines.

These so called 'low cost' airlines are in many cases more expensive that full service ones. I've just returned from a week in Budapest on Business. SleazyJet was £20.00 each way more expensive than BA. Add to that, I live much nearer Heathrow than Luton then guess which carrier I chose.

Don't even get me started on LyingAir (RyanAir) who wouldn't let me take my Nikon 200-400mm Lens (worth $6K) in the cabin with me and oh, they wouldn't insure it as hold baggage.
Did I say I'm a pro photographer? Guess how much kit I can take with me even when travelling light? 21kg is normal. Full fare airlines see that it is pro gear and say 'carry on? No problem'.
Low cost? forget it sunshine. I'd rather drive or take the train.

Watch out LyingAir want to make you stand for your flight if they have their way.
Nothing different that a commuter train really. but do you want to stand during turbulence?
Nope I though not.

Re:So what happens when... (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944430)

It might be cheaper, and more reliable to ship your baggage ahead of you on FedEx. In fact riding on their planes might be more comfortable also. Just have a friend put you into a crate and leave it on the dock.

Re:So what happens when... (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944510)

Don't even get me started on LyingAir (RyanAir) who wouldn't let me take my Nikon 200-400mm Lens (worth $6K) in the cabin with me

Ryanair's conditions of carriage are all very clearly laid out their web site, include baggage allowances and liability.

Re:So what happens when... (1)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944558)

Then the airline will be providing you with more service than to passengers and you will rightfully pay more.

Re:So what happens when... (1)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944574)

than to *other* passengers (who don't have as much luggage)... in case my typo made it unclear.

Re:I like it (1)

ostiguy (63618) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944448)

Having luggage you can manage on your own has nothing to do with nothing.

Most of my domestic flights are business. Invariably, the tickets are purchased 10 to 3 days in advance. This means, invariably, I am in the worst location on the airplane, while having paid the most.

I am the last to board, by virtue of the seating group assigned to my section on the plane, and it can be hit or miss whether I can actually carry on my carry on as the bins are full of crap from vacationeers who paid 1/6th what I did for the flight because they booked 6 months in advance.

This model is insane.

Re:I like it (4, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944560)

You fly cheaper in the same way that those grocery club cards save you 50% on your groceries.

Security vs. checking baggage (1)

radoni (267396) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944130)

When I travel nowadays I'm increasingly worried that some effect of mine will not pass muster at a security checkpoint. My options would be:
1. Do not take that flight
2. Hand over the item to TSA douchebags
3. Pay extra to check the item

It's enough to discourage me from plane travel.

2+2=5 (4, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944156)

If they're making billions (from unbundled services) that they weren't making before, then they obviously didn't lower fares all that much.

This is good for them, not so good for us.

Re:2+2=5 (0, Flamebait)

lawnboy5-O (772026) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944184)

Exactly - They are being egregious on all levels and then being deceptive about it. All big corporations are just raping the public top to bottom because they can and no one does anything about it. Banks, Airlines, Energy companies, Grocery stores, Gas stations - when does it end?

Re:2+2=5 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944270)

Banks, Airlines, Energy companies, Grocery stores, Gas stations - when does it end?

When you stop borrowing money, flying, buying electricity, buying food, driving.

Re:2+2=5 (2, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944302)

Banks, Airlines, Energy companies, Grocery stores, Gas stations - when does it end?

Girl Scout Cookies . . . ?

Re:2+2=5 (3, Insightful)

ThreeGigs (239452) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944276)

that they weren't making before

I'm sorry, but could you show me where it was TFA (or some other source) said that this revenue (not profit) is above and beyond what the airlines were making before?

It matters.

Re:2+2=5 (0, Troll)

labiator (193328) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944366)

I want to know why the tax man isn't coming down on them incredibly hard, Those "fees" are not taxed, hence uncle sam is missing out on billions in tax revenue.

Re:2+2=5 (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944416)

Not taxed?? It's taxed twice, once as corporate profits, and then again on distributions / capital gains.

Re:2+2=5 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944440)

Actually fares are lower. I learned this at a recent talk about the airline industry. Some basic research shows what the speaker said was true:

NYC to London: $412 in 1950
http://www.vintageadbrowser.com/airlines-and-aircraft-ads-1950s/4

The same flight is about $650 today when if prices were static would cost about $4000.

Re:2+2=5 (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944484)

Um, just because the services were bundled does not mean they were free. Part of your ticket went to paying for them, whether you used them or not. Imagine McDonalds started counting every meal as a sale of burger, fries and soda with a rebate. Their revenue on fries would skyrocket, but you can't seriously say they are making billions they weren't making before. And how you draw the conclusion from the increased fries revenue that the burger hasn't gotten cheaper I don't know. If anything it's those billions are what those that don't use the services have stopped paying, now those that use them are paying for them.

You're not flying cheaper! (5, Interesting)

pablo_max (626328) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944182)

This is what really pisses me off; people take this attitude that, hey..I don't have extra bags, I don't want the food, so I am flying cheaper! Well guess what stupid, you're not flying cheaper.
I travel very often so I have a fair idea of how the traveling costs trend and what I notice is that I get fucked harder and harder by the airlines, but since there is price fixing, there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

Don't get me wrong, if the tickets WERE actually cheaper by not including the bags, than I would be fine with that. BUT, they are not cheaper. If anything, they are more expensive AND you pay your extra 100 bucks for bags. WTF?

You want to go by weight? I weight 160lbs and my wife is 105lbs. Why should she pay the same like me? Why can't she have an extra bag?
Why can that fat as fuck American sitting next to me get the same price?

They should chance the whole thing to per lbs, yourself and bags included. That is whats fair.

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (0, Troll)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944254)

Because it's discriminatory. Why should I have to pay more because I'm a larger person than you? I'm slender at 200 lbs., and I don't see any reason why I should have to pay more because I was born to be larger. It doesn't matter how much I exercise, I'm not going to ever way 105 lbs., even 160 would be a stretch and unhealthy, following your logic, I should pay more simply because I was unfortunate enough to be born with genes to be larger.

It's one thing to charge people more for taking up a second seat, but charging people who naturally way more isn't really appropriate.

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944294)

It's not discriminatory , it's physics. It costs X amount of energy to move Y mass from point A to point B. Guess where that energy comes from? Fuel :)

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (2, Interesting)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944330)

It's one thing to charge people more for taking up a second seat, but charging people who naturally way more isn't really appropriate.

I don't know, man, it's a slippery slope here. A second seat is a resource just like added fuel is a resource; if a plane full of 105 pounders costs 75% as much as a plan full of 200 pounders, then there is just as much reason to charge heavier people more, regardless of the cause, as there is to charge people who take up more than one seat. In fact, you might say that charging more by weight is more fair, because the per-seat issue would be a natural extension. Someone who is 400 pounds would take up 2 seats and already be paying for them based on weight.

Don't forget, that 400 pounder might have a genetic glandular problem. Maybe they were born to be larger than you; why should you get off the hook just because you got lucky with your glands?

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944696)

Don't forget, that 400 pounder might have a genetic glandular problem. Maybe they were born to be larger than you; why should you get off the hook just because you got lucky with your glands?

Most 400 lbs are fat fucks by choices they make. That's why the people who weigh 150 lb should be off the hook, as a reward for self-restraint.

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944348)

I hate to break it to you, but you're not "slender". Just because you're not as fat as most other obese Americans, it doesn't mean that you're automatically "slender". You're merely a fatass, not a filthy fucking fatass like the rest of them.

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944480)

Or he's athletic. At the thinnest I've ever been - in terms of body fat, not weight - I weighed 205 lb. I was also doing 300 lb squats and benching a little over 200.

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (2, Informative)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944496)

Actually, if he's 2+ meters he could be close to underweight at 90.7 kg (200 lbs). Factor in a large frame (no, not the "I'm big boned" excuse, some people really do have a larger frame than others) and being in good shape (meaning high percentage of bodyweight as muscles and low percentage of bodyweight as fat) then 90.7 kg could very well be considered slender at anything over 1.9 meters. Hell, I have a friend who's just under 1.8 meters who looks skinny at around 90 kg but he's also very fit which means he weighs more per unit of volume than someone who's got little muscle and a lot of fat.

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944376)

1) Weigh. It's spelled weigh.
2) Why is it okay to charge for somebody who naturally takes up a second seat but not somebody who naturally weighs more? The fact of the matter is that you and I (260 here, and I'd die before my body could hit 220) impose more of a fuel cost than this man's wife. She could bring 100 pounds of luggage and still impose less of a fuel cost than me without any luggage. If the airlines want to claim that the baggage fees are just penny-pinching by weight, then they have to consider all of the weight on the plane.

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (4, Insightful)

bigdavex (155746) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944394)

Because it's discriminatory. Why should I have to pay more because I'm a larger person than you?

Because you're buying more of what they're selling. If you went to the hardware and bought lumber, you should expect to pay the same as everyone else for a 2x4. If you went to the hardware store and bought "enough lumber to make me a bed", you should expect them to scale the price to how much lumber you actually needed. Airline tickets aren't exactly like either of these cases, but I hope you can see that what's not "discriminatory" flies in the face of reality.

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (2, Interesting)

mikestew (1483105) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944402)

Why should I have to pay more because I'm a larger person than you?

Easy: because it costs more to fly you than it does to fly me over the same distance. Why should I subsidize the cost of flying your big bones? Answer: because life, for fatties and string beans alike, is rarely fair.

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (4, Informative)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944664)

It's disriminatory? It's like saying Walmart charging you biggies $1-2 on large clothing sizes (they do) because they use more material. For the airlines, more weight = more fuel burnt. I bet you have a bigger food bill than a 120 lb person as well, who are you going to cry discrimination there?

It's not discrimination. It's reality.

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (1)

Godskitchen (1017786) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944300)

Can you just edit this to be the final two sentences? That is a decent idea but no one cares to read your overly emotional, stereotype-fueled rage.

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944432)

You want to go by weight? I weight 160lbs and my wife is 105lbs. Why should she pay the same like me? Why can't she have an extra bag? Why can that fat as fuck American sitting next to me get the same price

160 lbs of asshole in a 150 lb bag...

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (2, Interesting)

bkpark (1253468) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944438)

Don't you remember when they started charging the baggage fees? They started doing this in 2008, when crude oil was, what, at $140/barrel at its height?

The baggage fee was the option for many of these airlines (which didn't hedge their fuel costs wisely, as, e.g. Southwest had done) to stay in operation, without scaring all their customers away with fee hikes.

Perhaps today when the fuel cost isn't so high, we are not exactly paying less by getting less service for the "basic" ticket. But it was certainly true in the past (i.e. 2008) that a casual traveler without checked-in bags paid less than he would have, if the airlines had to pay for their costs entirely through uniform ticket price increases, and this may be true again, as oil prices won't be forever in the 70s and 80s.

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944462)

You self-serving, discriminating, superficial, materialistic mo*^@&#^@*er.

Guess what stupid, because I'm "in shape" I should pay more because I weigh 20 pounds more than you? Screw you.

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944638)

It has nothing to do with shape, stupid. It's about mass. 250 pounds of muscle costs twice as much to carry as 125 pounds of fat. If you cost twice as much you should pay twice as much. (Or whatever the relative percentages are.)

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944566)

Well guess what stupid, you're not flying cheaper.

Sure you are - Here's some anecdotal examples:

In 1990 I flew YVR-LHR. It was my first big backpacking trip after university. I remember the fare was around $950 - Around $1540 in today's dollars. By comparison, that same trip on those same dates would cost $1465 today - Almost $100 less.

I remember around 1999 I used to fly YVR-DEN once a month on United. The flight, purchased three weeks ahead without a Saturday stay was around $1000. Indexed to today's dollars, that's nearly $1300.

Today the fare is about half that.

In the mid 70s my parents flew the family to England to visit the relatives. My parents had to take out a bank loan to cover the airfares.

Now they fly to England twice a year without thinking about it.

So are fares marginally higher than they might have been 2 or 3 years ago? Maybe, but in looking at the big picture fares have never been lower.

Re:You're not flying cheaper! (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944650)

Inflation adjusted tickets are much cheaper. Flights that I took 15 years ago cost about the same, or less, than they did. For people who are young, and did not live trough the inflationary periods prior to the early 90's, this is what is expected. Technology has made prices relatively stable for many products. Of course due to gross incompetence during the early years of this century, such good livelihood is not continuing as we like, but air travel prices are really the least of our problems.

As far as the idea of charging by weight, one must remember that planes are public transport, plain and simple. You buy a seat. If one can fit in the seat, then that is ok. The weight of the passenger only becomes significant when combines with the many bags some carry. Also, each bag is a discrete unit that must be handled and carries discrete liability. Limiting bags significantly reduces staff and liability, while limiting passengers only reduces revenues. Mass is not the issue.

To put it another way, note that until 2001 people could pretty much carry as much as they could carry onto a plane. The rules were not strictly enforced. If could be stored somewhere, it was. People did not check in bags. A garment bag, a rolling bag, and shoulder bag wes a very common combination. We had weight and bag limits, but there were pretty liberal and people did not run up against them often.

After that checkpoints insured that it was not convenient or possible to carry all your stuff on a plane, so more people began to check stuff in. This was when the airlines put in the latest rules. The main cause of this, in my mind, is that the bags had to be inspected more and the airlines had to pay for it. The easiest way to minimize this cost was to pass it on to the consumer. We will inspect one o two bags for free, if you want anymore pay for it. The weight limits are to insure that they can higher an average person to do the work, and they don't have to compete with UPS for strong persons.

Unbundling without choice (3, Interesting)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944200)

Isn't Spirit airlines the same airline that will charge you for luggage whether you check-in or carry-on. [google.com] How many people travel with no luggage? Simply put the only choice Spirit offers you is whether you pay them more to handle your bags or pay them less for the privilege of handling your own bags.

Re:Unbundling without choice (1, Insightful)

bkpark (1253468) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944350)

You always have a choice in a free, competitive marketplace: you don't have to fly with Spirit Airlines.

If you are flying domestic, you can always fly Southwest, which to date has no luggage fee up to two checked in bags (I think).

If you are flying international, any of the major airlines (Spirit isn't even the biggest or second biggest airline) will be happy to take you w/o charging for carry-on luggages.

One could make an argument about whether the airlines have been completely forthcoming about the costs of these "unbundled services" (and that would fall under the government's role of preventing fraud), but as far as choices a private company offers, you always have the choice of not dealing with them.

Re:Unbundling without choice (1)

ostiguy (63618) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944632)

"free, competitive marketplace"

If I need to fly Boston to Newark, what are my options?

Hint - the only direct flight is Continental, which is the same if I fly out of Providence.

Re:Unbundling without choice (2, Insightful)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944388)

Isn't Spirit airlines the same airline that will charge you for luggage whether you check-in or carry-on. [google.com] How many people travel with no luggage? Simply put the only choice Spirit offers you is whether you pay them more to handle your bags or pay them less for the privilege of handling your own bags.

You mean pay them less for the privilege of shipping your bags across the country along with you. Do you expect that UPS would do it for free if you just loaded it onto their airplanes for them and unloaded it yourself at the destination? If it really doesn't cost anything for Spirit to do this, they should go into competition with UPS -- they can put UPS out of business if they've managed to eliminate all costs of shipping beyond handling.

Re:Unbundling without choice (1)

mikestew (1483105) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944392)

How many people travel with no luggage?

The ones that like "extra screening". Be sure to pay cash for the ticket, too.

This forgets the unintended consequences... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944204)

One of which is the excessive amount of carry-on baggage that people now bring on to planes. Instead of checking that larger bag and only bringing the laptop case/bookbag/etc on the plane, everyone tries to cram as much stuff as they can in their two carry-on bags so they don't have to pay baggage fees. On the airlines on which I have traveled they tend not to enforce the carry-on restrictions tightly, so many people bring oversized bags which monopolize the limited space available. As a result, you pretty much have to hover by the entry area on the concourse and rush on to the plane to ensure that you will be able to find a place for your single bag. Moreover, this rush for space creates a lot of tension between passengers. On planes with limited carry-on space I have seen arguments break out between patrons over the bag placement. It's distinctly unpleasant to be crammed into an aluminum tube while two people trade insults over space for their laptop case.

Re:This forgets the unintended consequences... (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944338)

2 words: Gate check.

Only if the check in agent make an error... (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944568)

Check in agent are supposed to look at the baggae you have, and at least their volume. Under a certain volume (basically a small luggage)you should be fine , but above that volume you normally are forced to register the baggage. Furthermore you can only have one big carry on AFAIK. Anything above is airline's tolerane.

So who's to the rescue? (5, Insightful)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944220)

With our brilliant free market capitalism in place, a competitor should be here to the rescue to innovate and beat the crap out of these guys who don't take care of their customers. For we have a choice, and that makes our way of life the envy of everyone.

Any minute now. Any minute!!!

I am also waiting for a better cable company, better internet service, a better bank, and oh, a better PC...

Any minute now!!!

Re:So who's to the rescue? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944326)

With our brilliant free market capitalism in place, a competitor should be here to the rescue to innovate and beat the crap out of these guys who don't take care of their customers [...] Any minute now. Any minute!!!

You're not thinking libertarian enough. We must allow the public to carry firearms through airports again and to exercise their second amendment right to defend themselves against what the common law considers theft. When companies find it too expensive to hire and replace drones to collect these fees, they will stop charging them.

Southwest (5, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944456)

With our brilliant free market capitalism in place, a competitor should be here to the rescue to innovate and beat the crap out of these guys who don't take care of their customers.

There is, Southwest Airlines. No bag fees (a fact which is heavily advertised).

The thing people like you don't realize is that capitalism is not an instant fix, but it does fix things in the long run - Southwest has been very popular and is expanding to more cities and locations. I can take that airline to a lot more places in the U.S. than I used to be able to, in part because of better customer service that made sure I would fly Southwest unless there was no other choice.

How is that not capitalism in action?

Oh Snap!! v(*_*)vvvv Got pwned hard!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944694)

I love how these idiot slashbots just spew out nonsense thinking they're so brilliant, and then someone calmly points out their idiocy with one example.

This is classic pwnage here. Hope this shuts up retards like v(*_*)vvvv for awhile.

Re:So who's to the rescue? (2, Informative)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944474)

That company exists, it's called Southwest Airlines. Free Snacks, free soda, 2 bags up to 50lbs each are free to check, and you get your two carry ons. Oh, and their fares are usually around the cheapest. Sometimes they are $20 more than another airline, but you know you'll be paying more than $20 just to check a bag.

I don't fly a lot, usually 4 - 5 times a year. But if I'm flying domestically, I fly Southwest.

Re:So who's to the rescue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944576)

That's nice, but they don't fly to my nearest two airports, so they might as well not exist to me.

Re:So who's to the rescue? (2, Insightful)

Dhalka226 (559740) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944482)

I am also waiting for a better cable company, better internet service, a better bank, and oh, a better PC...

I get your point and I do agree overall, but you picked some really bad examples. Cable companies are (natural) monopolies, and most ISPs are simply the cable companies or the phone companies, also a monopoly. Free market practices don't particularly apply there.

Banking? There WERE small-town banks but most of them are closed these days. There are still credit unions and a handful of banks to choose from, though I'm not sure what you're looking for.

And PCs? They're not exactly the best PC company in the world, but Dell did a tremendous job in getting relatively powerful PCs in consumers' hands for cheap prices. Hardware prices have plummeted. I'm not sure what else you want from free market influences.

That said, the problem with the idea that free markets solve something is it's predicated on the idea that people actually put value on anything other than money. I recall reading a story on Slashdot some time ago about somebody who went to a small mom-and-pop store for a TV (I think it was) and he raved about the great service he got from them in figuring everything out and getting it all squared away. And then he went to the big-box store to buy it.

A competitor airline re-bundling things to get rid of the hidden fees is almost guaranteed to result in higher fares (even if the total overall cost is lower), and most consumers will not look any farther than that. That being the case, the free market is powerless to solve the issue.

In a way it's a lot like those infomercials you see on TV. "Order now and we'll send you a second money sink FREE, just pay [$9.99] postage and handling!" Well, sorry, if your product is $10 and you're charging me $10 postage it's most certainly not free, you're just re-structuring the costs in a way that is even more beneficial to you (since S&H is not taxed).

Re:So who's to the rescue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944492)

better cable company - rabbit ears

better internet service - carrier pigeon

a better bank - your mattress

a better PC - oh! That one's easy... a Mac

Re:So who's to the rescue? (1)

shipbrick (929823) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944500)

I'd guess it's not cheap to start an airline, and with lots of existing competition, I'd guess that makes it more difficult, although by no means impossible. Free market you say? Since the government has (and probably will again) just bail out the existing airlines, even though they have failing business models, that removes the possibility that the established carriers can go under, which prevents the opening up of demand ($) that a new company could try to fill. Less available revenue combined with greater competition decreases the likelihood that a new carrier enters the market. Oh, and lets not forget the TSA makes air travel horrifically painful no matter what airline you fly, thus (IMO) causing even an awesome airline to still have a awful overall travel experience.

Also on cable companies (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944502)

I am also waiting for a better cable company

That is impossible as long as government controls block competition for your cable dollar (satellite doesn't really count being essentially unidirectional). So while you are railing on capitalism the very regulation you wish to impose on airlines is denying you choice in cable.

better internet service

See: Cable.

a better bank

There are great banks if you are willing to look beyond the monsters.

and oh, a better PC...

Found [apple.com] it [amazon.com] .

Ticket prices (4, Insightful)

AlpineR (32307) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944506)

The problem is that the competition takes place on web sites like Orbitz [orbitz.com] or Travelocity [travelocity.com] where the only criteria for comparing airlines is route and ticket price. There's no indication of whether a particular airline charges extra for checked bags, carry-on bags, or refreshments. Nor is there any indication of how much leg room to expect, how often the airline departs on time, or how often the airline leaves passengers on the tarmac for six hours.

When the only information passengers have is route and ticket price, the airline that can scheme to have the lowest upfront price will win.

Economics has the answer (2, Insightful)

Frequency Domain (601421) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944556)

Real economists, not the political panderers most people think are economists, have three words for you. "Barriers to entry."

Re:So who's to the rescue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944584)

I find it interesting that every industry you listed is heavily regulated... except for PCs.

I think it would be very difficult for you to argue that the free market has not brought us better PCs at a pretty consistent rate over the past thirty years.

mod d0w7n (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944246)

bottoms butt. Wipe Performing.' Even Host wha7 the house ransom for their Usenet. In 1995, lost its earlier another troubled shout the loudest

Air travel is making a comeback, but... (4, Informative)

phlegmofdiscontent (459470) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944252)

I find it interesting that the airlines have unbundled services so that they can "lower air fares", yet they still can't seem to make profits the way they used to. This article in the NYT (see link below) points out that while passenger and freight volumes are back up to pre-recession levels, the airlines are still not making pre-recession profits. Another point that I found interesting is that passenger load factors are also significantly higher in the past. So from a cost-accounting perspective, the airlines have reduced or shifted several large factors in their cost bases: underutilized aircraft, "fees" for things that used to cost the airlines extra, and industry consolidation that should also reduce employee costs (two merged airlines don't need as many mechanics, pilots, or flight attendants). A couple more points should also give some food for thought. The aforementioned industry consolidation gives the airlines more power to raise ticket prices because of reduced competition (and fewer routes). Also, oil prices are not nearly what they were in 2008/2009, so that's another large expense that has been reduced.

The point I'm trying to make is that the airline industry has seen major shifts that should in theory increase revenues while decreasing expenses. Something else must be going on and I don't have the whole story, but it makes me wonder if there is some serious mismanagement going on. Or maybe unbundling combined with all the other hassles of air travel are starting to make customers change their behaviors.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/19/business/global/19iht-ravover.html?_r=1&ref=business [nytimes.com]

Re:Air travel is making a comeback, but... (1)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944296)

Draconian security measures are scaring customers off and costing the airlines extra. Not to say that the airlines are blameless.. they dont lower prices, but institute hidden charges for things like luggage.

You can't complain, you can't compare (4, Insightful)

xzvf (924443) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944304)

The problem with the current system is you can't compare costs easily between airlines. Plus if you have a complaint your only option in most airports is to suck it up and do what they say. Even if they are clearly in the wrong. If you complain to vigorously, they involve security, which makes flying in the future more of a pain in the ass. They avoid the overbooking flight rules, by offering useless credits for future flights, that can only be redeemed for places nobody wants to go to at times nobody wants to fly. You can't walk away and not use them when poor service angers you. Tickets are mostly non-refundable, changing flights has a ton of silly rules, airline employee's have no incentive to keep you as a happy customer, so canceling you flight on one airline normally means to pay out the nose to file another equally poor option. Plus if you fly a lot, but with multiple airlines, you are still treated like cattle, because you don't have status. It is a broken industry, that needs to be disrupted, but high capital costs, limited access to gates and no viable alternative have left us no choice.

Re:You can't complain, you can't compare (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944514)

It is extremely easy to compare costs of different airlines just goto places on the web like orbiz, expedia or travelocity all of them allow you to compare different airlines and you can make an easy decision if you want a cheap flight with few extras or pay more for additional services.
The next couple of comments show no experience did you really mean to imply that airlines place you on the cannot fly list if you complain? All voucher offers I have been given are for money on future tickets so no worthless places unless they are of my choice.
Tickets are non-refundable unless you want to pay extra, they are offering the lowest price since that is what people want. Besides there are plenty of alternative options, I can get you from one place to almost anywhere else in the world without using aircraft but it is going to be a lot more expensive and take you a lot more time.

Re:You can't complain, you can't compare (4, Insightful)

WillyWanker (1502057) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944710)

All of this. Flying used to be such a pleasure, and now it's like a root canal. Between all the extra fees that make it impossible to compare rates and know exactly how much it's going to cost you in the end, the ridiculous security rules that seem to change daily, the overcrowded planes with seats designed to extract pain from even a normal-sized adult male, and all the damned nickel and diming to death and I swear I'd rather take the train. Or a ship. Or hitchhike for Christ's sake.

Baggage in the US (3, Interesting)

Robotron23 (832528) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944318)

When heading into the States not long ago I had to transfer through Chicago O'Hare to a smaller, provincial airport. American Airlines unsurprisingly lost my luggage, but thanks to a tag it was located as being with the handlers back at Chicago. The friendly woman at the check-in desk where I'd arrived after the second flight gave me a complimentary kit that included a toothbrush, toothpaste, mini-haircomb and so on.

The expedient service was what struck me most though; the next day a guy in a van drove up to where I stayed and dropped it off needing a signature and ID to confirm. All this was free, all of it was worked out and the lady at the desk looked astonished at me if I asked there was a fee to expedite getting my suitcase back - it contained mostly clothing that I could buy at a mall or whatever, but also a few items somewhat more important.

AA must have yearly meetings where this baggage issue is brought up; remember that scene from Fight Club where the anti-hero played by Ed Norton opposes the cost of keeping a shoddy system with unhappy customers that might kick up an occasionally costly issue to fixing everything and performing a good service. If the good service is more expensive than paying customers off, and in the case of improving baggage loss rates it likely is, then AA keep the crappy service to the inconvience of customers.

As cynically compelling as that movie was, this principle is applied rigorously behind closed doors in many firms who simply seek to maximize profits by definition of what they are. If it means a person losing something valuable or otherwise getting aggrieved (crashing a shoddy car and being injured), then let's cast that aside and keep the margin at an acceptable level. Unethical? Sure, but that's business.

That airlines are now charging seperate fees for this service without presumably making a marked improvement could be harmful to them in the long term; if passengers know they're paying X for luggage carriage for every piece inclusive of the first then they can more directly demand a refund. Something which isn't quite as easy to do if its bundled in and you get chucked a cheap kit of goods to clean up that they manufacture in quantity. So this all could be a good move with respect to luggage, as it might make firms like Delta or AA or anybody else with high passenger volume improve somewhat.

TAXES! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944320)

Why does the government care? They now get a lower tax revenue! Before, if your ticket cost $500, they got whatever percent (let's say 10), so $50. Now if they strip down the ticket so that it's only $400, plus $100 in other fees, the government is losing $10 they would've previously received. Food, baggage, seat placement, etc, all get taxed at a lower (or non-existent) rate when they're sold separately.

A matter of time (2, Insightful)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944322)

It will be just a matter of time before Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, or an upstart comes up with a "Bottom Line Price" website that takes into account the number of bags, food preferences, etc. that you input (note that they already take into account airport fees and taxes). In the meantime, the airlines are exploiting the cost of individuals to indepently acquire this information. The airlines figured out a way to re-intermediate the disintermediation that the Internet introduced. The Internet will route around this disintermediation.

choice to purchase the services (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944342)

Except the don't explain the charges well enough, and not all are optional anyway.

I don't like the TSA/airline rule interactions (1)

shadowofwind (1209890) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944372)

If you fly an airline that charges for checked bags, and you accidentally put a banned item in the carry-on, you either have to pay the fee to check the bag, lose the item, or mail at a high cost (if you have time). Probably this isn't a very big revenue generator, but I still find it annoying. The same goes with banning bottled water then selling it for $3 a bottle. Or setting up long security lines, then letting people through who pay a higher rate. This last one seems undemocratic. Its different than having better 'first class' seating for people who pay a premium, since the security lines are mandated by the government, not by the airline. (Though 'first class' seating is discriminatory also, if companies are getting breaks on their ticket prices that aren't available to everyone.)

Whatever happened to "live free or die"?

Re:I don't like the TSA/airline rule interactions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944450)

"Whatever happened to "live free or die"?"

Too many people died. Now they have removed that choice for your safety.

Re:I don't like the TSA/airline rule interactions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944634)

'Whatever happened to "live free or die"?

We're free to be stupid, which is the only freedom that really matters these days...

Go ahead, get mad. (1)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944386)

Get all the mad you want - it won't do any good. They're providing a service that you can't get anywhere else and people are paying their prices so they have no reason to change.

Supply. Demand.

Mandatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32944472)

TANSTAAFL

I wonder how much they lose due to delays (3, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944518)

Admittedly I don't fly a lot in the states(I do occasionally on business, but at least for the time being transcontinental flights have free baggage...) but it seems that the baggage fee policy more often than not causes delays due to people futzing around with the overhead bins. These bins invariably become full and then the flight attendant always comes on and announces that they will now check bags for free, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of charging for a checked bag to begin with. A lot of seasoned flyers know this and intentionally pack huge carry-ons(which almost never get weighed/measured even though the airlines could conceivably do this) because they know they will be allowed to check them for free after they get on the plane.

By the time all this crap gets settled it's usually 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time and all the airline has done is cost themselves money and pissed a lot of people off..... brilliant!

Ryan air - the king of this sort of scam (3, Informative)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944550)

They charge for everything they can - I now refuse to travel with them.

One change that they introduced some months back [thisismoney.co.uk] was a charge on credit card use. Because they have to offer one form of card payment without charge (a UK or EU law) they chose a card that almost no one uses -- a prepaid card that costs some £15 a year and a 50p transaction charge. It is all about grabbing as much money from their customers through hard to avoid extra charges so that they can make decietful adverts claiming to be cheapest.

People are dumb... (1)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 4 years ago | (#32944644)

It costs money to fly you. It costs more money to fly your bags. If I'm not bringing any bags, I don't want to pay for your bags. If I'm bringing bags, I'll gladly pay for them myself. This is a much better solution than before. You can't complain about airlines screwing you over... think how many airlines have gone out of business in the last decade. Many haven't even made a profit in quite some time. How can you blame them for raising prices if they aren't even making a profit?

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