Archive for June, 2010

Flyers Pack Lighter and Smarter

It’s an interesting time. The legacy carriers (American, United, Delta, etc.) report that they are making a substantial amount of money by charging their customers luggage fees.  MSNBC reports that the airlines made almost $8 billion last year from luggage fees alone. For an industry where profits are few and far between, the fees have been a much-needed source of revenue. At the same time, Southwest Airlines, which charges no fees, says it has made a lot of money as people fly them instead of the legacy carriers.

American Airlines charges $25 for the first checked bag (one-way) and $35 for the second bag. (Passengers with AAdvantage elite status and members of the military are exempt from the fee.) So, if you take two bags with you, the price of your round-trip ticket goes up by $120. If your bag weighs more than 50 pounds, you’ll pay an additional $50 beyond the fees listed above.

With these policies in place, a passenger can avoid fees by using a carry-on bag instead of checking it, and being sure that their bag weighs less than 50 pounds. Seeing this, the luggage industry has responded.

USA Today says passengers are packing lighter and smarter. Luggage maker Travelpro says its sales of carry-on bags have risen 30% in the two years since the airlines started to charge for checked bags. In addition, Travelpro has redesigned its carry-on bags so that they now weigh as much as 5 pounds less than they did in the past.

Delsey luggage has a bag that features a red light in the handle that comes on if the weight of the bag exceeds 50 pounds.

Some people use FedEx or UPS to deliver their luggage to their location;  while the fee may be higher, they don’t have to carry the bags to/from the airport or worry about going to Cancun while the airline sends their bags to Seattle. (Or as happened to me once on an international flight — I arrived at my destination to find that I had made my connecting flight but my luggage had not. The airline knew where it was and was able to deliver it to my hotel the following day. )

As airlines try to satisfy the flyers who always look for the cheapest ticket, their revenues drop. These fees seem to be one of their best ways to make up for those losses. Whether we like it or not, these fees are here to stay.  We can only wonder what the next additional fee will be.

NOTE: given recent legal cases involving bloggers endorsing products, I’ll say that I own Travelpro luggage and love it, but have not received any consideration from them for this post.