Frontier Aircraft Photo

Frontier to Charge for Carry-on – But it’s not about making money!

Frontier Aircraft PhotoFrontier Airlines this week became the latest to announce fees for carry-on luggage. Starting this summer, passengers will face fees up to $100 for the privilege of overhead bin space. There are a few ways around this: buy your tickets at Frontier’s web site and there is no charge, or purchase through an on-line portal such as Expedia and pay in advance to drop the fee down to $25. Of course, you can just take your one carry-on and place it in under the seat in front of you for free, also.

Unfortunately, this is generally seen by Wall Street as good news. It means the airline is charging enough, through tickets and fees, to cover their costs. Customers, of course, hate the added fees and I don’t think anybody blames them. What particularly frustrates me about Frontier’s move is the reasoning: spokeswoman Kate O’Malley said the new charge is not really about raising money. “It’s about Frontier’s most loyal customers making it very clear that finding overhead bin space has become increasingly difficult.”

Ya think?!? You don’t suppose that has anything to do with charging customers for their checked baggage, encouraging them to cram as much as possible into the overhead bins? Let me introduce you to my friends Cause and Effect.

From what we’ve seen so far, this has zero to do with loyalty unless they’ve yet to announce that their frequent fliers get a freebie. I don’t know who Frontier thinks they’re fooling, but it’s not the travelling public. While it’s true that overhead bin space has become a hotly contested commodity – and not just for the most loyal customers – added fees are entirely about raising money. I don’t fault the airline for wanting to raise money, especially when airfares are about the same today as they were a decade ago.* What does bother me is the insulting attempt to pass it off as a customer service.

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Nickels & DimesThe airline industry as a whole seems to be afraid they might scare off customers by raising prices. Instead, they’ve been trimming away incidentals and charging for the extras, hoping that we wouldn’t notice the decline in value. Effectively, the cost of flying has gone up recently IF you still want some of the niceties, like your luggage. It’s the Nickel & Dime mentality that drives customers nuts and results in the ill repute that most airlines suffer today.

While airlines continue the race to the bottom of barrel, we wonder if there is room for someone to reverse the trend. What would happen if an airline stood up and took on the Premium label? Would you be willing to pay a slightly higher price if it meant no baggage fees (carry-on or otherwise), no extra charge for choosing any seat in the cabin, and complimentary low-cost goodies like headphones or blankets? What would happen if there was a domestic carrier people actually aspired to fly with?

We’re interested in your thoughts. Would you be willing to pony up for premium or do you prefer to pay as you go for what you actually use? Do you think a carry-on fee crosses the line? Do you think it will actually help in the battle for the bin? Share your thoughts with a Comment!

Historical Airfare Chart 1978-2012

Historical Airfare Chart, 1978 to 2012, in 2011-adjusted dollars, from Carpe Diem Blog (now part of the American Enterprise Institute’s AEI Ideas site)

*According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, what would have cost $100 in 1995 cost just $127 in 2011. Factoring in charges for the first check bag, today’s cost jumps to an average of $152. It is worth noting that baggage fees have nearly doubled since American Airlines first charged $15/bag in 2008. Overall, airfares had been declining for a long time. The Atlantic has a great article on airfare pricing since deregulation called How Airline Ticket Prices Fell 50% in 30 Years (and Why Nobody Noticed).

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