Airlines to passengers: Get used to bag fees

Why have charges for extra luggage spiked recently?

By Sep 26, 2012 1:39PM
If you're a frequent traveler, you might have noticed you've been paying more for checking in suitcases.
With fuel prices up dramatically in the past few years, airlines have struggled to maintain profit margins without raising ticket prices so high that passengers are scared away. 

The solution? Keep the basic ticket price relatively low and charge fliers heavily for checking bags.
According to report released by the Bureau of Transport Statistics, U.S. airlines added more than $1.7 billion in baggage fees to their coffers, the most ever received in the first six months of a year.

In the first quarter of 2012, America's 15 largest airlines collected $816 million. The number grew to $932 million in the second quarter.
Leading the way is Delta Air Lines (DAL), with $231 million in the second quarter, while United Airlines (UAL) was second with $195 million. American, US Airways (LCC) and Southwest (LUV) rounded out the top five. (Southwest does not charge for the first checked bag, but its subsidiary AirTran Airways does.)
Baggage fees were introduced in 2008 and have gone up since, as as Scott Mayerowitz of AP points out:
Many of these fees were first introduced to allow airlines to offset rising fuel costs. In 2007, the airlines paid an average of $2.09 a gallon for jet fuel. The next year, prices spiked 46% to $3.06. During the first seven months of this year, airlines have paid an average of $2.96 a gallon.
Airfares have climbed in recent years but not as fast as the cost of fuel. Passengers have shown reluctance to book tickets if the base fare is too high, hence the introduction of the fees.
The increase in baggage fees is also a part of the overarching story of how airlines have been increasingly dependent on ancillary revenue since the industry was deregulated in the 1970s.
When low-cost competitors such as Southwest, Spirit Airlines (SAVE) and JetBlue (JBLU) entered the market, offering low airfares by cutting perks, legacy carriers like Delta and United had to go in the same direction as well.
Man pulling suitcase in airport copyright Keith Brofsky, UpperCut Images, Getty ImagesIn the past, the cost of meals, checked baggage and the use of reservation agents were built into air tickets, which were priced higher. Customers who didn't check baggage in were in effect subsidizing those who did.
These days, you pay a low price for your ticket and decide whether or not you want to forgo the frills (although some people would argue the first checked bag isn't a frill).
Airlines have become increasingly dependent on ancillary revenue like baggage fees and reservation-change fees. In 2005, ancillary revenue represented 7.1% of United's total revenue. In 2010, that rose to 9.3%. Delta experienced a rise from 8.3% to 13.0% in the same time frame.
While passengers may have the choice of deciding whether to pay and check in baggage, they increasing do not have choices in other areas of air travel. In the same report, the BTS notes that as US airlines continue to consolidate in a tumultuous industry, passengers "can expect fewer carriers to choose from (and) fewer flights to smaller cities."

More from Minyanville

Sep 26, 2012 1:50PM
I'm getting really used to not flying. The whole experience is actually a total pain in the butt. The whole airport parking, crowds, check in, security, delays and cattle truck atomosphere is disgusting. Now they think I'm going to pay for bagage when people twice my size fly at the same price. I say they should weith the whole package, body and bags, and charge by the pound. However, I'd rather drive someplace less then 500 miles, enjoy the day, food and sights and get there much more relaxed.
Sep 26, 2012 2:38PM
Its not even the fees that made me stop using airlines, its the really bad attitudes of stewardess' (and yes i know they prefer flight attendant now, but when you learn manners we will call you what you like) the last 10 or so flights i was on, i was really amazed how the crew treats people. I believe this is due to the ramped up security, you can no longer call out rude and abusive behavior of the flight crew as they just say your being disruptive and call an air marshal to remove you from the flight. They no longer have to provide customer service and don't.  I am to the point now where i really hope most of the airlines fail. People can gripe about this all they want, flying is a privilege not a right!!! Until the airlines start respecting thier customers again, they will continue to lose more and more business.
Sep 26, 2012 3:14PM
It is a shame the way people get treated anymore in ariports. I just went through customs in ATL and was treated like crap by several agents....I was very polite I listened to thier "commands" and was still treated badly. What makes it worse for me - is to be treated the way they do knowing I served this country in the military to go to an airport, be treated like a criminal and talked down to by people who can't even speak English or pick up a peice of paper because they have 10 inch long fingernails.
Sep 26, 2012 4:40PM
"Airlines: Get used to bag fees."

Me: Get used to me NOT flying.
Sep 26, 2012 3:01PM

Now that I'm retiring, I hope to never take a US flight again.  I agree with Garys1216 and havasu46. Air travel is deplorable -- cramped seats, people carrying on the kitchen sink, and nonexistent service -- EXCEPT, KLM, Air France, and Lufthansa.


THEY know how to treat people.

Sep 26, 2012 4:01PM

I miss the days of peanuts, a deck of cards, plastic wings, saying hi to the captain, low security, smoking, a pillow, a blanket, and a complete hot meal. I don't like "Flight Attendent". I would rather roll it back in time. Anyone have a time machine?

Sep 26, 2012 4:04PM
Remember when air travel used to be convenient?  Who would've guessed the 21st century would usher in such a sorry state of affairs.

Sep 26, 2012 3:04PM
Gary, you are sooooooo right!  Except for Southwest, rude behavior from the flight attendants has been commonplace for years.  They have no idea what customer service is about and now with the security measures, they use it as an excuse to be rude to customers.  United use to be the worse, but I haven't flown on them for years as a result, but from what I hear from others, not much has changed.
Sep 26, 2012 4:41PM
Screw you, airline fees.

I fly Southwest, and love them fiercely.

Please, never change.

Sep 26, 2012 3:37PM

I fly EVERY week for the last 9 years. I have seen it all...Yes some of the flight crews are mean but the general population is also pretty mean as well. Nobody will accept being told anything, most don’t follow the rules or think it applies to them. People bring way too much stuff with them. Do you realize a flight attendants does not get paid until the door closes AFTER boarding? TO me that sucks and I would not put up with any s%^t if I was not getting paid either. Also, most of these airlines have gone broke at one point or another (bankruptcy restructure) so a ton of these employees have lost pay or pensions = bad attitude. In the 9 years I have been flying weekly (Ugh) I have seen things get worse on both sides. One thing that I do know is once u get status like I have on these airlines, they treat u much differently. I won’t deal with a "regular" boarding person...I go to the airline club and when they see my status their attitude changes dramatically...I usually get upgraded to 1st class, but it blows me away the difference in the flying experience. If you can afford it...1st class is the way to get treated like a half way decent person. I long for the day when i dont have to fly...if I never flew again it would not break my heart. Good Luck to all of you, see you in the air!

Sep 26, 2012 4:54PM
They will use any frickin' excuse to raise or create fees. Why are they still raising ticket prices if these FEES are put in place to offset what they are SUPPOSEDLY losing by rising costs??
Sep 26, 2012 5:24PM
Most, if not all govt. workers are rude! They pretty much cant/wont get fired. 
Sep 26, 2012 6:47PM
Where was it I read that the scrotum is going to be considered a carry on bag
Sep 26, 2012 5:30PM

Oh for the days of western air lines and PSA. Those were better times.


Sep 26, 2012 5:34PM
I just flew with two stops, when I used to pay the same amount for one stop.  I couldn't believe the carry on luggage that people take on now.  Two small suitcases.  I had a duffel bag and a purse.  Most of the men I saw had literally two small suitcases.  That will be the next thing that they start cracking down on because of fools like that,
Sep 26, 2012 7:56PM
Unfortunately there are a growing number of unhappy and disgruntled passengers out there that are giving airline employees a hard time and the airline employees are giving it right back to everyone. Just like we all have stories to tell about bad service they have stories of abusive passengers. The only way to make this better is to show some consideration. We put up with it whenever we fly, they put up with it everyday, all day long.
Sep 26, 2012 5:22PM
Sep 26, 2012 7:07PM
I can't go anywhere anyway, it's just gotten too expensive for me.  Eventually it will only be people like Romney that will be able to live life.
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