Letting Go of Your Baggage

As a frequent flyer, I have been on a quest to pack as economically as possible. I can’t remember the last time I had to check a bag, and those items I pack in my carry-on bag are carefully chosen to take up as little space as possible. I get giddy whenever I come across a gadget that’s smaller than the one I currently carry. I don’t care how much it costs, if it’s smaller it’s better, and I buy it. I often joke that my goal is to travel with only what I have in my pockets – 5 day trip.

Spirit Airlines apparently wants to help me achieve my goal. First, airlines began charging for a second checked bag. Then they started charging for all checked bags. Now (and I can’t believe I’m actually writing this) beginning August 1st, Spirit Airlines is going to start charging $45 for carry-on bags. If you’re willing to pay in advance, the fee for a carry-on is “only $30.” Computer bags, purses, and diaper bags won’t be charged the fee, but standard carry-on luggage will result in a fee. And get this, Spirit is adding measuring devices at the gate to determine which bags will incur the charge. Now gate agents, who already have a tough job, are going to have to collect money for bags that violate the policy. Anyone want a job as a Spirit Airlines gate agent?

Jay Sorensen, an airline consultant quoted in one of the articles about the new fee said, “I didn’t think anyone would go this far.” Neither did I. Air travel has become an a la carte experience. Checked bag – that’s extra. Soft drink – that’s extra. Bag of peanuts – extra. Carry-on bag – extra. I wouldn’t be surprised if soon during the flight attendant safety spiel we’ll hear something like, “If we lose cabin pressure, an oxygen mask is available for $5, credit card only.”

It seems as though many airlines are doing everything possible to frustrate customers. And they wonder why passengers are so grumpy. And they also wonder why Southwest Airlines continues to be a customer favorite. For one thing, Southwest doesn’t charge for checked bags and I can’t imagine them even considering charging for carry-on bags. In fact, I’m guessing that with the Spirit Airlines announcement, Southwest executives are grinning from ear to ear in anticipation of passengers abandoning Spirit for the more customer-friendly Southwest.

I don’t feel bad for the customers of Spirit Airlines; they have other options at their finger tips. I feel very bad for the employees of Spirit Airlines. They’re the ones who will have deal with the consequences of this decision – grumpier passengers, arguments at the gate, increased boarding times due to confusion, etc. When the new policy goes into effect on August 1st, I sincerely hope that the executive team plans on helping out at the airline’s gates. Maybe then they’ll realize this wasn’t such a good idea after all.

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