Friday 5 June 2009

Airline's Baggage Fee Bonanza


If you paid a baggage fee on a U.S. airline in 2008, the airlines would like to thank you for your contribution. Yours was part of a US$1.15 billion baggage bonanza that stands to be even bigger in 2009. With those kinds of numbers, there's no doubt that these fees are here to stay. In fact, somewhere deep inside airline pricing laboratories, new fees are being developed and current ones are taking on strange mutations.

When the latest airline baggage fees began to emerge in 2008, many of us wondered if the airlines would compensate passengers for failing to deliver those paid-for bags on time. Thus far, only Alaska Airlines has promised customers that they will get their bags in 25 minutes or less or the airline will pay them $25 in travel vouchers. That commitment begins in July when the airline will start charging $15 for the first checked bag and $25 for the second one. Since no one else is stepping up to this challenge, give Alaska an "A" for effort, but add a "B" for beware. Though born of the fuel price spikes of 2008, baggage fees are now becoming the new currency for some airlines. Want to waive your checked bag fees? Become an elite member with the airline (meaning, buy more, fly more). You can also use some airline-sponsored charge cards to have your fee waived; or you can book a certain fare online to avoid the charges. The addition of fees are frustrating but the airlines are hoping that you'll take the fee waiver bait and still provide them with other forms of revenue.

Whether you think a convenience fee is anything but, or you are reluctant to cough up some cash for the privilege of maybe having your bag arrive with you, rest assured (if you can rest), the end is nowhere in sight. The latest evolution in baggage fees can be experienced at U.S. Airways. The airline will charge more if you pay your baggage fee at the airport instead of pre-paying the fee online. Encouraging passengers to pay less for services online has also reached the executive offices of European deep-discounter Ryanair. The airline says it will begin charging a £5 fee for printing out your own boarding pass. If you can't get to a computer prior to arriving at the airport, then you will be slapped with a £40 charge at the airport for arriving without a boarding pass in hand. If you do check in online, but your dog eats your boarding pass or your paperwork gets swiftly stolen by a gust of wind, you'll still be charged the no-boarding-pass-at-the-airport-fee. Ryanair says it will make online check-in available up to 15 days prior to travel to make it easier for its customers to get to a computer. 15 days might also be just enough time for another fee mutation to emerge. And you were worried about the flu?

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