by Stefania Revelli
Iconoculture is now taking bets on the most outrageous airline fee. The current frontrunner is the holiday surcharge recently introduced by most major airlines for Thanksgiving and late-December flights (AP 11.2.09).
Frustrated passengers may appreciate the transparency and exactitude behind charge-by-charge fare breakdowns, but it wasn’t long ago that itemized services were a standard part of a fare deal (like being able to switch economy seats on a half-empty flight without having to pay an upgrade fee). From consumers’ bird’s-eye perspective, an itemized bill for basic travel needs is equivalent to being taken for a ride.
Conscious consumers expect a commonsense approach to pricing — like costs based on mileage, not airline margin. In a recent 72-hour promotion, Southwest Airlines lowered its one-way fares for flights based on distance flown (USAToday.com 10.27.09). Buffet-style promotions have also garnered positive attention. In September, JetBlue ran a limited All You Can Jet promotion ($600), which sold out quickly (DallasNews.com 10.27.09). United’s flat baggage fee for a year may seem excessive, but it does have value in its favor (MercuryNews.com 10.9.09).
OK, so we aren’t actually taking bets. But as airfare extras multiply, we are making a bet that for travelers, the pain points of flying are reaching a tipping point that is no longer about the peanuts, but about some basic principles: simplicity, flexibility, logic and reward. How about a $15 price break for packing light and not checking a bag?