By Unbundling Airlines Make a Bundle
What's an airline ticket?
Is it just an agreement to carry you from point A to point B? Or is there more to it?
Airline executives seem to think that a ticket is a seat on a plane, and that's all. Lately, the industry has been busy unbundling services that traditionally came with a seat, such as baggage checking, seat reservations and even the ability to pay by credit card.
The benefits to the carrier are clear: An airline can quote a low base fare and then add extras, dramatically boosting its profits.
Take luggage fees, for instance. During the first nine months of 2007, domestic airlines collected
The benefits of those practices are less clear to the consumer. On the one hand, it's nice to pay only for what you use. So if you don't want to check a bag, don't need a confirmed seat assignment and pay with cash, your seat costs less. On the other hand, I know of no airline that lowered its fares after it unbundled its services; it just asked passengers to begin paying for something it used to include in a ticket.
In a way, airlines are also the beneficiaries of our collective assumptions about air travel. Many of us (hint: It's the ones who refer to flight attendants as stewardesses) remain in denial about airline deregulation. Most of us believe that an airline ticket should still include the ability to check a bag, reserve a seat and get a free drink. Increasingly, it does not.
So who's right? The airlines are, at least for now. The federal government doesn't define an airline ticket, and it buys the seductive airline argument that unbundling helps customers.
"The department does not believe that people should be required to pay for things they do not want or need," said
Many passengers think that unbundling, as it's practiced now, is wrong.
"When I called to complain about the deception, I was told I had purchased a nonrefundable ticket," she said.
What if Spirit had quoted her a fare that included a checked bag and a seat on the plane, as some other airlines do? Sure, the fare would have been a little higher, but Roberts wouldn't have felt hoodwinked. Spirit could still "unbundle" the fare after she made a purchasing decision by allowing her to opt out of checking a bag or reserving a seat, which would lower her price.
Why doesn't the government define what's in an airline ticket so consumers can make a more informed purchasing decision? The DOT could conceivably release a so-called "rulemaking" on tickets. That's the same administrative law maneuver that recently gave us a tarmac-delay rule under which fines can be imposed on airlines that keep passengers waiting in parked planes for more than three hours.
"I believe the DOT has the regulatory power to come out if they wanted to and propose a regulation to cover things like luggage fees, or really any other ancillary fees," said
That could happen sooner rather than later. Sen.
"The bottom line is that from the time they go online to book tickets to the time they've left baggage claim, families never really know what fees to expect or what exactly they're paying for," Menendez told me.
If there are ways to make sure passengers have a good handle on what they're paying, he added, "I'm going to consider them."
Recent Vacation Ideas & Travel Destinations
- Touring Rome When All Doesn't Go as Planned
- Traveling Greener as We Celebrate Earth Day
- Eating Tapas in Spain
- Exploring Greece's Ancient Past: Delphi, Epidavros & Mycenae
- Entertaining Edinburgh
- Honest Guest's Guide to Free Hotel Amenities
- By Unbundling Airlines Make a Bundle
- Value Destination: Go Back to College
- Budget Hotels in Europe
- Healthy Eating at Disney World is Possible
- Where Are Cheap Round-the-World Airfares
- New-Style Vacation Trips Trip with the Grandparents
- Princess for a Day at Disney World
- Easter in Europe
- Premium Economy for Overseas Trips
- Healthy Hiking With Your Dog
- Four Secrets for Upgrading Your Next Vacation
- What's New in Eastern Europe in 2010
- Low Fare Airline to Europe? Sort Of
- Europe 2010: Pricey, But with Some Good Deals
- Too Sick to Fly? When to Put Yourself on the 'No Fly' List
- Lowest Airfare? You May Have to Connect
- How to Ensure Your Luggage Survives a Trip
- What Hotels Will Resort to For a Good Review
- Accidental Tourist? Tips for Maximizing Happy Coincidences and Avoiding Bad Ones
- Low Airfares That Vanish in a Click
- Air Travel Buying Extra Legroom
- Priceline Opens Up; Quikbook Goes Opaque
- Another Argument For Travel Insurance
- Travel Apps for Your Smart Phone
- 6 Ways to Save: Family Vacations
- My Hotel Lost a Star -- What Now?
- When Travelers Experience Discrimination
- Good Airline Fees? Some Are Worth the Money
- Clear Airfares Act Left Sitting on the Tarmac
- Rental Car 'Gotchas' That Can Cost You Real Money
(c) 2010 Christopher Elliott
World-renowned chefs with an extraordinary passion for food, share that passion. They make great cooking easier than you ever imagined. Each feature includes both an expert tip and an easy recipe - exactly what you need to transform your home cooking from acceptable to delectable.
Recipes Click Here
Movie Reviews, commentary and more. Plus Trailers from movies currently in theaters and available on DVD.
Movie Reviews Click Here