When I traveled to Arizona in April, I was charged $15 for each flight for checking my luggage. While I knew that many airlines had begun charging extra for services that were once “free,” like meals and baggage check, I didn’t recall seeing any warning when I originally booked the flight several weeks earlier. I have no problem with these add-on fees. On an earlier trip, I was happy to pay an extra $25 in both directions for a better-placed seat, a benefit that I used to be able to receive just by asking for certain exit row placements.
But let’s be clear. These things were never free. Travelers paid for meals, checked baggage, entertainment, and all the other amenities w have come to expect while flying, but the cost was unnoticed. The cost of these items was simply rolled into the cost of the ticket. Airlines, under the strain to compete with each other, have been reluctant to raise fares, the most visible differentiation. With services like SideStep, companies are aware that in most cases, people choose flights based almost solely on the flight with the lowest price.
A number of commentators don’t seem to understand that we’ve been paying for these services all along. This article from CNN Money explains how new or raised amenity fees have saved the airlines from extinction.
Since travelers have always been paying for these services, although they were rolled into the price of the ticket, it might make sense to continue looking at the overall cost of the flight when making comparisons.
The airlines do need to do a better job of explaining all the fees up front so consumers can make educated selections based on total price. But let’s not consider these fees “added” or “extra,” it’s just a case of higher prices.
Published or updated May 13, 2009.