Pay more. Get less

A couple of news stories stand out today in the aviation field.

First: Domestic airline delays in 2007 were the second worst on record, the Transportation Department reported today. Flights in the U.S. were late more than 26 percent of the time last year, a slightly better performance than in 2000, when airlines were tardy 27.4 percent of the time. Here’s the DOT release. And here’s the complete report (pdf).

Our local airline — so far — reports a poor performance for the year. Northwest Airlines’ flights arrived on time at 30 reporting airports (the big ones) 57.8 percent of the time. If you’re looking for the silver lining on the expected merger with Delta, it had one of the better on-time performances at 70.9 percent. At all “reportable” airports, Northwest arrived on time 57.4 percent of the time.

Northwest flights to Denver arrived on time only 38.4 percent of the time, and Laguardia 35.6 percent, San Francisco 38.2, Salt Lake City 34.4 percent.

The worst Northwest flight? Flight 552 from the Twin Cities to Laguardia runs on time only 6.7 percent of the time.

For baggage handling, Northwest finished 6th among all U.S. airlines with 7 complaints per 1,000 passengers in December. It finished 4th for the year with about 5 complaints per 1,000 passengers.

Second: U.S. airlines appear to be moving to a system to charge you more for checked baggage. United is now charging $25 for checking a second bag, which should create more situations where some passenger in front of you tries to squeeze… this….big… cello…into…this….overhead….compartment.

United expects to earn $100 million a year with the new fee, less than three times what it pays its CEO.

Airline experts say the industry is moving to an a la carte system of pricing. What’s next? An extra charge for on-time performance?

  • bsimon

    As Bob notes, this $25/bag policy is likely to trigger the law of unintended consequences in a big way. A couple possible outcomes are: 1) more/larger carry-on bags (as Bob notes); 2) larger checked bags; 3) diminished revenue from non-business travelers. United must be gambling that other airlines follow suit & that their passengers won’t be aware of the policy until stung by it, which doesn’t seem too savvy a move if they want to boost customer satisfaction.