Airline passengers finally win a round

It’s a small victory in the airline industry’s war against its customers, but perhaps it will catch on.

American Airlines is getting rid of its ban on carry-on bags for its cheapest-seat customers that required them to check the bags for a $25 fee, CNBC reports.

The no-frills fare launched in 2017 and had been copied by several other airlines. United adopted a similar fare structure targeting carry-ons, but Delta did not.

“We got to a point where we weren’t competitive…For price sensitive customers who are the buyers of this, there’s a big airline out there who doesn’t charge for the carry-on,” American CEO Doug Parker said.

Bless you, competition. He’s referring to Delta.

The strategy behind the super-cheap fare structure is passengers will buy a more expensive fare to avoid the restrictions.

It worked, according to the Dallas Morning News. Sixty-three percent of those faced with the restrictions of the cheapest ticket on American, upgraded to a more expensive ticket.

All of the airlines have been fighting a squeeze on profits caused by higher fuel costs, but American’s 24-percent drop in profits is the worst of any major airline.

Judging by the analysis from Forbes’ Dan Reed today, that likely is the result of being an airline whose flights are too often late.

As addressed in this space many, many, many, many times before, airlines effectively take zero responsibility for their failure to operate consistently on time. They blame the government-run Air Traffic Control system, Congress, local airport authorities, the phase of the moon, and the price of cheese in France – whatever they think the public will believe – instead. But, while the ATC system, like congestion at some airports, does have some impact on airline’s ability to operate on-time, it’s a much smaller impact than most people realize, and much, much smaller than airline leaders want you to believe.

Most amazingly, if airlines took responsibility for operating on time, and made the relatively minor changes to their operations in order to focus everyone on operating on time, the positive impact of bringing more than 90 percent of their flights in on time would be enormous. A huge percentage of travelers gladly would pay a small premium to have a very high chance of arriving on time – which would enable them to reduce what they spend on hotels, to more accurately schedule meetings upon arrival, and to get home in time for their children’s games and events.

The cheap fares on the airline also don’t allow flight changes and passengers board the plane last.

Faced with some of that, some airlines’ customers decide to take their business elsewhere, exerting the only real power a customer has.

  • jon
    • Al

      I’m on the advisory committee for our local bus rapid transit line. I’M TOTALLY BRINGING THIS UP AT THE NEXT MEETING.

  • Rob

    Gosh! An airline whose flights arrive and leave on time, and that doesn’t charge for carry-ons? The mind reels.

  • Nato Coles

    I’m not going to be all “rah-rah Delta is perfect”, but as a guy who doesn’t have all the money in the world to throw around, I will and do pay a little more to fly on Delta when the option is there. But I REALLY miss Midwest Express. Those cookies, I tell ya…

    • And deep leather seats. Unquestionably, the best airline I ever flew.

      • ec99

        I’ll always remember the beef Wellington I had on North Central, which merged to form Republic, which was bought by Northwest, which was acquired by Delta.

  • JoeInMidwest

    The airlines next strategy is to add on a charge if you wish to bring your legs on your flight.