Spirit Airlines Charging for Carry-ons| The State of Domestic US Air Travel

This week, Spirit Airlines announced that they will be charging $45 to stow a  carryon in the overhead compartments onboard one of their aircrafts. 

Good news, bad news, or just plain make you mad news?

When I first read the reports, I thought it was stupid.  Another airline finding another creative way to make another lousy dollar.

But, if I understand capitalism and the free market correctly, perhaps the airlines are making some great choices, not bad choices.

Premise: If customers are unwilling to pay for carryon bags, they will stop flying Spirit.  If, however, Spirit is able to provide competitive plane tickets while charging for carryons, then customers will continue flying Spirit.

While we could focus on asking, “What does this tell us about the travel industry today,” I want to turn the tables and ask, “What does this teach about the traveling public?”

US Domestic Travelers Are Penny Pinchers Who Want Bottom of the Barrel Services

Airlines have tons of resources to do market analysis.  CEOs don’t just wake up and say, “Hey, I’m going to make a massively unpopular decision just so I can make a few extra dollars in the next couple of months.”

It seems to me that the airlines have got us – we the people – figured out.  As a whole, we will gladly continue to pay for poor services and poor quality as long as the prices stay low.

We all travel in different ways.  Some travel in style, and others travel cheap.  Me? I travel cheap.  So, an airline that adds perks and comforts knows there is not an industry to support it.

The bottom line is the bottom line.

US Domestic Travelers Buy Tickets Based On the Perception of Cheap

A friend recently booked flights on Frontier.  I encouraged him to buy tickets on Southwest.  The group of four will pay $320 roundtrip for two bags each.  Yet, I was told Frontier and Southwest both have round trip tickets for $220.

Much of the travelling public buys travel in segments.  $250 for a plane ticket is one purchase.  $40 for check in baggage is another.  Our brains are not smart enough to tell us that $250 + $40 is $290 for air travel.  Most people would rather pay $250 today and $40 later than to pay $275 for tickets today (with no baggage charge later).  When you book travel be sure to calculate the total travel cost.

When I book travel, I always search Southwest Airlines flights first – simply because I know I will save money on baggage.

US Domestic Travelers Want To Have Their Cake and Eat It, Too

On the whole, the cost of domestic travel seems as though it has been flat for about the last decade.  In the last 3 years alone, my health insurance rates have increased some 300%, but domestic airline tickets are still costing about the same amount as ten years ago.

It seems like a good price for a round trip 10 years ago was about $200.  These days I can often find flights for just over $200.  The current price difference is in the extra paid products – like baggage, drinks, and meals. 

Honestly, if the airline was considering adding on a $45 each way mandatory fee to help cover the cost of my travel or adding on a $45 each way optional fee for those who want to take carryons, I’d rather the optional plan.

But, is this extreme?  When can bills be too itemized?  When does all inclusive once again seem appealing?  Only time will fully answer all those questions when US domestic travelers cast their vote by how they plan future vacations.

Here’s what others have to say about the topic:

Why Spirit Airlines’ Paying for Carry-Ons Charge is in Everyone’s Future

Spirit Airlines to charge fees for carry-on bags AND checked luggage

Spirit Airlines Now Charges for Carry-On Luggage

Do you think this fee tells us anything about US domestic travelers?  How much itemization is too much?  Would you still fly Spirit?  Will other airlines follow suit?

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