The U.S. could be looking at a very different aerial landscape if the finances of our domestic airlines continue to bleed red. The deficit rate is so staggering as to bring to mind the image of a small plane running out of gas, tossing luggage, seats, passengers - anything with weight - in order to attempt a landing. The airlines are cutting costs in the same desperate fashion in a self preservation effort. I file this topic under "other important stuff."
But this is not a eulogy, at least not yet. For now it is a visual, an analogy, of the disparity, the insanity of the price of passenger airline tickets. I want to pay as little as possible for a seat, but I also want the skies populated with financially viable airlines.
If you were a piece of luggage and your combined travel weight with bags was 240 pounds, it would cost $1,214 to fly Fed Ex round trip from Atlanta to Chicago...
Or you could fly Delta as a live passenger for $221...
The speed with which the airlines are jumping on the slippery slope of checked baggage fees may come to an inglorious end with American Airlines’ infamous $15 fee. Apparently passenger acceptance has its limits and charging for the first checked piece of luggage may be it, although we're now seeing the "pile-on" syndrome with other airlines following suit.
When United Airlines boldly went where no major domestic airline had ventured before, charging for the second checked bag, talk on the street centered on better planning – not revolution.
AA and followers may discover they have crossed the line of demarcation. Isn’t it an inalienable right for passengers to check a bag within the cost of their airline ticket? I couldn’t find anything in the Constitution, but I think it may be carved in stone somewhere in the Sierra Nevada’s and can be clearly seen when flying into Sacramento.
MSNBC did a very clever comparison of AA's check bag fee with what it would cost to ship a 50-pound suitcase to your destination for next day freight delivery:
“The estimated cost of shipping a 50-pound suitcase from Boston to Chicago via FedEx is $231 for delivery the next morning by 10:30 a.m. and $222.63 for delivery the next afternoon. Even second-day delivery is priced at $124. These quotes are for one way. Now look at the airfares. According to AA.com, the least expensive airfare from Boston to Chicago for flights a month in the future costs $226 round trip. That’s almost exactly the same price as shipping a suitcase one-way on FedEx either next morning or afternoon delivery. (Note: with AA your luggage is “same-day delivery” and travels conveniently with you.) With a promotion like “pay to ship one piece of luggage to Chicago and the passenger flies for free” the airlines would actually make more money based on the FedEx guidelines.”
Let's take it a step further. According to industry analysts, the average number of bags attributed per passenger is 2.5 including checked and carry-on pieces. Let’s say the average passenger weight is 180-pounds (CDC). Include a 50-pound checked bag and a ten-pound carry-on. We’re now at 240-pounds for transport from say Atlanta to Chicago. To send a 240-pound parcel via Fed Ex from Atlanta to Chicago for arrival by 10:30 a.m. next day is $607 (and that is a previous evening check-in by 8:00 p.m. – 14.5 hour point to point) and that my friends, is a no frill flight. No movies, no peanuts, no Cokes, no water. And that is just a one-way ticket. If you shipped yourself by Fed Ex and you wanted to come home the total nut would be $1214.
Checking Expedia, you can book a round trip ticket at least two weeks out for as low as $221 on Delta! I’m buying stock TODAY in Fed Ex. My brother, who is a captain for Fed Ex, swears the packages they transport never, NEVER complain. My other brother who is a captain for U.S. Air says that ticket should be about $700 just to break even - still a bargain compared to shipping yourself as a piece of luggage.
Although this is a simplistic comparison without the economic subtleties of two very different business models, it does demonstrate a huge gap in the price to move matter from point A to point B. All things being equal (which they aren’t) I would think it should cost way more to transport comfort-loving real passengers versus an innate box of matter. Is it any wonder airlines are losing so much money? The manpower it takes to coddle the flying public must be enormous - feed them, entertain them, make them safe and comfortable - and deliver it all at a rock bottom, unprofitable price.
I for one am not opening my mouth about checked baggage charges and I'm going to gratefully eat my pretzels, and if necessary even pay for them (or bring my own).