May 4, 2014 | Kendall Creighton JetBlues Tuesday, April 29, 2014 Times, they are a-changin. The days of free checked bags may be over. Reuters JetBlue is considering charging for first checked bags next year, leaving Southwest as possibly the only U.S. airline not charging for first and second checked bags. Last week, in a first quarter earnings call, JetBlue’s new president, Robin Hayes, discussed a dramatic change in JetBlue’s bag-fee policies. Hayes said that charging for a first checked bag could come in the context of offering various fare bundles, and giving passengers more “choice”. JetBlue said it plans to use its partnership with software maker Datalex to power its new ancillary pricing scheme, and allow passengers “more choice and expand self-service capabilities”. JetBlue sees dollar signs here. David Goldman / AP This move would take a large chunk out of JetBlue’s “customer-first” theme. The airline has a strong customer base and the two big things that attracted passengers were the extra legroom and first bag free. If the no-fee bag goes, then next could be its 32″ pitch. From JetBlue’s perspective, they’re leaving money on the table. A lot of it. Even a modest $10 or $20 bag fee would bring in a revenue windfall. The equivalent of a fare increase without the decline in demand that accompanies one. Southwest’s CEO, Gary Kelly, has hinted they too are looking at different ways to raise revenue. Will Southwest cave in on bag fees? They’ve fought the good fight, but once they are the last man standing, it will be hard not to follow. By 2014/15 you may see Southwest charging for checked bags. The next question is how much? By some estimates, Southwest is losing out on more than $700 million. That’s too much to overlook. This is all disappointing, but hardly surprising. As FlyersRights has been writing about for years, the majors are making money hand over fist on baggage fees. JetBlue can’t justify it to their shareholders anymore. There are plenty who are cheerleading this move -investors and Wall Street -because whatever makes the airlines more money is good. The consumer? Who cares. JetBlue is behaving like a major carrier now: First-class section, more ancillary revenue, and (gasp!), a pilots’ union. The airlines are all making money now due to the benefits of consolidation, increased revenue from fees, generally improving economic circumstances, and increased fares. It’s all working fairly well right now, but the increased cost of flying can mean people will fly less. Businesses tend to increase revenues to find the tipping point, and once the tip happens, it can turn pretty cut-throat pretty quickly. Time will tell. Boy Causes Rethink Of Airport Security As Stowaway on Hawaii Flight Wheel Well Jumping a deteriorating airport fence, running across the airport unobserved and climbing up the wheel of a parked Boeing 767, as a California teenager did last week, is not all that difficult. The boy then survived a 5 1/2 flight over the Pacific in the jet’s wheel well. His success slipping past layers of security at San Jose International Airport made it clear that a determined person can still get into a supposedly safe area, spend seven hours undetected then sneak onto a plane, according to an official briefed on the investigation. Airport officials said they were reviewing how someone could slip through security that includes video surveillance, German shepherds and Segway-riding police officers. The boy was knocked out most of the flight and regained consciousness an hour after the plane landed in Hawaii, FBI spokesman Tom Simon said. Isaac Yeffet, a former head of security for El Al told the Associated Press the breach shows that U.S. airport security still has weaknesses, despite billions of dollars invested. “Shame on us for doing such a terrible job,” he said. “Perimeters are not well protected. We see it again and again.” U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., who serves on the Homeland Security committee, said on Twitter that the incident demonstrates vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. Letters * In Response to last week’s newsletter, “SPIRITLESS“: Dear FlyersRights: The “passenger” is what is known in OTHER businesses as a “paying customer,” NOT “freight.” Airlines used to acknowledge that, now they think they are simply flying UPS planes full of packages, not people. They are hauling freight, not transporting customers. It is nice to be a customer; it is horrible to be freight. Guess what? I now drive wherever I want to go, even if it is a two-day trip. We are taking a family trip to Europe in Sept., and some of us are even thinking of taking the Queen Mary II. A liner transports passengers and it is not a freighter. A plane is a flying freighter. -P.L.S. As much as I agree with most of what you wrote, I have to tell you that SPIRIT is a no frills airline, charges for everything, ala carte (as it says), etc. etc. Passengers expect more than that but guess what; you get what you pay for. I fly United as a legacy traveler, thank goodness, or else UNITED would be just as bad for everything as well. The only difference is that the small plastic glass of water you get in coach is free! Not only United, but when I had to fly AMERICAN, I was treated like a third class person because I was NOT a legacy traveler. Sorry, I do NOT agree with your analogy on this. Southwest gets away with it because they fly to off brand airports for the most part. -A.M. Southwest now flys to New York City, Washington, Chicago, Las Vegas, Houston and nearly all major cities. US Airlines carry fewer passengers, and by some measures, fewer passengers than in 2000. Poor service, higher airfares, and security hassles have caused millions of American travelers to turn to corporate jet services, cars with smart phones, and video conference calls. Paul Hudson President FlyersRights.org Why are people still carrying these airlines’ credit cards in hopes of accumulating enough miles to get a “free” flight knowing the airlines can and will take these miles away from them before they have a chance to use them? It would get the airlines’ attention if people would stop using them. -T.W. More money from fewer passengers could be a dead-end biz model for both airlines and passengers if current trends continue. Paul Hudson President Flyersrights.org Good morning! Just got my Tuesday epistle from FlyersRrights; and as always very informative and disturbing at the same time. You need to add one more airline to the list of terrible airlines that being – EasyJet – the low cost (sic) ally to Spirit, Jet Blue, etc.! My wife and I were in the UK in 2012 as volunteers for the USOC at the 2012 Olympics. We had planned a side trip to Scotland following the Olympics and were recommended to use EasyJet out of Luton airport. We had quite a bit of luggage, and planned to store most of it at Luton airport and just take carry-ons, but discovered the storage of two (2) bags at Luton cost US$60.00 each! I booked the flight and was told about all fees – but not quite. They count a purse and a briefcase as one piece of luggage, which is all you are allowed. We’d packed one (1) real carry-on bag, plus my briefcase and my wife’s purse, thinking we had observed there rules – wrong! We were then charged US$162.00 for our “carry-ons”. When boarding, we observed several people with more than one carry-on and lots of “duty free”! Curious, I asked my seatmate how they managed this and they said, “All you need to do is purchase some small duty free item, ask for a huge bag and then put your purse, etc. in the large bag and avoid the luggage charge”. I pursued this and as it turns out EasyJet has an “arrangement” with the duty free shops at Luton airport. Returning from Scotland, we further consolidated our luggage, stupidly didn’t purchase any duty free, but were told that on Fridays you could only have one bag per confirmation number! (We were both booked on the same confirmation number). We argued to no avail with the EasyJet employee, whom I will call “Dorothy Doright” (fearing what I would really call her would not be suitable for a family publication), and paid the US$82.00 for the other bag. Upon arriving into Luton airport, our checked US$82.00 bag did not arrive. As it turns out, whenever you argue with any EasyJet employee, you are punished. In fact, “Dorothy” was at the departure gate and made sure we were last in line boarding, but I digress! In this case, they (“Dorothy”) saw to it that our bag was not put on our flight, but rather held it in Aberdeen. One EasyJet employee in Luton confided, “Yes, this happens quite frequently.” I gave him the employee’s name to which he replied, “We’ve had some problems with her, but no one will do anything about it”. He further gave me his cell and actually checked with me. When we last talked, he said, “This is the last straw, I’m going to find another job, these people are bloody dreadful to work for!” After dozens of phone calls, conversations with various people trying to solve this problem, I was forced to take a taxi from our hotel to Heathrow (a cost of US$28.00 x 2); ask 7 people at BA how to retrieve the bag, waisted over 3 hrs, managed to finally get the bag and returned to the hotel. So, if we’d just taken the BA flight option to Scotland at US$287 +/- out of Heathrow, it would’ve beaten the “cheap” (sic) EasyJet flight out of Luton. Lessons learned: “there are no free lunches” and “if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is”. Certainly true in the matter of cheap airlines. They are ALL scams, rip-offs, swindles, and tricks! I hope you print this! Regards, -M.H. P.S. I did contact the British Air Authority, But because I was not a British citizen they would not do anything, not even take my complaint. Of course, EasyJet did nothing for me whatsoever!!! You guys are the best!! Keep up the good work. * In response to “Breaking New Ground“: CONGRATULATIONS -J.R. I understand why you would want to have an office in DC for the convenience of being close enough to lobby frequently in person, but I will not increase my donation to assist you. I do not donate to organizations with DC addresses, because over the years I have observed that those organizations in DC or who moved to DC were subtly influenced by the DC culture and wound up being co-opted by Beltway Fever in ways that led them to make decisions that they would never have made in the real world (anywhere outside the Beltway.) I have lived in DC and have personal contacts with people in other organizations, so I know how Beltway Fever affects people, narrowing their scope. Notably, the NAACP has maintained its independent core by having their HQ in Baltimore. On another note, has anyone in Congress sponsored the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights 2.0 yet? Thanks again for all you do! -M.A.F.S. Dear concerned FlyersRights member: Thank you for the Beltway Fever warning. Yet for many years FlyersRights has had a limited office set-up at the Center for Study of Responsive Law in Washington, which consists of a small, shared workspace. Your concerns, however, are noted and appreciated. Re. the sponsors of the “Transparent Airfares Act”, they are: Bill Shuster Chairman Transportation and Infrastructure Committee 2209 Rayburn HOB Washington, D.C. 20515 202.225.2431 Peter DeFazio Member Transportation and Infrastructure Committee 2134 Rayburn Office Building Washington, DC 20515 phone: 202-225-6416 —————————————————————– FlyersRights depends on tax-deductible contributions from those who share our commitment to airline passenger rights. Thank you. or FlyersRights 4411 Bee Ridge Road Sarasota, FL 34233 Kate Hanni, founder emeritus of FlyersRights with Paul Hudson, president We value your thoughts and opinions! Please send to Kendallc@FlyersRights.org.