Surprise Fees at Takeoff
You’re days away from your long anticipated trip – bags packed, hotel room reserved, and flights booked. Trips like these are always a hassle financially, but this time you’ve really done your work on sites like Expedia and Kayak and you’re certain you’ve gotten the best deal yet. It’s not until you arrive at your chosen airline’s check-in counter that you realize your bargain hunting did not quite pan out the way you anticipated.
Suddenly, you are hit with fees for checked bags, that inflight Dixie cup of ginger ale, any food you might want during your lengthy trip, the wifi vital to check your emails, and even choose where you will sit! With all of these added fees, it makes sense that most people today associate airfare with high prices and exploitation.
Of course, not everyone requires these extras and many are happy to pack light enough for just a carry on while going without extra creature comforts. Still, many—particularly those traveling on business—require extras such as inflight wifi to keep up with their work lives. In the modern world, many such “luxuries” are better defined as “necessities”. Clearly, airlines are taking advantage of customers by holding such resources for ransom.
But, is that really a fair way to think of things?
Airfare is actually near the lowest its ever been, with decreases in oil prices dropping according to CNN. In fact, flying has become exponentially more affordable to the everyday American since its onset, though that has been associated with a drop in comfort from the “Golden Age” of flying of the 1960s. Likewise, market shares in the airline industry have become saturated with no frills, low-priced airlines such as Spirit or United. The average consumer compares prices from airline to airline, searching for the cheapest option on various sites such as Expedia and Kayak.
Airlines are aware of the modern consumer’s tendency to shop for the “best deal”—usually meaning the lowest ticket price they can possibly find. To accommodate this growing trend, these same airlines have stripped down their basic offerings to a base price that essentially comprises of a passenger’s seat and the related fuel price. What it does not include are the extras passengers generally expect or require—such as checked luggage or an inflight beverage. These fees are essential for the airlines to continue making a profit while still offering a low enough base price to attract potential passengers.
Perhaps airlines could sway the thinking of irritated customers by advertising their prices differently. Rather than offering a base price devoid of extras but full of hidden fees, they could offer packages that include all the frills a passenger could want—but then allow the consumer themselves to subtract the prices of services they do not wish to partake in. Not only do consumers love watching a price trickle downwards rather than upwards, they would also receive a greater rate of transparency and experience less surprises come takeoff.
Of course, despite the extra fees, flight costs are lower than ever and most airlines are not looking to exploit you! Rather, the majority are working to just make the profit they need to sustain their industry. It’s probably best to focus on the newfound affordability of air travel rather than nuisance of extra fees.