Why We Hate the Airlines

A great fare.  Nonstop flights.  Convenient times.  What’s not to love about that.

So there you are, flying from Dallas to Los Angeles on American Airlines.  You feel good at having paid $151 roundtrip for your ticket on American Airlines (this is a common fare we found today when searching a range of dates).

And then, you check a suitcase.  You know it costs a lot per bag, so you squashed everything into one big heavy bag.  The suitcase cost is $30 each way, ie another $60 roundtrip.  Could be worse, you tell yourself.

But, wait.  You read a bit further into the fine print of American’s baggage policy and you discover that you also have to pay a heavy bag fee ($200 each way for your 75lb suitcase) and you also have to pay a large bag fee because it is a big suitcase (another $200 each way).

Add that all up, if you dare, and now you are paying $151 for your ticket and an extra $860 for your suitcase.  You weigh three times what your suitcase weighs, you get to sit in a seat, earn frequent flier miles, and maybe get a free drink of soda, your suitcase gets tossed in the hold.

On what strange planet does it make sense to charge $860 to fly a suitcase between Dallas and Los Angeles and back, but only $151 to fly a passenger?  (AA’s baggage fees can be seen on this page.)

You then decide to spend the big bucks to buy a first class seat on the flights, because perhaps what you’ll spend on the flights is made up with a reduction in baggage fees.  Sorry, your $860 fee drops by a mere $60, to $800, while your ticket price increases to perhaps $839.  Not a winning strategy at all.

So you ask American Airlines if you can buy a second seat for your suitcase, give it its own frequent flier number, and take it on board with you?  They say “no”.  You also ask them why it is six times more expensive for a smaller lighter bag to fly in the hold than a passenger to fly in the cabin, at which point you get mysteriously disconnected from the call.

You mightn’t think it possible, but the $860 increases to $880 for a second bag, $1100 for a third bag, and $1200 for a fourth and subsequent bags.  If you needed three bags, you’d save money by paying for a friend to travel with you and check the third bag on their ticket.  Yes, two people can travel with three bags between them more cheaply than one person can.

All of this is why we hate the airlines.  Heart-stopping greed.

Oh, lastly, you read through the rules one more time and realize it is considerably cheaper to travel with two slightly smaller suitcases, that between them take up more space than one suitcase, and which can now carry up to 100lbs in them.  But you don’t understand why two suitcases, weighing more and taking up more space, are so much less expensive than one large suitcase that weighs less.

This too is why we hate the airlines.  Not just heart-stopping greed, but greed that has no pretense at being based on any notion of fairness or common sense at all.

You want some more reasons?

Well, what say that instead of booking a ticket for yourself, you booked it for your (grand)child.  Now you’re looking at $151 plus $300 unaccompanied minor fee.  Yes, it costs three times as much for a child to travel as an adult.  We’re not quite sure what that pays for – you also have to provide a gate escort for your child to take them all the way to the gate for departure, and to meet them at the gate upon arrival, and AA hastens to warn :

Keep in mind, our their flight attendants will be busy with onboard duties and can’t continuously monitor your child during their flight.  Let your child know to ring the call button if they need anything.

Well, what say you decide to bring a pet with you as well?  If you’re allowed to have it in the cabin with you, you’ve just spent $250 extra.  Again – your ticket, $151.  Your animal with you, taking up no extra space and not getting frequent flier miles – $250.

And if the animal must be in the hold, the fee goes up to $400.

ps :  There are luggage shipping services that will pick up your bag and deliver it to you at the other end, plus of course, regular UPS/Fedex type service as well.  Out of interest, I costed out a 75lb bag sent via Lugless, (not necessarily the best or cheapest of such services, merely one I’m familiar with) including pickup and next day delivery each way.  It wasn’t cheap.  It was $420.  But, that $420, for door to door service – no need to deal with your bag at all, and including guaranteed delivery and $700 of insurance, plus tracking and phone based friendly support, is also less than half the American Airlines fee.

If third parties can do the entire from door to door service, and offer these extra services that an airline surely doesn’t, how is it that American needs to charge over twice as much while providing so much less?

Which brings us back to the heart-stopping greed thing.

17 thoughts on “Why We Hate the Airlines”

  1. I clicked on the baggage link, because I wanted to see what charges would be for a typical traveler, with a typical large suitcase. Link doesn’t work. So I googled AA Baggage, and none of the AA links worked. I guess AA doesn’t believe in fare transparency. Another reason airlines are despised.

    1. David Rowell – Seattle, WA, USA – New Zealander now living in the United States.

      Hi, Kari

      Sorry to hear of your troubles accessing the AA website. But to be fair to AA (to be fairer to them than they are to us!) the link on my site is currently working, at least here. Possibly there was some brief glitch in their webserving, but all should be good now.

  2. Very untypical. How many people on your tours have a 75 pound suitcase. I would hate to handle a 75 lb bag. Or use SWA and take 2 50 lb bags – no extra cost. I agree many things do not make sense, but they are unusual. Oh well, let them make the rules and live with them.

    1. David Rowell – Seattle, WA, USA – New Zealander now living in the United States.

      Hi, Mike

      In the article I do concede there are less expensive ways of carrying 75 lbs. But does that excuse the up-to-$1200 fee? What say you are quite literally traveling with “the kitchen sink” for whatever reason?

      And the fact that Southwest have two bags for free makes AA’s policy all the more extremely unfair. What say you’re traveling somewhere WN (Southwest) doesn’t fly? (Admittedly, that’s fewer and fewer places these days!)

      1. David Rowell – Seattle, WA, USA – New Zealander now living in the United States.

        Hi, Rick

        I have to struggle these days to keep it down to 50lbs, and in the good old days when you could take two or something even three bags for free, each weighing up to 70lbs, I’d sometimes get up towards the 70lb number, too. Plus I know a lot of people – traveling mechanic types – who fly with spare parts that are heavy/bulky, too.

        Mike C is true that not many leisure travelers go up to 75 lbs (although if he thinks carefully, he can probably think of a certain lady on a tour that he shared with me and her who traveled with a large suitcase full of water which must have weighed that much – perhaps he never had to carry her suitcase, whereas I sometimes did!) but for those of us who sometimes do, the rates are extreme and ridiculous.

  3. Hi, David,

    You might find that part of the reason for having an increase in the cost of handling a bag in excess of 50 pounds, and again in excess of 75 pounds, is the contract between the baggage handlers and the airlines. Before the weight limits were imposed, there were many baggage handlers every year taking tons of sick days and even early forced retirements because of back injuries. This cost the airlines a lot of money in Workers Compensation claims, retirement costs and other expenses. The extra cost for a bag over 50 pounds helps to offset the extra cost of the injury claims. The number of injuries has gone down because people are packing lighter, but they are still present today. I am sure that the amount collected is in excess of the amount paid out, knowing business practices as I do, but it helps to keep the ticket prices down.

    1. Robert, no business should factor in injuries as another cost. The sane thing for a business to do is to figure out how to prevent injuries, whether thru better equipment or baggage limits.

    2. David Rowell – Seattle, WA, USA – New Zealander now living in the United States.

      Hi, Bob

      I think you might find that the cost allocated to injuries is $1, and the other $199 is, ummm, profit.

      But even if there’s a justification for some or all of the excess weight charge, how about the $400 charge for “over size”? How about the $400 for an extra bag after you’ve already checked several at already escalating costs?

      Plus, look at my other examples of other airline fees too. $300 for unaccompanied minor – and that’s literally what it is. No-one accompanies the minor except the child’s parents/relatives to and from the gate, and AA specifically says “we’re too busy to look after them on the flight”. $250 for a “carry-on” animal or $400 for a checked animal?

      And don’t get me started on change fees where the cost to change a ticket is more than the original cost to buy it.

      1. You will get no argument from me, David. All the airline extra charges are overkill. However, I was trying to explain only one of them. If you need to pay either directly or through your insurance someone’s full pay for 30 or more years because of an on-the-job injury, it gets very expensive, even with Workers Comp covering much of it.

    1. David Rowell – Seattle, WA, USA – New Zealander now living in the United States.

      Hi, Mark

      Although the airlines sometimes allow you to book a second seat for an extremely valuable and delicate musical instrument, they’ve never allowed you to book a seat for your suitcase. They mutter something about safety, but what they really mean is that it would “look bad” and expose their ridiculous luggage charging policies, and also of course, reduce the amount of money they can steal from you in the process.

    1. David Rowell – Seattle, WA, USA – New Zealander now living in the United States.

      If you read the article, you’ll see I actually consider and cost this out in careful detail.

      And to answer your question, even the finest Fedex service can be a nuisance, depending on what you’re packing and why. Sometimes it is not easy to ship something off the day before.

      Besides which, your question is essentially trying to avoid the real question, which surely is “why do airlines charge twice what Fedex do”. And the airline doesn’t have to have a man in a truck come and pick up your bag, or a second man in a second truck deliver your bag.

      1. David, I think you sometimes think too logically. You have to think like an airline to make any sense of this. Think you are owned by shareholders of which you are one of the largest and this is how you get paid.

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