Friday, May 07, 2010

Congress' Grubby Hands on Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines CEO defends carry-on fee in DOT meeting
Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza met with officials from the Transportation Department on Thursday in an effort to defuse concerns over Spirit's planned fee for carry-on bags. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said after the meeting that he was "frank" in telling Baldanza that he disagreed with the fee, but he stressed that his main concern was full disclosure for passengers. "Mr. Baldanza and I had a productive discussion this morning, and I'm pleased that Spirit will make sure the new fee is well-advertised to consumers," LaHood said. Chicago Tribune/The Associated Press (5/6)

So here’s an airline in a free-market economy trying to save costs. It decides to charge for carry-on baggage. This could be the start of a trend. How many people will try to carry on larger pieces to avoid the baggage fees for regular luggage?

Anyway, perhaps Spirit is trying to emulate Ireland’s Ryanair. Ryanair seeks to cut costs to the bone. You can fly for $10 or less (someone showed me a page with free airfares on Ryanair posted). The catch is you travel without luggage. If you take luggage, that adds up as you are charged per pound over a certain weight. But a friend of mine has often spend €10 to take a flight to Italy and sit on the beach for the day, then fly back to England. Jolly good time, he would say.

Given the low cost of clothing at Wal*Mart, why not use the Ryanair model? Fly anywhere in the United States for $25 even, but a fresh outfit at Wal*Mart, then donate to Goodwill to avoid any baggage fees on the return flight. Don’t forget to get a receipt from Goodwill for tax purposes.

In the end tell Congress to get out of telling airlines what they can or cannot do.

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