Can you handle the truth about shrinking airline seats and baggage fees?

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By | October 22nd, 2014

“I am so tired of consumer reporters complaining about the size of the seats on a plane,” an email from Nick Papamarcos, a 37-year United Airlines employee, said. “Even worse, reporters who should know better [than to] give the snarky response, saying no one has ever asked for those small seats.”

Papamarcos is one of several airline insiders who responded to my call for minimum seat standards. I don’t normally revisit a story for the sake of clearing up a few misconceptions, because if I did, I’d never have time to advocate for anyone.

But I’ll make an exception for this one. Why? Because the arguments presented by Papamarcos and others offer a glimpse behind the airline industry’s propaganda machine and the falsehoods it spreads.

So let’s get back to his problem with my story, which is that I said airline passengers never “asked” for smaller seats.

“Well, actually they have,” he claims. “Anyone who has watched the pricing for a seat in the past 30 years knows that when one airline raises the price of a ticket 10 bucks and the others stay the same, the one who raised the price will see an immediate and severe drop in sales. That’s called asking for a smaller seat.”

No, it’s not.


It is true that no one has ever said to me, “Chris, airline seats are too big. Why can’t we reduce the amount of legroom?” It is also true that everyone I know would like to fly free on their next vacation. That’s why loyalty programs are so popular — the same loyalty programs that account for a healthy part of United Airlines’ profits.

Related story:   Are airlines profiting at your expense?

Papamarcos and other airline apologists seem to be arguing that our silence on the issue of legroom means they’re right. By continuing to fly, aren’t we endorsing smaller seats?

Because you demanded lower fares, and because you continue to fly, you approve of the smaller seats.

Nonsense.

I would see it as more of a vindication of the airline position if actual travelers contacted me and said: “This is the way we wanted it. I am willing to give up essential seat comfort for a lower fare.” But the reaction to my story was just the opposite: there was a tidal wave of pent-up outrage from passengers who were tired of the mistreatment and being blamed for what happened.

But Papamarcos wasn’t done. Even though I had written my column about seats, he couldn’t help bringing up checked baggage fees, another source of United’s profits. He notes how tired he and his fellow employees are about customers “whining” about paying for bags.

“Fuel is the most expensive part of the cost of moving from one place to another,” he says. “Why should you, who travels light, pay for Ma and Pa Kettle who have four 50-pound bags. No thanks — I’ll pay for mine, you pay for yours.”

Again, there are several fallacies in logic and historical inaccuracies that make this kind of propaganda so dangerous and flawed.



  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I just got back from Vegas. So for grins and giggles, I priced LAX-LAS this Thursday using Travelocity

    Spirit $141
    Southwest 208
    Virgin 213
    Delta 214
    America 214
    US Airways 214

    Now, how does Spirit have a fare that’s 1/3 less everyone else? One of the ways is “bone-crushing” 28″ seat pitch. Passengers have a choice. They can choose the dirt cheap, miserable experience of Spirit or pay more for Southwest and get a better flying experience.

    I assume no one will argue that if we set a minimum seat pitch comfort of say 34″, Spirit’s $141 fare disappears as its predicated on a packed like sardines passenger load.

    So, at the end of the day, we are playing big brother and telling all the people who bought the $141 fare, we know better than you, and that you shouldn’t be allowed to make the choice to forego comfort to save money by being packed like sardines, because, we know best.

    That’s my big objection, plain and simple. And after having represented many poor people in bankruptcy proceedings during the Great Recession, including one couple with five kids being kicked out of their apartment after the husband lost his job, I’m not inclined to tell people they can’t choose to save money where they can, especially if it doesn’t involve health and safety.

  • Bill___A

    I guess we should have regulated minimum seat sizes since there seems to be no common sense on this issue.
    If there were no regulations, they could cut all sorts of things and claim it is because passengers “demand” lower fares. For example, if there weren’t safety regulations, one could cut the maintenance and say that passengers were willing to accept reduced safety to get lower fares.

    There are regulations to ensure that animals are transported in a humane manner, the same should apply to humans.

  • LFH0

    Perhaps the fare matrix provided by Travelocity et al. should include a column for seat pitch, and allow consumers to make an intelligent decision?

  • John Baker

    I can handle the truth … But can you?

    I agree wholeheartedly with Papamarcos and I don’t work for an airline.

    Interestingly he came at you with facts and market theory but you reply with opinion and conjecture.

    Businesses respond to the stated and unstated needs of their customers. That’s how they improve their product to appeal to their market. In the case of airlines, as a collective while we voted with out wallets that base fares were more important than anything else. We simply don’t shop for airline tickets on any other than a combination of convenience and price. Beyond that it’s a commodity. So the airlines have responded with low base fares.

    Who are you, or anyone else, to tell the RyanAir or Spirit customer they’re wrong for valuing cost above all else?

    As a final aside, you argue that the implementation of baggage fees didn’t come with a drop in fare but whose to say that it didn’t replace a fare hike? If we all cared that much, it wouldn’t have worked but it has.

  • Jim

    My major problem with the baggage argument is the weight issue. You are charged the same amount if you bag is 3 pounds or 50 pounds (or on Spirit 40 is the max), so if this really was about the actual weight and fuel cost, and not a money grab, the airlines would charge by the pound for the bags.

    Hell, why not charge for everything by the pound, including the passengers!!!??? Wait, I can see people arriving at the airport scantly clothed, who should not be, to save weight for the mandatory weigh in…

  • Jim

    Damn Carver, on the east cost we can’t find one way fares to Vegas that cheap!

  • PsyGuy

    You just cant have your cake an eat it too. This is the same phenomenon of freedom of speech around election time. Why do we really only have 2 parties? Everyone has the right to say i believe this and I want this guy, but everyone knows that money “talks” (and BS walks), and thats not just a metaphor it really does talk. The ability to spend millions on advertising and campaigning means that only those candidates with the bank roll really get to talk. This is the same thing, we all want bigger seats, no one wants smaller seats, but we also speak with our wallets, and companies listen to the money speech, when we choose a cheaper airline that gives inferior product and service but at lower cost thats speech, and its very powerful and persuasive speech.

    The baggage issue ignores the condition that when luggage was unbundled and fairs didn’t go down, the alternative reality would have been that without unbundling fares would have gone up. Unbundling saved us the cost increase. We could fix the whole problem though just add $50 to ever ones airline ticket which means MY fare since I don’t check luggage now is more expensive so that YOU and the homebodies can bring their “stuff”, no thank you. You pay for yours, and I’ll pay for mine.

  • PsyGuy

    Ill take spirit of the animal hold in a pet carrier any day. I like going to the bathroom, even if it is a hole full of blue water, than in the place I’m sitting. Go watch CONAIR. How would you REALLY feel. If your air travel experience involved being chained to a seat, and then someone came along with a little bowel of pretzels and a bottle of water and that was it. No lavatory, go in your seat. Nothing else, no laptop or Ipad to get out and watch a movie, no book, no magazine, no in flight entertainment, no meal, No FA to ask about anything (they don’t have them in the animal hold).

    You don’t want that.

  • PsyGuy

    While weight is the main issue, slightly less but still very important is volume. It’s not just a cost of how much fuel produces X amount of thrust to lift this weight, its putting a fuselage around it with all the necessary avionics, etc to produce the effect of flight in a controlled route from origination to destination. The correlative issue to this is incremental cost. Flying a 757 with one passenger who, while very light and almost of negligible weight, still has to “move” the entire plane, avionics, crew, etc.

  • PsyGuy

    I agree, one school of thought is that saying you want cheap fairs is NOT the same as saying you want small seats, and the other school of thought believes it is. Those two groups have very fundamental differences, that aren’t going to be resolved since they essentially disagree on definitions of terms, and the term they disagree on is the the “unit of resolution”, or the point of being able to “resolve” two observable phenomenon as “different and distinct”. That’s the problem, so yes wanting cheap fares and not wanting small seats are different, but the distinction is not significant, so what? You cant get something for nothing, decking out an A320 with 12 seats, means you have to pay a heck of a lot for one of those seats, and that cost scales, want to pay less, you need more seats. We all want more pitch but then we don’t want the person in front of us putting their seat down into our laptop.

  • Bill___A

    I meant that there should be regulations, not that they should be the same regulations. The point was that there are regulations for the carriage of animals.

  • PsyGuy

    There are regulations for the transport of human beings, and I’m sure either in abstract or to point there is something about the limits of what is defined as a seat, and how many you can put on a plane, and how many FA’s, first aid, etc you need for a certain threshold of seating. Those are regulations too.

  • $16635417

    The difference in Spirit’s fare illustrates what happens when you do get a minimum seat requirement and the choices it offers a consumer. The FAA DOES have a minimum seat standard for safety reasons and Spirit meets that. (Maximum number of seats allowed by law in an almost exclusive coach configuration, gives you the 28 inch pitch.)

  • Sam Varshavchik

    Be my guest, and keep holding your breath waiting for government to intervene. Not going to happen.

    The only way things are going to change is when people start voting with their wallets.

    This is simple logic. The driving goal here, as in any other business, is profits. Therefore, if you want a business to change their way, the only way it’s going to happen is to make it so that keeping their business practices will cost them more money, than it would be to change them.

    I suppose one could take the angle that this runs somewhere along the lines of minimum health and safety standards. Well, good luck with that.

  • $16635417

    Most airlines I fly offer the choice of selecting an economy class seat with additional legroom (for an additional fee). Advocating for ALL seats to meet that standard would reduce capacity and increase fares. It could possibly drive the two most profitable airlines (Spirit and Allegiant) out of business, meaning even less competition and even higher fares on some routes.

  • PsyGuy

    Its a nice idea, but this isn’t a box of cereal at a grocery store we’re buying or getting an oil change. There are what 2 major airlines basically, and a handful of regionals.

  • $16635417

    You mean let the consumer do due diligence and make an informed decision on their own? ;)

  • $16635417

    I was just asked to check a fare for Boston-Chicago for next week. (Anecdotal example, but on topic)

    Spirit $48
    United $151
    American $151
    Jetblue $151
    Southwest $151

    $48! Yes….$48!!! What Chris is advocating for would effectively eliminate Spirit as an option. Even more interesting, while the $48 is tempting to her, the person wants either Jetblue or Southwest, depending on her schedule. The market at work, paying more for a more comfortable experience. (And she’s paying for her own ticket, no expense account dynamics here!)

  • Sam Varshavchik

    So? Although there’s probably more options for me in NYC, I did not seem to experience much difficulty voting with my wallet, when I got fed up on this exact topic some time ago; and make alternative arrangements going forward. I’m now getting hysterical snail mail from united about my miles expiring.

    Vote with your wallets. Nothing will change, otherwise.

  • Greg Paul

    I am sure, with all the recent headlines about the lowest fuel prices in many years, that the benevolent airline industry – always first to jump on a chance to do the right thing for the traveling public – will lower baggage fees across the board as one of their main cost drivers – fuel- is severely reduced in price.

    Shucks, by the end of this year, I’ll bet these baggage fees will disappear entirely as the completely open and transparent nature of the free market system for airline ticket pricing works its inevitable magic and responds in the manner some commenters describe, and we all “ask for smaller seat pitches”.

    Of course one COULD say that one airline could simply CHOOSE to buck the trend to offer a slightly better product (better seat pitch, decent but not rock-bottom prices, lower to mid-pack baggage fees). Oh wait, that’s JetBlue…nevermind.

  • TonyA_says

    Other than compare fares, what else did you do in Vegas? :)

  • sirwired

    It doesn’t really matter what passengers SAY they’ll pay for. What matters is what they will actually purchase (or not.)

    Passengers TOLD American Airlines they preferred more room in coach. When American obliged (and heavily advertised the program so everybody knew about it), American was utterly unable to charge more money for the tickets.

    That’s a lot more effective (and truthful!) source of information than surveys or angry letters to/from reporters.

  • TonyA_says

    That Baldanza guy must be underpaid.

  • sirwired

    Two major airlines? I think you need a new set of fingers… United, American, Delta, (and if you are flying domestically, Southwest is the largest provider of domestic service in the US.)

  • TonyA_says

    If the 50 seater regionals are not economical at 31″ pitch, how can they be at 34″ pitch? Small USA airports will be left to serve private jets as commercial flights for the hoi polloi will be unaffordable. No one can afford to fly to Memphis to visit Graceland.

  • TonyA_says

    They already make intelligent decisions. Cheap buses first, Spirit next, and the rest for paying bills. Most Americans are broke and the size and pitch of the seats do not really matter compared to price.

  • $16635417

    ..and depending on the market/route, Jetblue, Spirit and Allegiant are major players as well.

  • TonyA_says

    AA/US, DL, UA, WN, B6, AS, NK, HA, F9, G4, VX, SY
    The first four are definitely major.
    Please think before you write. Thank you.

  • FQTVLR

    Unfortunately there does seem to be a correlation between ticket cost and lack of space. Consumers have voted with their wallets numerous times and have often patronized one air carrier over another to take advantage of cheaper tickets. In order to make money the carriers need more passengers. Fewer seats mean higher ticket prices. Most consumers seem to care more for price than they do for room. Many of us have chosen one carrier over another simply because of ticket price.

    As to luggage fees, I still think one bag should be included in the ticket price. I do not pay bag fees on one airline because of my status and an airline affiliated credit card but I do pay them when I travel on another carrier periodically.
    The “I pay for me and you pay for you” line is a ridiculous statement as many carriers do not enforce their own carry on baggage rules especially in regards to weight. Travelers cram as much as possible into those bags and look like weight lifters trying to get them into the overhead storage space. My checked luggage often does not weigh more than 25 pounds yet I see people putting what appears to be much heavier luggage into the overhead bins. That “i am not paying for you ” line is simply tired and wrong. It is only applicable if the airline actually enforces size and weight limits on carry on bags.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    @Christopher Elliott – the FAA already regulates that an airplane must be configured in such a way that it can be evacuated in 90 seconds. If you are proposing regulations for greater seat pitch, you’re going to have to come up with a safety reason to do so. I haven’t seen anything along those lines in your articles. I see comments here (or at least pre-BoardingArea hosting) from people about DVT, but *nothing* from a journalist about documented cases of DVT or other maladies occurring because of cramped seating.

    People complain about the crowded seating at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska. The stadium has been sold out for something like 330 Husker games in a row. If there’s a compelling reason to be squished into a seat, people do pay for the experience. They may gripe, but they still do it.

    Come up with some actual facts about safety vs. perceived comfort (or discomfort) and I think you’ll make a more compelling case to trump basic Economics.

  • The health issue is a separate discussion. We’re trying to determine if passengers “asked” for luggage fees and tighter seats. They did not.

    I want to be clear about BoardingArea. They are selling display ads on my site – they are not hosting my site. They exercise zero editorial control over the content or comments.

  • Alan Gore

    Note that Papamarcos cited seat size, not pitch. That steadily shrinking pitch is what has passengers fighting each other over recline etiquette. He also didn’t mention the number of times we encounter a Regionaljet, with its really tiny seats and narrow pitch, on a mainline leg.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    The folks at Memorial Stadium did not “ask” for tighter seating but they still keep buying tickets to the games. Same thing.

    Since we’re playing with semantics this morning, how many of your readers/correspondents have said that they *will* pay more per ticket to include luggage fees and greater seat pitch? I seem to recall a few articles where folks have griped about having to pay extra for Economy Plus to get the seating configuration that they wanted. That tells me that there is limited demand on the part of your correspondents to actually pay extra for such amenities.

  • PsyGuy

    Finally, a part of that argument I can agree with it, i VERY much support and favor rigid enforcement of the baggage size and weight restrictions.

  • MarkKelling

    When you add the cost for just a carry on to the Spirit price (anywhere from $35 to $100 each way) the price difference shrinks. Also, if you want even just a cup of water on Spirit you have to pay more for it. So, yeah, the base price looks good.

  • MarkKelling

    Always amazes me that the big airlines always seem to have exactly the same available ticket price between any two points they all fly.

  • MarkKelling

    Flew once in Florida where they weighed everything including the passengers (small Cessna plane with about 8 seats). One woman cried and refused to get on the scale. She didn’t get to fly.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    This is what it looks like on my computer this morning. Perhaps you can excuse my confusion about BoardingArea hosting your site?

  • $16635417

    I routinely look at the seat map on my flights. It’s very common to see empty seats in Economy Plus, but regular economy shows all seats assigned. People have the option of paying more (which they would be doing if the minimum seat pitch standard was increased), but choose not to. Buy choosing one option over the other, you ARE saying what you want.

    I can have a 31 inch seat pitch for a 3 hour flight, or pay $50 more and get 35 inches. Whatever choice I select sends the message of what I prefer. If there were a surge in people paying the premium for extra legroom, the airline would see it as an opportunity. Short term – raise the charge. Long term – configure the aircraft with more legroom and charge accordingly.

  • MarkKelling

    Please donate your United miles to one of the charities they allow you to if you are not going to use them. Then someone will get some benefit from them if you are no longer going to use them (and it costs UA some money too ;-)).

  • I am happy to clarify. I am not hosted by BoardingArea. Thank you.

  • naoma

    I am a slim 98 pound or so woman and will keep every inch of the seat I have been assigned. And, no, I will not lift the seat arm rest to give an overweight person more room to spill over on me! I take pride in my slim body and cannot help you — except tell you to be careful what you eat.
    Then the fight attendant comes around and this person will take everything that the airline has to offer.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I agree with your conclusion. I would throw out there that it sure looks to me as if the airlines shut down the ability to see or reserve open Economy seats at some point in the ticketing process and that only Economy Plus show up at that point. CE had an article about that, maybe a year ago?, how to play “chicken” with the airlines and get that cheaper seat.

    I always select the E+ seat for my husband, but resent it when carriers like United require that all passengers on the same PNR have to pay for E+ on all legs, including the regional jets.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Hey, where’s the screenshot I so carefully posted?

  • Richard Smith

    That’s the hardest part of the ticket comparison sites, particularly for less experienced travelers. They list base fares on the comparison, and not the extras.

    If the comparison sites allowed (required?) one to completely fill in things like “2 checked bags, 1 carry on, 1 meal, aisle seat preferred” and then showed the full cost — then those comparisons would be reasonable.

  • I don’t think we are playing with semantics. But we will have to agree to disagree on this issue.

    I believe passengers should receive a quality product at a fair price. Airlines are offering half a product at an often (but not always) fair price.

    The majority of the votes agree with me this morning; the majority of the commenters don’t.

    The airline position is that because passengers asked for a low price, they also were asking for a stripped-down product. That’s false logic. In fact, they know that their passengers want to pay nothing for their seats and fly in first class.

    But they’re unlikely to meet that demand.

    You have to choose: Do you see this the airline way or the advocate way? If you see it my way, we can fight this with sensible government regulation and public pressure. If you see this the airline way, then prepare yourself for more fees, 25 inch seat pitch and even more misery.

    I would say the choice is yours, but who am I kidding? The choice has already been made by apathetic passengers, negligent regulators and legislators who were paid off by the airline industry.

  • Common sense

    What passengers say they want and what they indicate by actions that they want are two separate concepts. Actions very clearly indicate that passengers want cheap, cheap, cheap fares. They’ll moan about seat pitch but far fewer will move from Spirit/Ryanair/whatever and pay an extra hundred bucks each way for their journey.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I’ve flown in small planes before where they weighed both me and the baggage. Alaska, Hawaii and also a small commuter plane out of Seattle.

  • I didn’t see it. But look up and you will see the BA header. (For the record, I don’t like it either and have asked them to replace it with a less intrusive footer.)

  • $16635417

    …and the person who asked me knows that. That (in part) played into her decision rule them out and focus on Jetblue or Southwest. An informed consumer with the ability to make a choice of what’s best for her.

  • MarkKelling

    No of course passengers did not “ask” for any fees or for the seating on planes to get tighter.

    They picked the lowest available ticket prices when booking their flights. In order for airlines to be able to continue to advertise the rock bottom lowest prices they went with a fee structure or more seats on the planes or a combination of both. People continue to buy those lowest available ticket prices. Airlines will continue to look for ways to add fees or seats.

    Since the majority of flyers are the infrequent vacation travelers who don’t remember from year to year how miserable the leg room was on Spirit they will choose Spirit next year as well. After all, who wants to spend $400 to fly from Chicago to their vacation spot when Spirit only charges $100?

  • LadySiren

    So uh, Chris? Why haven’t you started stumping for a seat in Congress yet? Yeah, yeah, I know…you get enough hate mail as it is. Just a thought, though.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    You know that I respect you and support your work. But you’re not going to get “sensible government regulation” unless you bring up something about safety which is why I thought maybe someone should explore that angle. Consumer Reports does one heck of a job pointing out flaws in current tests for safety on different products. Perhaps that’s an angle for you to explore – that seat pitches of less than xx” cannot reasonably allow for evacuation of an aircraft in 90 seconds and that the current tests are flawed.

    Public pressure isn’t going to work, regardless of your poll numbers, precisely because of your last paragraph above. We have apathetic passengers, just like we have apathetic voters who keep voting in the same legislators who maintain the status quo.

  • ShrimpBoy

    “We’re trying to determine if passengers “asked” for luggage fees and tighter seats. They did not.”

    Of course they did. Where do they think the lower fares are coming from, the generosity of the shareholders or board? If you speed down the road and get a ticket, you didn’t ask for that ticket specifically but it’s the same thing. If you keep eating junk you didn’t ask for diabetes but it’s the same thing. If the public keeps voting with their dollars for lower and lower fares they get cuts like baggage fees, food charges, and less room. They didn’t specifically ask for it, but it’s the same thing.

    Your attack of the United employee as a shill ignored his argument. That’s weak.

  • $16635417

    I’m seeing the screenshot.

  • MarkKelling

    I have ruled out Spirit for many reasons.

    Never flew Jetblue because they don’t fly from where I am to where I usually go (yet).

    Used to fly Southwest all the time, but am not so happy with their seats any more since they added a row or two to most their planes.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    And complaining to Christopher Elliott is free. Yep, I said it.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    And they’re getting cranky about letting you out of the plane to stretch your legs when the plane stops and before new passengers get on.

  • MarkKelling

    I see it now after reloading the page. Just takes a while for attachments to show up.

  • Kerr

    LAX-LAS is a short flight!

  • Fishplate

    In fact, they know that their passengers want to pay nothing for their seats and fly in first class.

    Of course. But the prospective passengers know they won’t get that. But everyone who has flown more than once in the last five years knows the state of airline seating, and chooses to accept it anyway.

    If you want to change that, you need to amend existing regulations, not overlay yet another set.

  • Ward Chartier

    Waiting for the day there are straps on the ceiling for standing passengers to hold. Plenty of legroom if you are standing. The airline folks could say, “You asked for more leg room. You got it!”. Someday some bright spark will figure out that smaller passengers could ride in the overhead bins.

  • TonyA_says

    *** CORRECTION ***
    With Firefox and Adblock and NoScript I completely forgot you moved to Boarding Area. With Chrome, I see a Boarding Area banner on top.
    Guess which browser I’ll keep on using? :)

    If you all want to ignore or not see the Boarding Area Banner, install NoScript and do not allow Boarding Area scripts to run.

  • TonyA_says

    Was that Fedex? Just kidding.

  • $16635417

    Even at $48 someone doesn’t want it. Still overpriced?

  • Michael__K

    Who are you, or anyone else, to tell the RyanAir or Spirit customer they’re wrong for valuing cost above all else?

    Who are you or anyone else to proclaim that Spirit’s customers actually receive the cost savings they expected?

    Why does the DOT receive complaints about Spirit more than 3x as often as any other airline?

    Even Spirit’s own spokewoman admits it’s because of “customers not fully understanding” their unbundled fees.

    http://articles.sun-sentinel.Com/2014-04-15/business/fl-worlds-profitable-airlines-20140415_1_copa-airlines-spirit-spokeswoman-jetblue-airways

  • Even if Spirit were free, I’d pick someone else….

  • $16635417

    Uh-oh! There’s that “F” word! ;)

  • Michael__K

    Actually, what your example illustrates is that Spirit charges $211 — right inline with all the other carriers — for anyone with a carry-on bag. And that’s the best case, if you follow all the disclosures and pay the bag fee online.

    So you get the bone-crushing seat pitch, you get bottom-of-the-barrel customer service, you get to pay extra for a cup of water — and you ultimately don’t even save money over what the other airlines that treat you (slightly) better charge.

    But they prey on people who don’t take the time to read all the fine print and do the math into thinking that they will save a bundle.

  • Hanope

    I agree that if the airlines are going to claim we choose lower fares and thus have to suffer with smaller seats, they need to advertise better what their pitch and seat sizes are. The problem is that at the time you buy the seat, say 6 months out, the airline “thinks” its going to run plane 1, but then a month before your flight, the airline switches it to plane 2, which has a smaller pitch. The airlines don’t let you know these things. What are you supposed to do then?

  • TonyA_says

    Like this below (pic).

  • $16635417

    Thanks! I forgot about a few carriers that are route/market specific major players! I only used B6, NK and G4 in my example! (Interesting, when I typed “G4”, I inadvertently held the shift key down when I hit the “4”…which gave me a “$”. Maybe the very profitable Allegiant SHOULD have a dollar sign in their code!)

  • Michael__K

    We don’t have informed consumers because the information is not prominently displayed at the point of purchase and most people don’t click through to read all the fine print.

    If you sign a loan agreement, all the crucial information must be prominently displayed in a standardized format.

    If you buy an airline ticket the crucial information to evaluating real costs can be buried and nothing about the disclosures is standardized.

  • TonyA_says

    The have a few more days to fill it up with the $9 club members :)

  • TonyA_says

    You expect these people to read? Ha ha ha.

  • Hanope

    Agreed. Not everyone knows about Spirit’s nickle and dime. Sure, those that travel frequently do, and make choices accordingly, but many travelers may fly only once a year, or two and not know these things. Happened to some friends of mine that hadn’t flown domestically in probably 3 years, ended up on Spirit due to the cheap base fare, but were shocked at how much they had to pay for every little thing afterwards.

  • $16635417

    Not entirely true as I’m sure Spirit still gets repeat customers.

  • Michael__K

    You expect disclosures that are designed to be read and understood without a strong legal mandate for that?

  • Helio

    CAir is on the business for several years, using confortable B777 with 9-seat rows, 34″ pitch &18.5″ width.

    HAir decided to compete with CAir, using the same plane, keeping the same 34″pitch, but instead of 18.5″ seats, it decided to use 17″ seats. It’ll allow the usage of 10-seat rows, increasing its B777 passenger capacity in 11% comparing with CAir.

    Instead charging the same amount for the ticket, HAir decided to offer 5% cheaper tickets. Or, in order to keep the same profitability of CAir, it will offer tickets 10% cheaper!

    What company will be out of business in a couple of months?!? ;-)

  • Michael__K

    Before lending terms disclosures were standardized, I’m sure there were unscrupulous lenders that got repeat customers.

  • $16635417

    I just went through the booking process. Every option was prominently displayed prior to getting to the point of giving my credit card info. I could add a carryon for $35 and choose a seat in advance for as low as $10.

  • $16635417

    So…if I flew Spirit once and found out I had to pay $35 for a carry-on…I won’t know that again for the next time?

  • $16635417

    Whichever one charges the most for their ticket! ;)

  • TonyA_says

    Which LEGAL disclosures are supposedly missing?
    Are seat width and pitch required disclosures?

  • Michael__K

    You’ll know about that fee, but you won’t necessarily know about other fees and gotchas.

    Of course there exist scenarios where Spirit genuinely offers significant savings inclusive of fees. And there exist many other scenarios where their competitors are truly cheaper inclusive of fees.

    Often (not always) they trick customers into believing they will save a bundle when they won’t.

  • TonyA_says

    They won’t legislate seat size and pitch beyond FAA safety requirements.
    Take a look at what the French get (attached pic). Had they not used Airbus I suppose the seats would be narrower.

  • TonyA_says

    And the Germans (Lufthansa) … ugh

  • $16635417

    We’re admittedly focusing on anecdotal instances. In the Boston-Chicago, the $48 fare becomes $93 with a carry on and pre-reserved seat assignment…still a substantial savings (more than $50) over the competitors. The real test is to look at average fare by market where Spirit has a presence and then compare by carrier, keeping in mind that other carriers fares may be lower due to Spirit’s presence. The information is readily available, sorry I just don’t feel like analyzing it right now! :)

  • TonyA_says

    And the Dutch (KLM). Note if the aircraft has 2 sets of numbers, the larger ones are for Economy Comfort.

  • Hanope

    I have to agree with this. If my family of 4 is flying together, we always have to pay so much more to not only fly together, but because my husband and I would like more seat pitch, we have to pay extra for our kids too (who don’t need it).

  • $16635417

    Curious. How did you get $211? Isn’t the carry on $35 when purchased at time of booking?

  • TonyA_says

    Jeanne, anyone who travels overseas and take their local flights probably knows that we are not the only ones who have airlines that have cramped seating. 30-31 x 17-17.5 seems to be everywhere in the map for coach.
    Not sure why Americans think they are special.

  • TonyA_says

    The one without government subsidy.

  • IGoEverywhere

    Let’s disect this story.
    1) Seating – Airplanes are engineerd for “x” many seats. The configuration is determined by the individual airline. In the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s when the 747’s and DC10’s were rolled out, airlines would brag that the airplane can hold 400 seats, but we only put in 350 seats (not real figures) to give our passengers more leg room. Size of seats were a big issue then. Then they decided to put in 10 more seats, then 10 more seats, etc. Money was good and airplanes were full. Then 9/11 and stock market failure in 2008, etc and the airlines decided that they did not need 6 flights a day from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles and went to 2 per day. Now it made sense to protect profits and use every available seat that they could fit on the airplane. If you chooses to fly, then you choose to accept what is given to you and and what the airline is going to charge for it. The airlines win this argument, it is their company.
    2) Unbundling – We are broke, we need more money, we can charge what we want to, so lets charge for everything – GO airlines. I want this paticular area of the airplane over the wings – $45.00, and aisle $55.00. I have a 1 day trip with no luggage, no baggage fee, a 2 week tour of LA, then $25.00 a bag. It is all your choices to fly or not to fly. Again win #2 goes to the airlines.
    Your complaints in this day in age are permitted by the 1st amendment, but it does not mean a thing to the airlines as they set their own rules and fees. If you are going to cast blame, then cast it on deregulation in 1978. You can pay huge money, fly first class and not have a deal with seat size and pitch or baggage costs. It is your choice.

  • Helio

    I may agree for the first trip.

    But, even if a person only travels once a year, this person must remember how was the last trip. If this person choose to fly again with the same company, you cannot claim uneducated or unacknowledged.

  • Helio

    My thoughts exactly!

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I had a debate on the fuel issue a while ago when I observed that removing a few rows of seats wouldn’t mean an automatic loss of full fare for each of the seats lost and therefore a much higher ticket price because there are costs associated with passengers that would be recovered including fuel, servicing (cost of ticketing), etc.

    Now it’s being argued that bags cost money because of increased fuel. Yet, someone here a while ago argued that fuel itself is moot because the plane weighs so much so how can the puny passengers impact flight performance?

    Here’s a great google find I made (hopefully Elliott will release it in moderation)
    http://www.aircraftinteriorsinternational.com/articles.php?ArticleID=426

    It’s about 100 bucks in fuel cost to fly a passenger from LHR to JFK. This is why some airlines are weighing passengers. Because weight _does_ matter. Remove two rows of seats to recover the golden era of flying seat pitch and you’ll recover about 2 grand (including the weight of the seats themselves) along with the baggage (assuming that there is a single free checked bag.)

    Airlines have become more profitable because of baggage fees but it’s mixed because of time it takes to get a plane in the air as passengers fight over overhead space. The “bean counter” no doubt calculated a profit overall but it’s been a miserable gain.

    I suspect most of the profits of airlines recently are due to filling up planes. I rarely see an open seat now while back in the glory days, I’d often see flights with a few rows empty.

    Finally, I like Elliott’s stance that a “budget” shopping isn’t necessarily one who agrees to some hidden condition BUT certainly those who fly Spirit are sending the wrong message. I would advise Elliott to not accept ANY Spirit cases. Someone who flies on that airline deserves what they get. Period. Although sometimes there are newbies to flying who don’t know about Spirit’s bad reputation.

  • Helio

    They do it in order to eventually balance the weight.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Bite your tongue, Jim! My fat ass weighs 320 pounds. I’d NEVER be able to fly. :-)

  • $16635417

    yep. Hence the term “Weight and Balance” ! :)

  • Helio

    Me too ;-)

  • PolishKnightUSA

    CCF, if I may step in here.

    If someone is having money problems, and I have had them, they shouldn’t be leisure flying. Really. I went mac and cheese during my bankruptcy 20 years ago (and not the luxury stuff. the quarter per box. And I still like it!)

    No mobile phones. I know someone who lived on a budget (just because he’s cheap) and he didn’t have cableTV. He got his internet for work and school via cheap wifi. His kids watched DVD’s and he got 6 channels via rabbit ears. Probably a good thing. All that studying got one of them a full scholarship.

    Vegas to LAX is a rather special case. That’s like pricing tickets in my area for WAS->NYC. But the rest of the time, I don’t see significant price differences between the legacy and better carriers and Spirit. I could drive out to BWI in Baltimore to save the 70 bucks, but the time and money lost to get there would be prohibitive. To fly Jetblue instead of Frontier, I had to fly out of DCA instead of IAD. My wife still liked it because DCA is a nice airport even if we had to spend an extra half hour to get there. And the flight was sooooo nice!

  • Lindabator

    There are regulations – Spirit follows them to the LETTER of the law!

  • Helio

    Maybe because USA is the country with most obese people?

    news . discovery . com/human/genetics/top-10-countries-with-the-most-obese-people-named-140528 . htm

  • Lindabator

    AMEN! And there is the problem – Chris and others would like the Premium Economy seats for free for all – but that just means the tickets would go up, people would not purchase, and then right back to square one. Just ask American how that worked out.

  • Michael__K

    $35 EACH WAY.

    gotcha! ;)

  • I want to remind you that we’re halfway through our October fundraiser. If you enjoy the engaging debates on this site, please consider becoming an underwriter. I’m giving away two amazing Delsey spinners today, so this is a good time!

    And despite the heated discussion today, please know that I love you all. You make me want to be a better advocate.

  • Lindabator

    +1000!

  • Lindabator

    True – cringe when I see the body bags some folks drag onboard.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    You think this is the case but you’re going against instincts by boardroom execs who often find ways to rationalize money losing ideas that sound great on the surface.

    Consider outsourcing such as when Target got rid of their American IT and outsourced it overseas. Then their customer data was stolen. The CTO and even CEO ultimately had to go but even now, CEO’s are crying for outsourced IT labor even as things continue to worsen. Watch your credit card statements!

    And yeah, I can appreciate the airline worker griping that cheap passengers drive down standards for passengers and workers alike. I for one would rather fly on an airline where the crew seems happy then one where the crew is sad faced even if the equipment is more up to date.

  • Lindabator

    There’s no need to be rude. I have a problem with folks knowing they need two seats and not purchasing them, but you have no right to assume to tell someone how to eat, and referencing their weight. It could be a medical condition – hey, they could have even have LOST a lot. Not cool.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Logic 101: If baggage weight has an effect on the cost to run the airplane, then removing seats to make more legroom should be mitigated by cost savings in fuel as well as other ancillary expenses.

    Oui?

    Also consider taxes. Some of the costs for taxes are for the airplane as a whole (land an empty plane and pay the same fee) but many are per-capita/passenger. Those costs can also be recovered.

    So yanking out two rows of seats, I calculated, isn’t really responsible for those huge “savings” that the airlines pitch. I got as low as 7 percent and went conservative to 10 percent. So let’s review: If the _real_ cost of the larger seating is about 10 percent, or even 20 percent if you want to blow my numbers out, then…

    Why do airlines charge double that in fees?

    Obvious reason of course. Make people ultra uncomfortable and then hold them hostage. It’s a cruel, insulting form of market economics.

  • TonyA_says

    After eating my lunch, I would definitely agree with your comment. Ah, dinner is 7 hours from now. and a snack in between :)

  • Michael__K

    Yes we do need to study it systematically.

    If you’re looking at BOS-ORD (one-way) Spirit is currently cheapest on Wed Oct 29, Thu Oct 30, Fri Oct 31, and Sat Nov 1st. (I’m seeing $41 base fare for Fri Oct 31st and $54 for the other days).

    For any other upcoming dates (before Oct 29, after Nov 1st), I believe you will find that Spirit is ultimately more expensive than their competitors at the moment.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I’m sick of blaming de-regulation. De-regulation isn’t the same as unbundling. De-regulation meant that the airlines no longer had monopolies and fees set on routes and could start competing based upon price. It didn’t mean that seat pitch could now be shrunk BUT certainly when competition was based upon service rather than price, better service was common.

    Main factors that appeared to have caused the crunch including a perfect storm of miseries: 9-11 meant massive fees for security and wait times at airports along with a cattle mentality of passengers afraid to speak up for fear of being kicked off a plane by sky wardens. Fuel prices shot up due to wars and increased consumption in Asia. Consolidation of airlines over the past few years meant less competition and more monopolies. Union busting meant that the workers took out their frustrations on the passengers. And a rotten economy since 2001 has meant lowered living standards overall with passengers being used to getting less.

  • TonyA_says

    I have too much of the first and lacking the other.
    I think I will complain and get a refund.

  • Helio

    I’ll lunch now. Wednesday, feijoada’s day!

  • Raven_Altosk

    UA is so arrogant. I want to slap that mouthpiece with a wet noodle.

  • We do need seat room minimums that are enforced by industry or government. The more that is taken away, the more I fear someone is going to really go off one day in a rage. I fly for a living ( journalist) and the ill-will between passengers over space is growing.

  • Michael__K

    And yet Jet Blue pulled it off. They offer 33-34″ on their Airbus’s compared to 30-32″ today for AA. If customers don’t care about room in coach, how does Jet Blue stay in business (and grow)?

  • bodega3

    Then have the record divided. Easy solution.

  • Michael__K

    You make my point for me. What legal disclosures were required for loans before we instituted truth-in-lending standards?

  • MarkKelling

    The ticket prices quoted were ONE WAY.

    Gotcha back! ;-)

  • MarkKelling

    Two companies i worked for went the IT outsource route. Both have brought everything back in, neither because of data breaches.

    The reason companies were doing that is to save money, but not just because the outsourced IT was less costly. Both of these companies I worked for had people who had been with the company since the beginning of time. Those people were expensive due to pensions and other benefits. By outsourcing, they got rid of the expensive employees and even after paying severance came out spending less. When they brought things back after 5 years or so, they rehired everyone they needed for a much lower salary and fewer benefits. That is why they did it. Most companies will deny they did it to screw the local employees out of benefits.

    Not saying it was right, but it is what it is.

  • jim6555

    Most Southwest flights are scheduled for a 25 minute stopover. After the last arriving passenger has exited the plane, the flight attendants have only a couple of minutes to do a walk through and count the number of people remaining on the aircraft before the next group of passengers starts to board. There simply isn’t enough time for through passengers to exit and re-board.

  • Michael__K

    You can’t see any of that if you search from most OTAs and try to book from the OTA.

    If you try to book from Spirit’s website, it defaults to enrolling you in the $9 fare club (which means you get automatically charged annually– and this is not at all clearly disclosed). To go further, you need to register an email address…

    I’m sure you eventually see disclosures for the fees, but not when you are comparing prices with their competitors.

  • MarkKelling

    The people “take everything that the airlines has to offer” for various reasons. Many times when I have flown with tight connections over a meal period due to late arriving flights I have no time to get a proper healthy meal in the airport. so yeah, I take everything they offer on the plane. For most airlines that is: half a can of soda and (maybe) a 1/4 ounce package of pretzles. Wow, I’m really gonna put on pounds with that diet.

  • $16635417

    Carver indicated LAX-LAS for this Thursday, implies one way.

  • bodega3

    I don’t understand how those friends didn’t know. They probably booked online, therefore, did they not check up on Spirit before booking them? It is all out there to read. If you are a DIY’er, you only have yourself to blame for not knowing.

  • MarkKelling

    In all fairness, you don’t see baggage fees and the like on any airline when you are comparison shopping. Of course Spirit has more fees for more things than most airlines so that does skew your search results.

  • Daddydo

    Thay’s funny, I blame everything that has happened since 1978 on de-regulation. It took the pressure off the the airlines to ask permission to control fares, schedules, cities that they had to serve. De-regulation was the beginning of the end.
    TSA was not part of today’s discussion. They do not control seating or baggage fees. Fuel prices really have no bearing on comfort or costs, it’s an excuse in favor of the airlines. Unions destroyed the airlines like Eastern, TWA, and Pan Am, but this did not affect today’s problem.
    The whole point of this article is if you have any say to affect airline change; no! Nor should anybody be able to tell the airlines what to do. You might create changes by avoiding flying on airlines that won’t listen to you needs, but unless you can get 10 million of your friends to boycott that line, nobody will care. Again, pay for your needs or don’t complain.

  • $16635417

    I didn’t compare Spirit initially with an OTA. I used an OTA for United, American and Jetblue. I went directly to Spirit and Southwest’s website to check their price.

    I got a popup to join the $9 fare club, but I had to click either or, did not see it default.

  • sunshipballoons

    ” I am willing to give up essential seat comfort for a lower fare.” But the reaction to my story was just the opposite: there was a tidal wave of pent-up outrage from passengers who were tired of the mistreatment and being blamed for what happened.”

    — I will say that now. I am willing to give up essential seat comfort for a lower fare. If you don’t believe me, you should, because I act on it. Every time I fly a legacy airline I choose the less expensive economy over the more expensive economy plus. Since the only difference between those two seats is legroom (vs. biz or 1st, where you get other amenities), this shows I’m willing to sacrifice legroom for price.

    (I still think there should be more legroom on planes, though. More shoulder room, too.)

  • Michael__K

    In all fairness, you don’t see baggage fees and the like on any airline when you are comparison shopping

    Correct. And that makes comparison shopping unnecessarily complicated. And it leads to shoppers making choices they would not have otherwise made.

  • Michael__K

    Ok, that seemed a bit high for one way, but I guess this is for last minute travel.
    When I check 2 weeks out Spirit is >= $41 (+$35=$76) and AA and Virgin are $47 and United and Delta are $67/$68. If Spirit is cheaper just for the last minute flights perhaps they have more empty seats left to sell?

  • AndTheHorseYouRodeUpOn

    She was not being rude, just stating a fact. Why is it when people have an opinion, it’s rude to someone like you who doesn’t agree with it? It’s obvious, in reality, she probably wouldn’t lecture the overweight person next to her and referencing this in her comment is just that – a reference of what annoys people. People in politically correct straight jackets are way too uptight and definitely “not cool” themselves. Go ahead, flame away, I can take it.

  • mythsayer

    Wait a sec… the thing I saw up there that stood out most was this: “United delivers lost and found checked baggage to employees, retirees
    and their eligible pass riders free of charge, provided the baggage was
    not checked in late or a change in itinerary occurred.”

    So am I reading that right? Is that really saying that United can misplace a bag and then charge you to return it to you??? Really? Or did I misread that (I’m really hoping I misread it, honestly)? Or are they saying if I just leave my carry-on in the boarding area, or on the plane? Is THAT what lost and found luggage means. Because if it really means that United can lose my bag and then charge me $35 to return it, that seems very, very wrong.

  • Miami510

    Perhaps the answer lies in legally mandated transparency. I offer the following as a starting point:

    Plane Designation:

    # of seats

    Pitch

    Price of: Carry-on (dimensions/ alowed)

    Checked baggage Charges

    Reserved seating Charge

    Food: meals____

    Beverages____

    Snacks___

    Flight On time record%_____

    Toilet Fee_____

  • mythsayer

    Or you could just drive from LA and save a lot more money. I’ve flown to Vegas a few times… it’s actually a lot easier and more fun to drive.

  • bodega3

    No, she was being rude. I agree with Lindabator.

  • The Original Joe S

    Hey Nick Papamarcos! How’s your PENSION at UNTIED? Generous? Guaranteed? Think you’re gonna get what they promised you? Oh, foisted on the pension guarantee corp at less than HALF of what you worked for all your time at UNTIED.

    How about “buying the company”? How many seats did you get on the board? How many shares did your money which was taken from your paychecks get you? Oh, you got an ESOP! That’s like Socialist Security, and just as solidly certain!

    Nick, you work for a gang of prevaricators, and you bleat out the party line? Do you think that any of the money they scheme to scam out of the customers is gonna trickle down to YOU? Ha ha!

    Happy Retirement, Nick. Hope you like tube steaks and cat food!

  • bodega3

    With what other purchases you make are any additional costs presented for your comparison shopping as you feel are missing with airline tickets?

  • The Original Joe S

    Well, good for you. Some of us are phat old pharts, and want bigger seats.

  • sunshipballoons

    We all want bigger seats. But it’s absurd for Chris to say that people wouldn’t ever choose a smaller seat in exchange for paying less. Everyone who doesn’t choose economy plus or whatever is making exactly that choice.

  • The Original Joe S

    If I could drive to Asia, I would. I can’t, so I go on a FOREIGN airline which treats its passengers WELL, not like a mark to be milked for every shekel that can be squeezed out.

    Let’s have TOTAL de-regulation, and let the foreigners come in and compete. Watch the domestic airlines adapt or perish! Nice polite friendly FA instead of nasty ones. On-time. [WOW! What a concept!] Decent chow. Yeah, let’s have competition!

  • AndTheHorseYouRodeUpOn

    I especially love the airlines wording things like “we’re listening to your concerns”….”giving you what you want”, etc.

    Nobody asked for any of these things – charges for bags, narrower seats, seats with less pitch or legroom, no meals, minuscule snacks, 1/2 cans of beverage, etc. Again, nobody asked for diminishing or removing of amenities or services, they just got it.

  • The Original Joe S

    Why didn’t she simply flap her ears and wave her trunk?

  • The Original Joe S

    We have two parties because of “First past the post”.

  • AndTheHorseYouRodeUpOn

    Economy Comfort and Economy Plus seating for a fee ? Just hold out to the bitter end if you don’t have a seat assignment when checking in. Chances are good you will default to an EC or E+ seat since flights are so full.

    However, (don’t remember where I’ve read it), some airlines are already proposing that those passengers in EC and E+ will receive more amenities like free coach meals or tv, movies free. Unless they curtain it off, there will be real problems.

  • $16635417

    I recall reading a past article that most complaints about Spirit come when the passenger did NOT book on their own website, but rather from OTAs and travel agents. That can lead one to conclude that problem is not with the airline, but with how an OTA discloses fees. If I have time, I’ll see if I can search it.

  • y_p_w

    It all depends on what you get from it.

    I wouldn’t pay extra for Economy Plus or another airline’s “premium economy” seating. If I lucked into a seat like that I wouldn’t complain, but paying for a measly 3 inches more doesn’t sit well with me. I get that nobody is specifically asking for less space, but I agree with you that people are essentially speaking with their dollars.

    Now about the only time I’ve paid extra was for one of the premium seats at the front of a Spirit flight. It was maybe $10 more per seat and very much worth it. Those were business class sized seats for a relative pittance.

  • $16635417

    Jetblue chose to cap their Airbus at 150 seats, allowing them to reduce flight attendant needs to only 3 per aircraft. (One per 50 passengers.) It started as an operational decision.

    Actually, Jetblue’s investors are not pleased with the lackluster (slim profits) performance and their current CEO will be stepping down in February once his contract is up.

    It’s been published that an “investor last” mentality is on the way out of Jetblue and many analysts fully expect bag fees, more seats (read: less legroom) and other fees to be added.

    While the current business model may work, it apparently does not work well enough.

  • The Original Joe S

    Or to work for the BIMM corporation.

  • y_p_w

    Carver is based in Silicon Valley. Not sure why he brought up LAX-LVS flights other than there’s lots of competition compared to maybe SJC-LVS. He’s also a big dude.

    I’d rather drive, but my wife thinks it’s nuts. Driving from Northern California is a bit different. There are shortcuts through Yosemite (if Tioga Pass is open) and Death Valley. A longer way is via CA-58, but it can be really scary at night.

  • Bill___A

    I thought the point of the article is that the seats are too small and the reasoning the airlines are using is not correct, so perhaps there should be some specific regulations governing that.

    My comment was to agree with Chris in that this should be fixed.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    How about using a brick & mortar travel agent if you are inexperienced?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    No – the Fedex plane was bigger. :-)

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    People don’t read mortgage paperwork…look at all of those individuals that had a no down payment mortgage and was surprised that they had to refinance in three years or the interest went up or etc.

  • Travelnut

    This seems to be a continuing issue with this poster. It gets tiresome.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Agreed that loan agreements are in larger font with more understandable language – BUT – last time we refinanced, the loan officer was becoming visibly upset as my husband and I actually insisted on reading the paperwork. All 65 pages of it. Nimrod was supposed to give us the paperwork 3 days before and was “too busy” and “it’s all standard language” and “nobody ever reads this stuff” and “I’m going to summarize this for you quickly so you don’t have to read it.”

    We did the same thing in 1988 and actually walked out of the room, because the mortgage terms had been changed.

    People don’t read, regardless of font or easy-to-read language.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Thank you. I was going to comment this morning and actually got up and left the computer, hoping that someone else would say something.

  • Michael__K

    There’s probably no standardized distribution system for publishing fees like there is for publishing base fares. Until that changes, OTA’s are stuck. They can probably crawl the carrier sites to get recent information, but they will always be playing catch-up and showing unofficial information.

    And the carriers have little incentive to change this. Price obfuscation means customers spend more in aggregate.

  • Travelnut

    Hey y’all, I won one of the giveaways! (Hope it’s okay to divulge that.) You too could be a lucky winner!

  • bodega3

    Why are you pointing the figure just as the airlines? Where do you find similar comparison pages with any other purchase?

  • bodega3

    Did you won something that is free? :-)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I would call the airline and ask for a re-route. You might be able to find a sympathetic agent.

    Of course when it happened to me it was from a 737 to a 767 with newer seats. I first thought I had made a wrong turn somehow on the jet bridge. I double checked with the FA. It was great. Lie flat seats. I wished the flight wasn’t merely 1 hour

  • bodega3

    Have you ever asked yourself why other products you wish to purchase don’t have comparison sites?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    BTW. I’m a strong proponent of disclosures

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I go through all contracts with my clients. If someone were to get upset because I wanted to read the contract, I would tell them in no uncertain terms that that was unacceptable behavior.

  • Michael__K

    There’s always going to be a contract with many pages (e.g. an airline’s contract of carriage) covering an array of eventualities.

    There’s still a great benefit IMO to having a standardized snapshot with the most crucial information (like a truth-in-lending disclosure form) that easily fits on one page or one screen and which allows you to compare products on an apples-to-apples basis.

  • Helio

    Everybody agrees with ALL and ANY terms & conditions, without reading anything, from OS upgrades to air tickets.

    (OK, maybe not everybody, perhaps only 98%…)

  • PsyGuy

    But I can fly cheaper on Spirit without a carryon. I like having that option.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Oh, I very much agree with you on that. I’m just pointing out that leading horses to water and getting them to drink has been a perennial problem. :-)

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I don’t suppose you have a license to practice law in Nebraska, do you? Our attorney is talking about retiring. (Not because of me, really.)

  • Helio

    I just had noted at today’s article picture Chris shrieked the passenger, not the seat… ;-)

  • PsyGuy

    You ever try to make a horse go somewhere it doesn’t want too?

  • PsyGuy

    They could also advertise directly to your dreams, but easy is not the criteria most of the universe operates on.

  • Michael__K

    I don’t point my finger just at airlines. When obfuscation is legal and profitable then either companies will engage in it or lose to competitors who do.

    Which is why standardized, transparent disclosure should be mandatory and not be up to the discretion of individual businesses.

    Most other every-day commodity purchases are not very complex and it’s easy for merchants to show their customers prices per standard unit of measure (for example).

  • bodega3

    Exactly!

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Yes, I have. The horse won.

  • bodega3

    Buying an airline ticket isn’t that complicated but you are expecting a lot more from them than with other purchases. When you want to buy a pair of jeans online, how do you know the full price if you want to compare those jeans to Macy’s, Walmart, Kohl’s, Sears, LLBean?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I very vaguely recall that you gave me the same advice a long while back, but said that I should contact the airline after I make 2 separate reservations and get the two records linked. I can’t remember why. Can you please refresh my memory as to why I should link the reservations?

  • PsyGuy

    The horse always wins.

  • PsyGuy

    AND the stew’s would be younger and hotter. I would love to see Singapore or Emirates come in and offer domestic routes.

  • PsyGuy

    Yeah their medical condition is over-eatus-excercis-notis.

    I’m a skinny guy myself and greatly enjoy being able to fit very comfortably in my seat, and I don’t even have to recline, so pitch is worth very little to me.

  • $16635417

    That’s correct. I’m not a fan of OTAs and prefer to book directly on the airline websites. I WILL use OTAs to compare prices, but that is usually where it ends. I’ve read too many stories on this column that include Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, Travelocity, Cheap Tickets…etc.

    OTAs are Travel Agents. When your travel agent fails to disclose the $35 carry on fee for Spirit, is that Spirit’s fault?

  • I’m happy to help!

  • Those “premium” economy seats are a little small, actually. I favor at least 36 inches, all government mandated. Let the airlines figure out some other way of making money.

  • Michael__K

    Google let’s you compare prices across stores.

    But I’m just talking about the ability to compare prices within the same store.

    The analogy would be a (hypothetical) store that sells jeans marked $20 that actually cost more than the jeans marked $30 — because that $20 jeans have $15 in additional fees.

  • You know, I don’t mind losing the comments but winning the poll. 90% say I’m right. Most of the commenters say I’m an idiot. Oh well, I’ve been called worse. Much worse.

  • I spoke with Randy about the banner. We’ve agreed to remove it, for now. I want everyone to feel comfortable with this site before we introduce the full BoardingArea architecture. You have my word that BA is not exercising any editorial control, nor would I allow it.

  • bodega3

    No it doesn’t. It doesn’t tell me which stores will charge me tax and what the tax will be based on my shipping location. It doesn’t tell me shipping charges. It doesn’t tell me discounts I qualify for. But I am ok with that as I am with travelers having to do the same type of search without expecting the government to required handholding.

  • bodega3

    OTA’s are not travel agents. They are an online booking company. Now if you call and speak to an ‘agent’, that is different, but I can almost guarantee those who answer the phone are not agents, just order takers and don’t know a PFC from a security fee.

  • Helio

    And no reclining, of course!

  • bodega3

    **Cringe**

  • Of course.

  • $16635417

    OTA= Online Travel Agency. I DO happen to agree that they make a mockery of the industry.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It was one way

  • LFH0

    In a sense, I think you’re right about decision-making (though I do strongly disagree with the assertion that “[m]ost Americans are broke”), but that’s because fares are the only bases for which most travel booking allow convenient comparison. In other words, all else being equal, the intelligent traveler will book the cheapest, Spirit. If additional attributes were convenient to compare, then each person could determine the best combination for their own preferences. Some place price as the most important attribute, and would always select the cheapest. Others might want to balance price with comfort. You, as a professional, may have knowledge available (either innate or ability to easily look up)–and in part that’s what you’re selling as a professional travel agent–but others may not perceive the value of a travel agent worth its cost (or may not even have trust in many inexperienced people who call themselves a professional travel agent), when faced with this decision-making, don’t. Shouldn’t DIYers have ready access to this information?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I picked that route because I knew Spirit flew it rather than trying to guess which SFO route included Spirit. And I have my third office in SoCal so I’m there all the time.

  • I’m one of the 90%’ers… but often when commenting I feel a distinct minority.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    We don’t know why any given person is flying. They may have money problems but may be flying for business. I had one friend who was a mobile computer guy. He flew all over the US fixing computers. He has very little money though.

    Another person may be flying to see a dying relative. My point is that we never have enough information to judge why someone needs to make that expenditure. Perhaps the $48 fare fits within the budget but the $200 one doesn’t.

  • LFH0

    Although I generally support free market rather than government mandates, when it comes to disclosure of relevant information I lean towards mandates. As to attributes of airline service upon which people may rely in making purchase decisions, should the government mandate more effective disclosure for easy comparison purposes? Or should the free market allow one or more travel booking sites (e.g., Travelocity) take it upon themselves to provide the information and give them an advantage over their competitors?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Actually, that’ s not uncommon. One pair of paints needs to be tailored (e.g. unhemmed) while another does not.

  • LFH0

    If you’re describing the majority of the market, then I would agree with your assessment. However, the marketplace is not monolithic, so should the more intelligent or the more discerning customer suffer because of the masses?

  • Michael__K

    When your travel agent fails to disclose the $35 carry on fee for Spirit, is that Spirit’s fault?

    It’s the travel agent’s failure if the disclosure is not shown without additional clicks.

    It’s Spirit’s failure when the disclosure says that it was $35 last time they checked, but that this is shown for informational purchases only because Spirit can change that figure at anytime without notice to them.

    We have failures on both ends.

  • $16635417

    I point to Southwest Airlines. The Southwest model has been tried and tweeked by others for years. We speak of “legacy” carriers often to be the Deltas, Uniteds and Americans…but the real legacy who has survived deregulation is Southwest.

    They took the “frills” out of flying and made it work. Others have expanded on that concept.

  • LFH0

    Some may read, and some may have objections, but in the end ALL must agree with the terms or else the purchase cannot be completed.

  • Michael__K

    Which is not really a germane example because people generally know their size and will try the item on if there is a doubt. And it’s also almost always refundable/exchangeable without a fee.

    Now if, long after the point of sale, your credit card is suddenly billed an additional $15 fee that you never noticed or acknowledged…

  • $16635417

    It’s the travel agents failure if the disclosure is hard to find?

    “I’m sorry Mr. K, I made a cursory look for a carry on fee for Spirit and came up empty, you’re on your own on this one!”

    Sounds like you need a better travel agent!

  • Helio

    DIYers have access to the information too. But everybody wants all in the easy way, they don’t want to have the hassle of searching, comparing, looking for buried information…

    They only want to look for the easier (and probably most cheaper) possibility, and later, if the things weren’t smooth than they were expecting(and most probably they really weren’t), they complain.

    Example:

    “The draconian conditions were written in small print!”

    Well, you can use CTRL+ to zoom in at the browser or use an actual magnifying glass if they received a printed form to sign. ;-)

  • Michael__K

    Actually, Google will tell you exactly which merchants will charge you exactly what tax for many products.

    And localities don’t change their tax rates without public notice and standardized publication that’s picked up by the appropriate sales tax software packages.

    But you’re supposed to declare the purchase and pay your local tax one way or the other, aren’t you? ;)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s a demonstrably false assertion. The results of a poll depend on the venue. Try this poll over at flyertalk and you’ll get a different result. Try polling libertarians and you’ll get a different result.

    Plus, if there is a disconnect between what people say (we want more comfort) and what they do (pay for only the cheapest), the wise man embraces the adage…actions speak louder than words

    Incidentally, I would never call you an idiot. Misguided. Yes, But you’re not an idiot by any stretch of the imagination.

  • LFH0

    I think what you really meant to say “discretionary” flying rather than “leisure” flying. As Mr. Farrow explains, one might travel to visit with a dying relative, an occasion that most people would not characterize as “discretionary.” But where someone is having “money problems,” and travel is necessary, that travel ought to be done economically. And in this day and age, when all costs are taken into account, air travel is usually less expensive than either bus or train travel

  • Michael__K

    It’s (partially) the OTA’s failure if you have to click on lots of extra links and parse the (non-standardized) fee disclosures for every single carrier and then create your own spreadsheet before you can sort your options by actual price.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’m with Jeanne. Ask the real question. Are you willing to pay more money for more comfort? That’s the real question.

  • LFH0

    The same resolution as with a flight schedule change. Rebook or refund.

  • y_p_w

    OK. I thought you only had a private practice and a corporate gig in the Valley.

    Spirit flies out of Oakland. Their only direct flights from OAK are Las Vegas, DFW, and Chicago.

    They’re also upfront that they pack in the seats to lower the costs. This is from their website:

    We’re Light on Legroom
    We’re a cozy airline. We add extra seats to our planes so we can fly with more people. This lowers ticket prices for everyone, just like a carpool.

    Also – they have business-class sized seats that don’t recline called the “Big Front Seat”. We paid for those and it was easily worth $10 each. I wouldn’t pay extra for “Economy Plus” or for extra legroom unless it comes with a wider seat.

    Get the Big Front Seat
    For a little extra cash you can secure the Big Front Seat. No middle seat, more space, extra legroom–you know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

  • Michael__K

    The original fare selection (radio button) defaults to the lower $9 fare club fare. There is a popup afterwards where you confirm membership (or choose “No, I Don’t Want to Sign Up and Save”).

    Not exactly the most consumer-friendly and transparent way to present the option.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I used to live in Los Angeles. I did undergraduate and law school there as well as was on lay leadership at my church. Tons of contacts in Los Angeles and Southern California made it convenient for me to open a third office in SoCal to serve those clients.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The clothing was your example, not mine. I merely pointed out that if you compare different types of pants, you have to be aware of the ancillary fees, e.g. you must add certain costs such as hemming, which you may not know at first (like when I was 19 and buying my first suit)

  • bodega3

    Shows how much you know about local taxes and how city vs unincorporated locales affect what you get charged.

  • Michael__K

    I see that Jet Blue has more than two and a half times the market share that Spirit has (and Jet Blue is the newer airline of the two).

    And I also see that Jet Blue’s stock has generally out-performed other airlines this year.

    I don’t claim expertise on airline operations, but generally speaking, I think that trading margins for volume is a reasonable and viable strategy.

  • bodega3

    You nailed it. Nobody wants to do the work. They want it all ‘for free’ by someone else! The information is there, it just takes a few extra clicks.

  • LFH0

    I am persistent, and I will find the information for myself. My spouse says that I can be obsessive, and spend more time trying to track down information than it is worth. That’s probably the thought of most people. The information is there, but unless it is easily accessible during the comparison shopping phase, it will not be used.

  • Michael__K

    Clothing was @bodega3:disqus ‘s example.

    If you buy pants that don’t fit you, and you could have tried them on, then I wouldn’t hold the merchant or the manufacturer responsible for that in any way.

    If you can’t readily compare prices inclusive of very basic common features — such as a carry-on bag — across airlines, then I have a concern.

  • bodega3

    The issue should be if the information ISN’T there. In our GDS, all the rules, the fees, are not listed on one page for us. Nor are all the flights showing on one page, so we do have to scroll for the information. Same with online. That isn’t wrong. What would be wrong is it not being there at all.

  • LFH0

    I think what you’re getting at is that is a fare is “too good to be true,” it is the obligation of the shopper to investigate further. Some do (you and me) and make intelligent decisions; some don’t (many others) and complain afterwards.

  • Crissy

    I get that airlines have to make a profit and if unbundling is what made the difference. Then, that’s the way it is. Doesn’t mean I like it, agree with it or think they have done a good job of implementing it. But, it’s a business trying to make money.

    BUT, lying about is offensive. If you’re doing it to make money, say, “we tried it it worked and now we’re making money, so no, it’s not going away.” Don’t treat us like idiots. Maybe if coach wasn’t so bad there wouldn’t be so many people collecting miles to fly in business and first class.

  • Extramail

    I could do all the due diligence in the world but the airline still has the option of changing the metal I fly on and I would still be stuck with the smaller seat because I can’t change my flight.

  • Extramail

    My time is worth something, too.

  • $16635417

    I didn’t say I agree with it, that wasn’t the point. I actually like them the way they are.

    They are not performing as well as other airlines on many key matrices. Here is an excerpt from a recent news story about the change of leadership:

    “JetBlue has been profitable — it earned $234 million in the first six months of this year — but not as much as some rivals. It underperformed competitors by other measures too. For every 1,000 miles JetBlue flew in the first half of this year, it collected an average of $119 for each available seat — less than Southwest Airlines, at $135, and Delta Air Lines’ domestic routes, at $166.”

  • $16635417

    Yeah…you select the one that applies to you. Not being a $9 fare club member, I didn’t select that. With the popup, you were given a choice to join or not. I chose not.

    Not seeing the issue.

  • $16635417

    Then don’t use an OTA. I don’t understand the advantage of one anyway.

  • bodega3

    It isn’t just the fare. Check on the other fees. With the internet, all this is out there. I flew Easy Jet and was well prepared just by what I read online. I also emailed the carrier with questions and they responded. Easy Jet isn’t a carrier I sell, so I took the time to learn about them. But with the ‘I need it now’ attitude of today, DIY’ers think everything should be laid out neatly at their feet so they don’t have to any reading up.

  • Michael__K

    In most cases that was not a failure to read, but a failure to appreciate the possibility that home prices could collapse everywhere. And it wasn’t just borrowers who failed to appreciate that possibility.

  • Michael__K

    I don’t think the travel booking sites can take that upon themselves without either cooperation from the carriers or a legal mandate. Otherwise the carriers can change their terms without notice, and the booking sites are on the hook for presenting out-dated information.

  • bodega3

    Oh cry me a river. You have to do that with any other purchase. Yes, having something like a chart would be nice, but it should not be a legal requirement. Lazy people!

  • y_p_w

    Yeah – I got that. I mean – you’re upfront that you’re an attorney and using your real name here. It was pretty easy to look up your State Bar entry.

    I thought Caltech was in Pasadena. ;)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    For me it’s an easy one. A free market assumes a free and efficient exchange of information. A lack of information or worse deceptive information violates this basic precept requiring consumers to expend additional time, effort and resouces to ascertain relevant information to make an informed choice.

    This expenditure of resources serves no useful economic purpose and leads to…shudder… an inefficient market

  • Michael__K

    OTAs serve (among other things) as a place where people can compare the offerings of different carriers on what is superficially an apples-to-apples basis. Except it’s not truly apples-to-apples.

    If you don’t even look at an OTA then it’s that much harder to identify and compare all the options.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    here we go again trying to compare seat pitches on different airlines with different seats.
    I repeat, ALL SEAT PITCHES ARE NOT THE SAME !!!
    Spirit is now using the low cost Acro Seat.
    I’ll explain.
    The maximum certified seating on an A320 is 189 I think.
    By using the new thinner seat, Spirit can’t put more seats on aircraft, BUT & here’s the big thing, they can give you more leg room.
    eg. lets just say that Spirit uses 28 inch pitch(when r u yanks going to go metric-rest of world did decades ago-it is 2014) with a seat that’s back is 1 inch thick (it’s probably less than 1 inch thick in reality)
    Some other dodgy USA airline has a 31 inch pitch with a seat that is 4 inches thick. The legroom IS EXACTLY THE SAME on these 2 examples.

    Seat pitch is the distance from front of one seat to the front of another & doesn’t take into account the thickness of the back of the seat.

    In other words seat pitch & legroom don’t equate. They only equate when the seats are the same & they are many different seats on the market these days, that airlines use.

    Do people think that Boeing/Airbus supply standard seats ?

    Is the low cost Acro seat, as comfortable as an old 4 inch thick one ? Probably not.
    The Acro seat is also lighter, a lot lighter (English engineering?)
    So not only can they give you the same legroom in example above, but they can save fuel by not carrying 1000’s of lbs of heavy seats around on every flight, everyday of the year.

    The above seat pitches are not factual, but explain how seat pitch is a dangerous comparison tool.

    Complain to a U.S. politician ? That’s a joke.

    1) U.S. pollies are probably worse & more corrupt than Australian pollies (in it for themselves)
    2) what are they going to do ? Make Spirit charge more ? (they have no jurisdiction over Ryanair).

    If Spirit charge more, then every other airline will charge more, on average as a result.

    BE VERY CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

    As soon as airlines can work out an easy way to charge you for your actual weight, they will, so fatties beware.

  • Michael__K

    No I don’t have to do that with any other purchase. For the vast majority of purchases, I pay and I’m done. No additional buried fees.

    And packaging and labeling and units of measure on products are highly standardized. Manufacturers can’t label their products in obscure units like Firkins, Scruples, or Drachms so that their customers can’t properly compare quantities to what their competitors are selling.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    What you say is probably 100% true but doesn’t really advance the discussion. That’s just a technical detail to be worked around.

  • bodega3

    You still have taxes, shipping, discount codes that have to be entered, so your price isn’t any different than a base fare. It is all there at the end.

    What if Macy’s has the item you want and so does Kohl’s. You have to research the shipping fees as those vary. All the same as the carriers, but people like Charlie Leocha complain daily about how unfair shopping for airline tickets is.

  • Michael__K

    It’s slightly too easy for someone to start the enrollment process without intending to or without understanding how it works. And then when you finally can choose “More Info” (not mandatory) to see the terms and conditions, there is no link to go back if you change your mind.

    Oh, and the “effective government tax rate” is exaggerated too, unless you change the default radio selection ;)

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    yes the price shrinks but in most cases Spirit is still cheaper, much cheaper.
    We have Tiger in OZ, now owned by Virgin Australia (they bought the last 40% for $1).
    People often say that Tiger aren’t cheaper, at the last minute, cos Tiger are full or very close to it, where the other airlines AREN”T.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    but now in USA the old legacy carriers are adding the Ryanair/Spirit “extras”.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    WHAT ? It’s a huge difference.
    You’re carrying on about seat pitch, when really you mean legroom.
    Just shown you, they vastly different seat pitches can mean same legroom.

  • Michael__K

    Yet for most of their 15-year history, they’ve been profitable (with pretty much the same strategy) while their competitors usually have not been.

    What changed? If this is a story about customers who don’t care much for Jet Blue’s amenities, then when did they stop caring?

  • Michael__K

    Your examples are not analogous.

    On the sites I’ve shopped at, shipping terms are transparent and available up front.

    Coupons and discount codes are things you already have in your possession and know about.

    Sales taxes are generally the same within a jurisdiction for a product type, no matter which competitor’s product you choose. And people generally know their local sales tax rate.

  • bodega3

    Shipping is not shown until you put a product in your shopping cart. Taxes will vary depending on where you have the item(s) shipped. Discount codes can be found at different sites, so you have to go look for them. Sorry, to burst your bubble.

  • Michael__K

    False on the first point. As for the rest, so what?

  • y_p_w

    However, Southwest is the last to unbundle with its two included checkin bags and the larger carry on size.

    Still, I don’t know how long it can last. Harrahs hotels/casino used to proudly advertise that they didn’t charge resort fees and mocked their competitors that did. Then they got bought out by Caesers, and the combined company charges resort fees without appreciating the irony.

  • bodega3

    Don’t know what sites you shop on, but all the ones I go to won’t give you the exact shipping until you have items in your shopping cart. You might have a chart, but until you have the items in the cart, you won’t have the full taxes either. Same with air. So back at you.

  • bodega3

    Unless Southwest get a certain amount of market share, they will make changes. Guaranteed! They have done it all along.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    Great idea, LFH, but the airlines would figure out how to make their seats look good, they’ve had lots of experience warping reality.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    Declarations by this 37-year veteran explan why the airline industry is so .. so …. weird? How can a normal human being make statements like this? By choosing low fares we asked for unsittable seats?

  • Michael__K

    Already covered all your examples. Get back to me when every single store for a product type is completely unhelpful for comparison shopping — because items listed for $10 are often more expensive than items listed for $75 — and you don’t even see that when you pay at checkout — you get an additional bill later after the return period expires. (But of course it was all disclosed somewhere in the mounds of fine print you didn’t have to click through).

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    lol. My buddy’s folks were visiting from Singapore so he asked that I tag along because he didn’t know Vegas at all, and I’m really good at navigating and finding stuff.

    Caesars, Cosmopolitan, Bellagio, send them on a trip to see the Grand Canyon. We only had two days and so not a lot of time.

  • bodega3

    Shopping online for any product is pretty much the same as shopping for airline tickets. If you want a chart for airline ticket, then you need to make the move for all products you buy online. The information is there, but just because you don’t know how to access it, or wish to bother looking for it, doesn’t require a government intervention. But Charlie Leocha will continue to whine about it in his daily rant.

  • Michael__K

    I know how to access it, that’s not the point.

    Show us what you claim: non-airfare items where product A is listed $65+ cheaper than product B — but is more expensive — and the extra fees are not presented at checkout.

  • The Original Joe S

    Like these? One is 30, the other is 40. Fancy that!

    Let’s see if the photo uploads…..

  • The Original Joe S

    They want to pay less. They get a smaller seat in the transaction, but they don’t want a smaller seat; they simply want to pay less. There’s a difference. They’re not choosing a smaller seat per se; they are choosing to pay less.

    Me, i pay more for a nice seat for the few times I fly trans-Pac. I ain’t never gonna fly to no China in no sardine tin no more. I’m too old for this doo-doo. I want my phat Alexander Dumas in a big seat, and I’ll pay some more for it. Not to say I don’t get a bargain on it; I simply don’t like coach seats for 14+ hours for the longest leg, and lets not discount the 6+ next one. If you sit in coach, you have to drink your way across, and I’m dry enough already at angels 30+; I don’t like drinking on a/c. Tomato juice does it for me. I grovel obsequiously to to the FA, and she gives me the whole litre. If I hadda sit in gutentite seat, I’d have to take a trip to Catatonia via Alcohol Airways just to survive the trauma. BTDT. No, thanks.

  • Using either/or thinking means that there are only 2 choices. That is the failure of the logic. There are several choices out there but the airlines refuse to acknowledge them. So they say cheap flights or more legroom.
    I should make one point on baggage fees. Southwest fares are almost the same as United. I carry on only but I still choose Southwest because I don’t have to compete for the bin. United loses in my book every time.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    lol. sorry

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    The routing was an example because it’s a route that I knew Spirit flew. It could easily have been outside of driving distance.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Lol., LA County

    I use my real name because it keeps me honest. It’s too easy to be mean and spiteful when you have an anonymous alias. This way, my interaction is closer to face to face and I’m more likely to be polite and respectful, even when I’m pissed.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    It’s not germane to the discussion regarding whether the government should be regulating comfort. The specific metrics are irrelevant to the question.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    well u certainly can’t regulate it by seat pitch !!!

    As stated over & over again, the same seat pitch can lead to very different legroom scenarios, if different seats are used.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Those are two separate and unrelated issues that should not be conflated.

    I would opine that whether they receive value isn’t germane to this discussion. The issue is whether they have the right to choose a crappy and less comfortable experience in the hopes of saving money which may happen.

    I can personally attest that I saved money on Spirit when flying a friend on Spirit. I went to the website, did the math, made the comparisons, included the various fees, and determined that for those trips, Spirit was cheaper by a substantial amount. And I was correct because I did my homework.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I stand corrected about who originated the jeans comments, but the analogy remains. You see an advertisement for a pair of dress slacks for $90. You go to the store to learn that the pans are unhemmed so you have to pay an extra $15 making the pants effectively $105. Its an ancillary fee.

    A different store has a different pair of nice dress pants which are already hemmed for $95. You could have gone to store #2, but you went to store #1 because you believed you would save $5.00.

    And since store #2 is halfway across town, you buy the pants from store #1, ultimately costing you an extra $10.00

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Purchase furniture from an office supply store. Depending on the vendor, different shipping charges may apply, if any.

    Additional fees such as assembly fees are not presented at checkout. I see that as the same as a checked luggage fee. You may or may not need to incur it.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Well, you can but it won’t be prudent. But again, its not germane to this issue. If you feel, as Chris does, then you can figure out how to regulate. if you feel, as I do, then you don’t worry. Either way, that’s just the mechanics of how to implement (or not implement) the large issue of regulation.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Who knows. The point is that today, its less profitable and is changing strategy

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Logic 101: If baggage weight has an effect on the cost to run the
    airplane, then removing seats to make more legroom should be mitigated
    by cost savings in fuel as well as other ancillary expenses.

    Oui?

    No. That’s a qualitative analysis. We need a quantitative analysis. We need to know how much is the fuel savings from the reduction of weight (people and luggage) vs the loss of revenue by flying fewer passengers. Only then can we compare.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Their actions asked for it. It’s like when people complain about all the sugary and salty snacks at the grocery store check-out but still buy for a snickers bar.

    The grocer’s mouth says one thing, the wallet says another. Which one do you think the store manager is listening to?

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    don’t think u understand about how leg room is not directly related to seat pitch.
    eg. a 28 inch pitch on Spirit with new Acro seat, might be equivalent to 31 inch pitch on other airlines.

  • $16635417

    Yeah, I get the fare comparison. I use them for that. But what is the advantage of purchasing a ticket via an OTA over the airline website?

  • $16635417

    Well, if someone accidentally enrolls themselves over that, they have only themselves to blame. I went through the process and am not seeing it as a problem.

  • $16635417

    This is a boom time for airlines. Many investors feel jetBlue is leaving profits on the table. (Southwest has its critics over the same issues as well.)

  • $16635417

    Yes, they didn’t “innovate” baggage fees, but there are grumblings that they are leaving profits behind. I would not be surprised to see a change at some point.

  • Poley King

    Sadly they don’t want on-time performance either. Just look at Southwest, had the worst on-time performance of all US carriers for several months yet everyone kept coming back. Its due the the false impression that Southwest is cheapest. People want cheap seats and don’t care what sacrifices they need to make to get that

    In order to keep pricing on par with what it has been for decades, while the price of everything else skyrockets. The way airlines keep the prices down is by making cuts. Did people come out and say they want less space? No but, subconsciously they did. People want to pay as little as possible so they shop based on price not amenities or schedule. There is a reason so many new ULCC’s are popping all over the place and its rare to see any other new type.

  • Poley King

    One major US carrier is planning on adding a few rows of 28″ pitch seats to their fleet to market towards the ULCC passengers

  • Hanope

    Assuming that is an option for your travel. If you don’t find out the plane change quick enough, there’s no room to ‘rebook’ for your dates/times, and/or the price increase for closer to ‘last minute’ travel are more expensive.

  • Hanope

    As I said, they were very infrequent travelers, hadn’t traveled by air domestically in at least 3 years and it didn’t occur to them to check for ‘nickle and dimeing.’ Yes, if they had asked me, I could have warned them, but my friends don’t check with me when they plan a vacation.

  • Hanope

    This was their first trip on Spirit. Their prior domestic flight, which was about 3-4 years previously, was on a different airline that didn’t service the airport near their recent vacation. You can be sure, now they know and won’t book Spirit again.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Dear esquire, I posted a link with just that but it was moderated by Elliott’s machine. I’ll try this and see if it goes through (fingers crossed)

    Go to tinyurl and then /oj8nfs5

    For a flight from JFK to Heathrow, it’s about 100 bucks in fuel per average person. Keep in mind that most of the money for fuel is getting the plane up 5 miles into the air so it’s not a lot less for shorter transcontinental flights.

  • All links are held for moderation. Otherwise, the spammers take over. Nothing personal.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I know Chris. Perhaps doing the dot com game is acceptable because spammers want a link that is easy to click on and doesn’t require active work on the reader’s behalf?

  • PolishKnightUSA

    You’ve turned me around (a little) CCF (I’m sure an attorney LOVES hearing that!)

    Yes, the budget airlines that treat people like crap have a role in affordability and even as a market driver to help lower fares across the board. Even if legacy carriers don’t follow their lead entirely (and start cramming people into the overhead bins, which I’m sure Spirit execs probably considered…), they do help to drive prices down for even normal carriers. Southwest has been in that role for decades where the legacies would love to cooperate in a smoke filled room to raise rates and Southwest doesn’t play ball.

    In addition, in the hopes of coming to an agreement, your very examples help to show that whatever Spirit is doing isn’t easy for the legacies to replicate. As rotten as Spirit is, I wonder that if I’m going to be hit with a baggage fee on United with no meal, maybe Spirit isn’t that much worse off so why is United/American charging $200 for the same route?!?! At least Spirit is sucking in a more efficient manner.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    In my own experiences, “full” carriers (such as Jetblue) have been available in my home market for the route I desired, or legacy carriers (Delta/United) that Spirit wasn’t a significant consideration.

    I would consider flying Spirit for certain demand dates (such as the worst, Thanksgiving) but fortunately, I boycott holiday travel because I prefer to have atypical holiday experiences (I work the day after Christmas. How can a gig get any easier?) and celebrate Christmas on Orthodox (it’s easy to find a cheap tree on December 24!)

    In that particular scenario. I’d be happy to board a Spirit jet on the day before Thanksgiving with the clothes on my back and a credit card/driver’s license and get my coffee at starbucks before boarding and then just suck it in the middle seat next to the bathroom for 4 hours to save $400.00 if that’s what it takes to get me to my sister. I wonder if Spirit keeps their prices low for that particular date though since prices are high across the board.

  • Michael__K

    Where did I write anything about receiving “value?” I’m suggesting that regardless of comfort or value, many of those customers did not achieve the COST SAVINGS they anticipated.

    Before we had truth-in-lending laws, many borrowers could nonetheless attest that they did their math and homework and saved money borrowing from unscrupulous lenders. Should we not have adopted truth-in-lending laws because some customers were savvy enough to do well without them?

  • Michael__K

    I think you misunderstand me. My objection is not to ancillary fees by themselves.

    My objection is to unnecessary barriers to evaluating prices on an apples-to-apples basis. Especially when those unnecessary barriers are coupled with a cynical strategy to advertise well-below-cost prices coupled with punitive, esoteric ancillary fees that are priced out of proportion with the ancillary service and that most customers can’t avoid.

  • Michael__K

    Are the shipping charges presented in the final total at point of sale?

    Would it be okay if they were not, and if you then received a bill for shipping after the return/exchange period expired? And that shipping bill was for more than the cost of the furniture itself and also grossly out of proportion with the actual shipping costs?

  • LFH0

    The same is true when there is a schedule change. Rebook, refund, or accept the change.

  • Michael__K

    “Who knows”

    If you are claiming direct cause and effect then it matters whether the details match up with the alleged cause.

    The Washington Times article mikegun quotes from just says that some Wall Street analysts are *hoping* that Jet Blue *will* change their strategy under their new CEO. Nothing has happened yet.

    Of course there are other analysts who think such a change in strategy would be misguided:
    http://fortune.Com/2014/09/02/jetblue-will-need-to-fight-for-its-soul-against-wall-street/

    Also, let’s not conflate baggage fees and legroom. Sirwired’s claim was that passengers won’t pay more for legroom. Baggage fees are a different issue. It’s not about paying more for comfort.

  • Michael__K

    I generally don’t book via an OTA, but people do it for a variety of reasons I imagine — loyalty to the search engine, convenience (you are already there), incentives, or you may have locked the last seat at that price and it isn’t available any longer directly from the airline, or your itinerary spans multiple airlines that don’t support cross-bookings.

  • Michael__K

    And Jet Blue generally boomed when the rest of the industry busted. Are we to conclude that passengers care about legroom during busts but not during booms?

  • Michael__K

    I noticed that the Disqus link filter is usually easy to circumvent if one capitalizes the parent domain name(s). As in:

    tinyurl.Com/oj8nfs5

  • Michael__K

    You can attribute blame any way you choose. User interface designers understand that some UI designs are more likely to lead to user error than others. Sometimes that is the whole idea.

    If clarity and transparency was a priority, why isn’t the “More Info” link to the terms & conditions available either on the first page or on the popup where you could opt out?

  • PolishKnightUSA

    CCF, do you provide all your clients with a copy of your credit report? :-)

    In most business arrangement, we want to put on our best face and we don’t freely share negative information about ourselves. With the internet, there’s a possibility of a futuristic hyper-credit agency for everyone and everything. Agencies will be rated on their ability to collect, share, buy, and trade information about us and those we do business with. Tell off your boss and quit your job when you’re 20? It will follow you for the rest of your life. No more resumes or even job posting engines. Employers will have your total work history on file.

    In the meantime, those companies that can afford counsel and to pay off reporting agencies will be able to operate in the dark. As investors and customers, we can hope for advocates such as Chris to reveal unpleasant business practices but the rest of the time, it’s like we need to have google available to fully research every business transaction.

    All that said, despite the pain we’ve seen with flying in the past decade, I actually like flying for the most part. I’m able to navigate around the baggage fees, avoid carriers that squeeze me to death, enjoy the convenience of online booking and check-in, and love smoke free flights and airports. I would not want to go back to the 80’s with an old film on the overhead, a musty smelling cabin, and old magazines to kill the time while I eat a soggy TV dinner.

  • $16635417

    You do understand I am just passing on what I read?

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    28 inches doesn’t mean anything, unless you know what seats they are using. Low cost Acro seat is incredibly think. From photos I would suggest that the back of the seat is only a small fraction of an inch thick. Compared to traditional seats which might be 3 to 4 inches thick, that’s a lot of legroom you can still get with 28 inches.

  • Mike1957

    The issue should be simple: if there is a legimate safety concern with seat width or pitch, then a minimum should be set. I suspect that is not the case as I believe the government does set standards for how quickly passengers can exit a plane in emergency situations.

    Chris’ argument is wrong: people don’t ask for less, just as they don’t ever ask to pay more. But they “choose” with their wallets, they choose to pay less for less. So behavior trumps expressed preferences (and past behavior is more predictive of future behavior than are attitudes and preferences).

    For short flights, I try for extra legroom seats but I don’t pay more. I figure I can survive a short flight in a cramped seat. But I’ve never been on Ryan or EasyJet and don’t intend to ever fly them. For longer and international flights I definitely consider comfort and choose flights based on carriers that offer more. My choice, my money.

  • emaginnis

    I’ve travelled a lot of different airlines and various routes over the years. United is far and away the worst airline I’ve ever used.