Frontier joins the ranks of airlines charging passengers for carry-on bags.
If you regularly fly Frontier Airlines, you might want to downsize your backpack.
That’s because Frontier is now charging passengers for each piece of carry-on luggage stored in an overhead bin — $25 per bag if you pay in advance while booking online, $35 on check-in at the airport.
If you wait until you get to the gate, it’s $50.
If you can fit it under the seat in front of you, no charge — but be warned. “Under the seat” means all the way under. If any part of it is sticking out, it won’t count.
Frontier already charges $15 to $25 for your first checked bag.
It’s not exactly precedent-setting to charge for carry-ons. Spirit Airlines broke that ground five years ago. Still, it’s noteworthy.
BIN THERE, DONE THAT
Charging people for carry-ons, the airline’s executives say, mean fewer passengers cramming all manner of cases into the overhead storage, meaning less chaos and competition over the overhead bins.
Anyone who has traveled by air in the United States since the airlines began charging fees to check passenger luggage knows there’s at least a grain of truth in that assertion.
We’ve all known the frustration of arriving on time at the airport and boarding with our assigned group, only to find no room in the bin by the time we board.
It’s also a safety hazard. I’ve been clocked in the head more than once by some pint-sized passenger trying to heft a bale-sized suitcase up into a bin.
So I’d really like to believe Denver-based Frontier when it says it’s doing this for your benefit and mine.
I’d like to…but I don’t.
This has little to do with your convenience, even less to do with your safety…and everything to do with profit margin.
To put it another way: Who among us consumers does it benefit for Frontier to charge $1.99 for a drink of water?
That’s right. Frontier charges you one copper coin short of two bucks for an in-flight sip of H2O.
If they ever figure out a way to charge for air per passenger, look out.
(I hope I’m not giving some airline executive ideas).
It’s all part of a financial shell game the airlines are playing, one that’s been going on now for nearly a decade.
On the one hand, they make a great, noisy show of lowering their base airfares. Frontier just cut their cheapest Economy fare by 12 percent. On the other, they bombard you with a laundry list of add-on fees.
What am I talking about? Here’s an example of what you’ll encounter at Frontier:
- Reserve a specific seat? $3-$8.
- Want to sit toward the front of plane? $5-$15.
- Want an extra 5-7 inches of legroom? $15-$50.
You pay that extra legroom fee not per flight, but per flight segment. Meaning that if you have a connecting flight on Frontier, you pay twice. Each way.
Isn’t that cute?
All this comes against a backdrop of fewer flights and fewer seats available across the US on airlines in general, especially in smaller markets.
THE $6 BILLION PLAN
The counterpoint from the airlines is that add-on fees give you, the consumer, more flexibility by allowing you to pay only for those services you want. As the saying goes, there’s no free lunch.
Or in the case of Frontier Airlines, free water.
Lest you think I’m picking on Frontier, the US airline industry is nickel-and-diming passengers to the tune of nearly $6 billion a year in add-on fees.
Spirit Airlines alone has 24 different baggage fees.
The airlines argued that they needed to do this to keep their profits aloft during the recession. All those who believe the add-on fees will disappear once the US economy makes a complete recovery, raise your wallets…uh, I mean your hands.
I fully expect the big players like American, United, Delta and Southwest to follow this trend…but not immediately. I suspect they’ll wait to see how Frontier’s customers react to this change.
If there’s no major backlash — or loss of business — to Frontier as a result of this carry-on charge, look for one or two of the major carriers to belly up to the fee trough.
If this trend continues, it’s going to:
- Prompt travelers to travel a lot lighter, which would actually be a good thing.
- Make even more consumers despise air travel even more than they do now, or
- Lead more air passengers to use luggage shipping services to transport all their bags. They’ll pay more than the airlines’ baggage fees, but get far better service.
The first two are going to happen for sure. With Amtrak setting new ridership records every year for more than a decade and inter-city bus travel growing in popularity, the second may be happening already. The third will depend on whether enough travelers switch to the luggage shippers to justify lower rates.