Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spirit rationalizes their new fee

To close out this series of postings about Spirit Airlines' new carry-on bag fee, I want to share the response I received from the airline when I expressed my opinion about the new fee:

"In order to continue reducing fares even further and offering customers the options of paying only for the services they want and use rather than subsidizing the choices of others, we are progressing to the next phase of unbundling with this introduction of carry-on bag fees. In addition to lowering fares even further, this will substantially reduce the number of carry-on bags, which will improve in-flight safety and efficiency by speeding up the boarding and deplaning process, all of which ultimately improve the overall customer experience."

You could fly the largest plane in the Spirit fleet through some of the holes in their logic.

First, that by bundling the "cost" of carry-on baggage into the price of a ticket, they are making you subsidize the "choices of others." As if to suggest there is a measurable percentage of people who bring only enough baggage that will fit under the seat, and who don't need to check bags or stow bags in the overhead bins.

Second, implementing this new fee will "substantially reduce the number of carry-on bags." Really? If I have to pay a fee whether I check my bag or carry it on, which option am I going to choose? I'm still going to carry on if possible, so that I don't have to wait at baggage claim.

Third, that this new fee will speed up "the boarding and deplaning process." Even if you believe that there will be fewer carry-on bags, do you really believe it will take less time to board and deplane? Perhaps, slightly—if you swallow the fewer-bags claim—but I can think of other, more customer-friendly ways to accomplish that goal than charging this new fee.

And lastly, who among you can believe that anything an airline does in this day and age will possibly "improve the overall customer experience"? That claim flies in the face of 20+ years' worth of trends to the contrary. It will take a sea change in the airline industry to start making a positive impact on customer experience, and nickel-and-diming customers with more à la carte fees is not a step in that direction.

On their website, Spirit Airlines claims to "liberate customers from being forced into paying for services they do not desire or use." In my opinion, they are not following the "spirit" of that mission by charging a fee for something that is as "optional" as a lavatory. (Knock on wood; that may be next.)


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Spirited debate

I hope Spirit Airlines' newest à la carte fee is the straw that breaks the air traveler's back. Up till now, these à la carte fees have been optional; you can choose whether or not you want to pay for a checked bag, for a meal, for extra legroom, and so on.

But let's face it: for all intents and purposes, this carry-on bag fee is MANDATORY, because you'll have to pay it for all but the shortest of trips, for which you can pack light enough to fit your bag under the seat.

I urge you to voice your opinion directly with Spirit Airlines, which I just did. Just go to their contact form, and start venting. Let's start a "spirited" debate!


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Your money: Spirited away

I am continually amazed at the creativity displayed by the airline industry in coming up with new fees. Today, Spirit Airlines announced that it will charge up to $45 each way for a carry-on bag stored in the overhead bin.

Flying truly is becoming a pure à la carte business model. Will this be the fee that broke the customer's back? Or will we keep paying and paying for less and less?

Life vest $15 if purchased online, $25 if purchased on the plane
($100 if purchased after impact)


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Friday, March 26, 2010

Interactive urinals and other advertising

Just what is an "Interactive Urinal Communicator," you ask? One of a number of creative ways advertisers are using to engage our eyeballs. (Yes, there is such a thing.) Whether we're peeing, standing in an elevator or pumping gas, we're a captive audience for an apparently valuable part of any given day. And advertisers are increasingly trying to capitalize on that.

Nowhere are we more captive than at 30,000 feet. And advertiser agency Brand in the Hand knows it. They're hoping to earn our goodwill for their clients by hitting us with ads during that brief flash of excitement when the flight attendant hands us a free (for now) bag of peanuts.

But simply slapping ads everywhere isn't the trick. "The challenge for Brand In Hand and any company or marketer entering ambient media is to make sure their brand message is adding value to the consumer," says Andrew Hampp of Advertising Age in the article.

I'm a voracious bathroom reader, so I'm looking forward to the day when USA Today sponsors the airplane lavatory and prints the news on each sheet of toilet paper. Talk about adding value....

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Bait and switch?

I've expressed some of my airline conspiracy theories in the past, including the ol' "bait and switch." How often have you found a low fare, visited another website to compare, and come back to the first site only to find the fare has gone up? I've even had this happen without leaving the site I'm searching. On Orbitz, for example, it's common to search a route, select a fare that I like, only to get a "Sorry, that fare is no longer available" message.

It seems I'm not alone in my conspiracy theorizing. featured an article today about this phenomenon, which the airline industry is explaining away by saying the lower fares are "cached" to enable faster searching. So even though they show up in search results, they might not actually be available. The recommendation: if you see a fare you like, buy it right away, instead of price-comparing elsewhere.

Hmmm... that recommendation seems to lean a bit heavily in favor of the airlines, no? Or maybe I'm just making up another conspiracy theory.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday travel photo

Yet another Friday travel photo, because I have been so lax in updating this travel blog. I'll try to revive it in 2010... in the meantime, Happy Holidays!

Looking back on Monument Valley in Utah

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday travel photo

Sunflowers in Kansas, the Sunflower State