“Mad As Hell About Hidden Airline Fees” … nope

On the 23rd of September, two days from now, Mad As Hell Day will be upon us. What is Mad As Hell Day might you ask? Well let me tell you … it is a day when … you know what, I still can’t figure it out.

The American Society or Travel Agents, Business Travel Coalition and Consumer Travel Alliance have designated the 23rd of September as “Mad As Hell Day” to protest hidden airline fees.  I find the 23rd of September a curious day for this given that the busiest travel days of the week tend to be late Sunday/early Monday and Friday … so why not protest the fees on a busier travel day, rather than stage this protest on a Thursday?

I have spent the past few days reading the “Your Stories” section of the Mad As Hell website, and every complaint is about a fee that is not hidden, but generally well known.

Checked baggage fees are not a hidden fee, in fact when checked bag fees were announced, it was widely discussed in the mainstream media and every travel site you could think of.

Victoria In Michigan writes: “we were allowed 2 free checked bags on UA.  A friend’s bag weighed 70 pounds, 20 pounds over their limit.  She was charged $200!” Passenger complaining about paying fees for overweight baggage … come on, there were fees for overweight baggage before there were even checked baggage fees.

Jane in Seattle writes “had to pay additional hidden fees on my flight to Seattle because I had unknowingly exceeded the number of allowable pieces of luggage.” Even before checked bag fees, airlines had a limit on how many bags a passenger could check … again, not a hidden fee.

Passengers seem to complain about fares jumping once taxes and airport/government fees are added in … these fees have been around since … well forever.  If you take a box of tissues off the shelf at Target that are priced at $1.99 do you complain to Target that the $1.99 tissues are suddenly $2.10 because sales tax has been added?

I mean come on … lets complain about sales tax being a hidden fee … right?

I don’t like that airlines are charging for passengers to choose their seat selection … but these are not hidden fees. These fees are clearly stated on the website of every airline that has this option, and passengers see this fee option before they finalize the purchase. You see the fee before you pay … it is not hidden.

Is the fee annoying? Yes!  Hidden? No!

On the site Steve In Virginia writes “the flight attendants boarded the people who “promised to stow their carry-on bags on the floor under the seat in front of them” before the rest of us who had checked our bag” … this is not a hidden fee. This is an airline procedural issue … and no fee was assessed or collected.

Bill from New Jersey writes: “Without these data we cannot effectively manage our travel programs. It is virtually impossible to budget and control our air travel spend

Bill, having dealt with corporate travel might I suggest using a preferred carrier, or having your travelers fly with only 2 or 3 designated carriers so everyone is familiar with the fees? Additionally, the fees are listed clearly on every airlines website. Your travelers or in-house travel team can easily sort out the total cost of a trip in a matter of moments.  The unbundled fares may require more legwork, but the fees are not hidden from your travelers or in-house travel team.

Anyone complaining about the fees Spirit Airlines on the Mad As Hell site … I skip their complaints. Why? Because Spirit Airline has many fees, but their fees are clearly shown on their website. They are not hidden at all; in fact the fees tend to be blatantly shown on the site.  If you’ve paid $1 for a seat during a Spirit Airlines sale … do you honestly expect that your trip is going to cost you $2 round trip?

People throughout the Mad As Hell site complain about fares increasing … a fare increase is not a hidden fee, it is a fare increase. Do these people complain when the price of a 12-pack of Coke fluctuates in the grocery store because some weeks it is on sale and some weeks Pepsi is on sale?

Some complaints appear to simply be bogus, such as Mickey In California writing “$25 surprise extra dollars when boarding during a connection in Dallas because “it is an international connection.” Go figure!

Mickey … I have connected through Dallas flying to Incheon with Korean Air, connecting from a Delta Air Lines flight, and connected between American Airlines flights at DFW flying to London.  No one has ever stopped me to collect a $25 international connection fee.

So what is the I’m Mad As Hell About Hidden Airline Fees And I’m Not Gonna Take This Anymore! Day about?

It is about … I still have no idea.

If you are booking a flight, you should look at the terms and conditions of the fare and the airline. If you’re not booking from an airline website, maybe choose an online travel agency site that shows you the baggage fees for your airline.

But to be Mad As Hell about fees that are clearly disclosed and not hidden at all … you know what, I am going to start complaining that my 12-Pack of Cherry Coke gets assessed a hidden fee of $0.60 for bottle redemption … who is with me?

Happy Flying!

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Comments

  1. I think for whatever reason, people are afraid to just come out and say they are opposed to a la cart pricing, the ancillary fee model, unbundling, or whatever you want to call it. The campaign should just be an antiairline fee campaign.

    Frankly the fees bother me more than the lack of transparency. The ancillary fee model overall has not been good for consumers. What consumer appreciates bag fees, change fees, fees for the first few rows of coach, standby fees, etc.? There was a time not too long ago when the price of your ticket included services like checked baggage, same day standby as a given, meals, drinks, and many other services. Now a days domestically first class service is often like coach was in say 1993. I don’t think this new industry embraced model benefits consumers, and it degrades the overall quality of the air travel experience.

    When I grew up our family went to the airport to see people off, and the airport was thought of as a sort of destination.

    I don’t think this “new normal” is good at all, and I agree its foolish for this campaign to be watered down by transparency of the fees. Just make it an overall campaign against airline fees! That would also make it a lot easier for a 5th grader 🙂 to understand. Eg do you like or do you not like bag fees? Do you like or not like paying a $150 change fee? Do you like paying fees for advance seat assignments, when in the past this came as part of your ticket? Would you rather have 2 hot meal choices in coach on a segment like BOS to ORD, or pay fees for cold junk food? Do you like the structure that US Airways tested to charge $2 or water or coke, or would you prefer that beverages be included in the price of your ticket?

    I personally have not been affected by many of the new fees because either I’m elite on legacy carriers, or I’ve flown Southwest. But still I don’t think they are good for the consumer, and how can the average leisure travel consumer negotiate on the terms of their contract especially in a city Southwest doesn’t serve?

  2. This is really well written. In Australia & New Zealand, it’s taken us until the last couple of years for a couple of airlines to start charging for baggage and food on board. Jetstar has had this for some time, while Pacific Blue gives you one bag free but buy-on-board food. Air NZ has recently gone down this path with trans-Tasman flights between Ausralia & NZ. You can pay for ‘seat only, seat & bag, the works (seat, bag, movies & seat request), or premium works (premium check-in, more luxurious seat with more room, 2 bags , movies, seat request, lounge access). But again, all of this is told to you in advance. What does irk me is that with Jetstar, for example, if you pre-purchase being able to check-in one bag, it’s NZ$20 or AU$20. If you go for a no-baggage fare and turn up at the airport with baggage, it’s NZ/AU$80 for domestic flights and NZ/AU$160 for international flights – this is a hefty premium. This information is on the website, but you do have to know where to look.
    I think the biggest reason why people think these prices are “hidden” is that a huge number of people just book their flights without looking at the terms and conditions of what they are booking.

    And if I could get a 12 pack of Cherry Coke anywhere in New Zealand for a decent price, I’d be happy. We can get the odd can import from the US every so often, but one can costs about US$3.00.

  3. I agree with this post on the whole. People are just looking to complain, and maybe, if they complain enough, get publicity and maybe a refund.

    I know that when I fly Southwest, I can check two bags for free. I know when I fly Delta, I can’t check any for free. Consumers need to learn to read the websites and the contracts of carriage.

    Re: your Spirit comment, I agree that the principle (baggage charges are clearly stated, not a hidden fee), but I find Spirit to be a generally ridiculous airline. Even if I am lucky enough to travel one of those few-and-far-between $19 fare days, I will still end up paying $75 for my ticket, and $110 for my baggage fees (assuming I bring a bag on the plane and check a bag as well).

    These fees bring my total to $185, for which I could have taken a ride on Southwest for the same price and checked TWO bags, and actually brought two items onboard.

    Consumers seem a bit confused by what words they should actually use when describing fees. NO, they are not hidden (which makes up a large percentage of their incorrect complaints), but YES, some of them are just plain ridiculous.

    IMHO. BTW, I will never fly Spirit.

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