Add-on Fees. Good or Bad?
Below is the headline and lede of The New York Times story about the Ryanair add-on fees uproar that triggered this column:
Ryanair, Scorned in Europe, Turns on the Charm
LONDON — Charging 60 euros, or $82, for carry-on bags deemed too large to go in the cabin. Assessing a penalty of €70, or almost $100, for not checking in online. Bombarding passengers who take a 6:15 a.m. plane with in-flight announcements hawking everything, including snacks, lottery tickets and smokeless cigarettes.
Michael O'Leary, the chief executive of the budget airline Ryanair, has vowed to address the criticisms that have made his carrier, Europe's biggest and most profitable, its most reviled.
—Nicola Clark, Oct. 28, 2013
Have a look at the first image in the media player at upper right. Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary comes off as the quintessential practitioner of nitwittery. Naturally customers feel ripped off when their wallets are pried open by this buffoon.
Quite simply, add-on fees can be explained by good ole-fashioned professional P.R.
Whining Over Fees
After Peggy and I returned from a recent trip, we had dinner with a lawyer friend. I found myself bitching about US Airways charging us an extra $25 per checked bag. Want choice seats on US Airways? Expect to pay an extra $5-$99. Soft drinks and coffee or tea are free, but food and alcoholic beverages are extra.
Our friend's sane, soothing advice:
Think of airfare as the starting point. For example, a train ticket or a bus fare guarantees you a seat from Point A to Point B. That's what you contract for. Everything else is extra—a drink or sandwich in the café car, a red cap to help you with your bags or a sleeper.
When I thought about it, this made absolute sense.