Wednesday, May 21, 2008

An Open Letter to American Airlines

Dear American Airlines,

I write you as both a loyal frequent flier of American and a stockholder.  I read today that you're going to start charging $15 for the first checked bag on all domestic flights.  With all due respect, are you nuts?

Look, I understand times are tough and cutbacks are necessary.  I really, really do.  Fuel prices have hit you hard.  And I can even understand the fuel surcharges.  (I'm not happy about them, but I understand them.  Oddly enough, my employer has not raised my salary to cover my extra fuel expense in hauling my butt to work, nor has it passed that cost on to its customers.  Apparently I'm eating the fuel costs both when I use fuel myself, and when I use your service that uses fuel.  But no matter, we're talking about luggage charges right now.)

Here's the problem:  9/11.  I'm sure you remember it.  It prompted dramatic increases in airport security.  Including delightful little numbers like putting all your carry-on liquids in 3-ounce containers and cramming them into quart-sized plastic bags.  Do you know what the TSA recommends in order to deal with this?  Here, I'll quote it for you:  "Please pack liquids, gels, and aerosols in your checked baggage even if you do not normally check a bag."

Result:  You're giving people a $15 incentive to try to carry their bags on when they otherwise would have checked, despite the fact that the TSA is trying to get people to check their bags

Certainly, I can imagine what's going to happen here.  More carry-ons.  More people trying to get more stuff past security.  Longer security lines.  More unhappy customers. 

Also:  larger carry-ons trying to make it on planes.  Less room on planes for carry-ons.  More gate-checking.  More unhappy customers.

And obviously:  More customers realizing they don't have to pay $15 for a bag at other airlines.  More unhappy customers.

American's reputation dropping in the toilet.  More people preferring to fly other airlines so they can avoid the security lines, the crowded planes, and the fees that go along with flying American.  Is the additional revenue from $15 for the first checked bag worth it?  I seriously doubt it.

I should really sell my American stock, and start using up my AAdvantage miles, because with practices like this, I don't really see either of those two things having much value in the long-term.  Get it together, folks -- instead of trying to nickel and dime us in order to save money, how about trying instead to make flying American a better experience than flying other airlines, so that more people will actually want to fly you instead of anyone else?  Increasing the amount of passengers would be much better for your long-term bottom line than trying to wring extra money out of the few customers you've still got.

Or have I got that wrong?

1 comment:

pegluh said...

Sadly, you know the other airlines will be jumping on this bandwagon and will start to charge for all bags.  I expect airlines to start charging more for carry ons and have a different pricing for aisle seats vs. middle seats vs. window seats.  Next stop: standing room only - no bags (hello FedEx!).  Of course, then TSA would flag you for having no bags.