Letters to the Editor: In defense of airline baggage and seat selection fees
To the editor: I agree with the key thesis in David Lazarus’ column that the $200 fee charged by airlines to change many bookings was excessive and consumer-unfriendly. In fact, I made that argument, to no avail, when I ran the pricing function at a major airline in the 2000s.
But I disagree with him on fees for baggage, food and preferred seats, which are not at all excessive or unfair. They are simply a change from the “good old days” when airline fares were more inclusive.
Most industries do not follow a fully inclusive model. I expect to pay separately for add-ons to most things I buy, even to add a drink to an all-you-can-eat buffet. And, I do not think that airlines must follow an all-inclusive model.
Charging separately for bags, for example, is very fair in my view; the customer who just wants a seat should pay less than the customer who wants a seat and wants the airline to handle — several times — a heavy suitcase.
Change fees were excessive and unreasonable; baggage fees and charges to reserve the best seats are not.
Scott Nason, Dallas
To the editor: The airlines are still and have always been money grubbing and unfair to their customers.
I made a reservation back in March to travel to Hawaii in September on Hawaiian Airlines. As soon as I became aware of what was going on with COVID-19, I tried to cancel. Even though the trip was still five months away, I was told canceling was not possible unless it was the airline that canceled the flight.
Were I to travel to Hawaii now, I would still be in quarantine at the end of the trip. But the airline does not care, and my trip insurance does not cover COVID-19-related issues.
I have two years to use my ticket, but what kind of traveling shape will I be in? I am approaching 80 years old. Meanwhile, Hawaiian Airlines gets free use of my money.
Rita Haber, Canoga Park
To the editor: Fees are determined not by fairness, but by consumer choices, competition and the need to make a profit. Airlines levy change fees (and luggage fees and fees for more legroom) in order to charge a lower base fare and still make a profit.
Today a lot of consumers choose flights by looking at a list of fares on a website and opting for the lowest price. Generally they do not look at all the fees. If an airline tries to be fair and increases the base price and reduces fees in a revenue-neutral manner, it loses business.
People constantly complain about the lack of legroom, reduced meal options and other problems. But when given the opportunity to avoid these inconveniences and pay a higher fare, most opt for the low price.
People act as they do and choose flights as they do, and the airlines react with a pricing structure that enables them to stay in business. When people’s choices change due to the pandemic, the airlines change their pricing structures.
Gene Wagenbreth, Topanga
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