Which airline made the most money on baggage fees?

airline baggage feesLast year, baggage fees were used by airlines to make up for lost fare revenue, as the recession kept people on the ground. This year, it’s just been a great source of extra revenue, as passenger traffic and fares are up – and the fees haven’t gone away. Almost all airlines are getting in on the action, some more egregious than others.

Well, data for the third quarter of 2010 is in, and we can finally take a look at who’s hitting us hardest … and for how much. The numbers will probably shock you. The top baggage fee-grabber owned close to 30 percent of the total baggage fees charged in the United States, a market that has reached $2.6 billion for the first three quarters of the year, and the top five dominate with approximately 80 percent of the total fees charged for bags, according to data from the Department of Transportation.

Let’s take a look at the top five airlines for baggage fee snatching (and then the rest):1. Delta Air Lines, $733 million: in fairness, Delta is the largest airline in the United States, so it’s to be expected that it will generate the most revenue.

2. American Airlines, $431 million: the third-largest airline hits the #2 spot for baggage fees, implying an aptitude for prying open customer wallets yet to be recognized by its competitors.

3. US Airways, $388 million: again, this is an impressive take, as evidenced by the distance between US Airways and Continental, in the #4 spot.

4. Continental Airlines, $258 million: this almost makes the airline look downright reasonable, especially when it’s year-to-date baggage fees aren’t even as substantial as what Delta raked in during the third quarter alone!

5. United Airlines, $239 million:

And, the rest:

6. AirTran Airways: $112 million

7. Alaska Airlines: $81 million

8. Spirit Air Lines: $56 million

9. Frontier Airlines: $44 million

10. JetBlue Airways: $43 million

11. Allegiant Air: $43 million

12. Hawaiian Airlines: $40 million

13. Virgin America: $27 million

14. Southwest Airlines: $23 million

15. Republic Airlines: $18 million

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16. Horizon Air: $13 million

17. Sun Country airlines: $9 million

18. Mesa Airlines: $2 million

19. Continental Micronesia: $2 million

20. USA 3000 Airlines: $2 million

[photo by The Story Lady via Flickr]

Gadling’s favorite airlines for 2011

gadling favorite airlines 2011

Even with airlines falling over themselves in an effort to generate profits out of new fees and charges, flying retains some glamour and excitement. No? Not working for you? Well there are mileage programs to exploit and perks to chase. And even in the direst landscape for customers, there are always new routes to sample, smiling flight attendants to befriend, and reliable pilots to thank for safe landings.

Going into 2011, it appears that Virgin America is Gadling’s favorite airline. Virgin America sails above the competition with their standard of service, their appealing overall product, and their general freshness.

Other airlines we especially like or tolerate for one or another reason include easyJet, Qantas, VAustralia, Air France, Philippine Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Jet Airways, Continental, Alaska Airlines, and Porter.

We begin with the observations of Kent Wien, Gadling’s resident pilot-contributor and the motor behind two Gadling features, namely, Cockpit Chronicles and Plane Answers.

Kent Wien. Air New Zealand. I don’t know if I was more impressed with their new line of coach sleeper seats or the friendliness of their flight attendants. Either way, Air New Zealand has managed to capture much of the recent jump in tourism traffic to New Zealand by offering an innovative cabin design and enhanced service which includes an in-flight concierge for the entire airplane. They’ve changed the look and feel of their galleys by hiding them away during boarding, since the first thing passengers see when stepping on to an airplane is the in-flight kitchen. And most of these changes were accomplished even after they were named by Air Transport World as the airline of the year for 2010.

Mike Barish. I continue to love Virgin America. They’re willing to show personality. They have a sense of humor and their use of social media is phenomenal. They have really embraced customer service and care about humanizing their brand.

Annie Scott. Air France has the best coach class of any airline I’ve flown this year, but Philippine Airlines gets ten points for calling their economy class “Fiesta Class.”

McLean Robbins. Virgin America. Am I one of many?

Meg Nesterov. Turkish Airlines has become my default carrier of choice, which is fine given their excellent service. How many other airlines will let you cancel and rebook a flight last minute and only charges a small change fee? Their in-flight meals even in coach are reliably good and always free.

Melanie Nayer. Props to Cathay Pacific. Great in-flight crew, and any airline that makes me a grilled cheese sandwich in flight is tops in my book!

Alex Robertson Textor. Porter, hands down. I like the airline so much I found a way to write a piece for their in-flight magazine. I want two dozen regional Porters around the globe, each with limited route maps, quiet, fuel-efficient planes, friendly fight attendants, and a single class of service.Catherine Bodry. Alaska Air.

Grant Martin. Virgin America & VAustralia. All of that positive press is happening for a reason. These two airlines have the best service out there, and their hard products are equally gorgeous. Get to Australia next year while competition is still high and ticket prices are rock bottom.

Karen Walrond. I fly mostly on Continental because I live in its hub city and that’s where my airmiles are. Here in Houston, we’re nervous about the merger between Continental and United. We hope nothing will be ruined in the process!

David Farley. Jet Airways.

Sean McLachlan. easyJet. Everyone complains about them, myself included, but damn they’re cheap and convenient. And hey, at least they aren’t Ryanair!

Laurel Miller. Qantas for their consistently excellent service, staff, and on-time departures.

[Image: Flickr | LWY]

Airline law ends long Tarmac delays, fine threat improves performance

The world didn’t end. No logistical disasters emerged. In fact, everything got a hell of a lot better.

Several months ago, the prospect of a maximum three-hour tarmac delay had the airline industry proclaiming the arrival of the four horsemen. They claimed that it would severely disrupt the industry to have to give passengers the option of getting off the plane would lead to chaos. People would be furious by a lone passenger wanting to bring the plane back to the gate, and crews would be forced to operate within the constraints of customer demands (you know … like other businesses).

Well, the airline industry doesn’t appear to be any worse off than it was. In fact, it looks like the new three-hour rule is having a positive effect. Three-hour tarmac delays have effectively disappeared, and on-time arrivals have improved overall. Everything seems to be running better than it was before the airlines faced fines of up to $27,500 per passenger.

How big a different did it make?Well, only four planes sat on the tarmac for more than three hours in April. In March, 25 hit that mark, and April 2009 had an astounding 81 planes on the tarmac for that long.

So, you’re probably wondering if the airlines stacked the deck, canceling flights to protect their stats and mitigate the risk of having to yank planes back to the gate or shell out big bucks fines. Year over year, the DOT reports that cancelations fell approximately 50 percent, with only 3,637 of 529,330 flights getting chopped.

Overall, on-time performance for the 18 airlines that report to the U.S. Department of Transportation climbed to 85.3 percent in April – up from 79.1 percent in April 2009 (and better than March’s 80 percent. Most of the late arrivals were caused by aviation system delays (e.g., bad weather or heavy traffic).

Efficient use of New York airspace and generally calm weather contributed to the improvement. LaGuardia‘s on-time rate surged to 87.4 percent from 67.4 percent. JFK showed a similar improvement – from 67.3 percent to 83.5 percent.

U.S. Airways led the pack in on-time performance among major airlines and followed Hawaiian and Alaska Airlines in the total market. American Airlines was the bottom of the barrel for the large carriers, with its sister carrier, American Eagle, sucking most among all airlines.

Let’s do the math on this. Holding airlines accountable and offering up the threat of hefty fines for mistreating passengers didn’t jeopardize their ability to operate. If anything, it led to improved results. For once, it seems, the government got it right. If that sounds weird, think of an airline that takes off and lands on time. Weird, right?

Free Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi on Alaska Airlines this summer

Alaska Airlines is celebrating the rollout of Gogo Inflight Internet on their fleet with a summer of free access.

Gogo Inflight Internet is available on six of their Boeing 737-800 planes and the current plan is to have the entire fleet outfitted by the end of the year.

You’ll know that you are on a Wi-Fi enabled plane thanks to a Wi-Fi decal next to the boarding door. Once the plane reaches 10,000 feet, you’ll be able to turn on your portable device and search for the “gogoinflight” Wi-Fi network.

Through July 31st, access will be free of charge, compliments of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card – saving you up to $12.95 per flight. You’ll need promotional code “ALASKAVISA” to bring the price down to $0.

Once the free period ends, access prices will vary between $4.95 and $12.95 depending on the length of the flight and the kind of device you are using.

At the moment, the Gogo Inflight service is only available when the plane is flying over the contiguous U.S. – coverage in parts of Alaska is scheduled to be available in early 2011. A map of the coverage area is available on the Alaska Airlines Wi-Fi information page.

Alaska Airlines picks Gogo Inflight for their Wi-Fi service

This morning, Alaska Airlines became the latest of the major carriers to sign on with Aircell for their Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi service. Previously, Alaska had been testing the satellite based inflight Internet systems from Row44, but because of the speed at which the Aircell system can be installed, Gogo emerged as the system of choice.

As of right now, the Aircell network only covers the lower 48, but it will soon be expanded into Alaska.

Inflight Internet access on Alaska Airlines will start at $4.95. Alaska and Aircell will initially install the Gogo service on a Boeing 737-800. Once the equipment has been certified for their 737 aircraft, the airline will start outfitting its entire fleet, beginning with their 737-800s serving longer routes.

The Gogo Inflight service is already available fleet-wide on Airtran and Virgin America, as well as select routes on United Airlines, Air Canada, Delta Airlines, US Airways and American Airlines. With almost 730 planes, they are by far the largest inflight Internet provider in the world.