Delta’s checked baggage fee to go up: A flawed, unfair practice

While browsing Wallet Pop, I found out that Delta is increasing its checked baggage fee as of August 4. If you don’t check your baggage on-line before you arrive at the airport, you’ll have to pay $20 for that first bag instead of $15.

Okay, people. Okay Delta, who I’m not too pleased with already, enough is enough. Here’s why I think that’s nonsense, and I’m a person who paid $55 total for checked bags without batting an eye. On our Great American Road Trip 2009 that involved flying to Albuquerque to rent a car to get to Montana and back, we checked one bag on our way there and four on our way back to Columbus.

The fourth was because of a flimsy wooden child’s toy bow and arrow set that was purchased at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. More on that in another post. Let’s just say it was considered a weapon by you know who. All four of our checked bags were paid for at the airport. The fourth was after I found out about the bow and arrow.

I didn’t mind paying the $55 one bit. I didn’t mind having to pack the bow and arrow in one of our carry ons and checking it last minute. (The bow and arrow was small enough to fit into a carry on. The arrow didn’t even have an arrow on it. It was a stick–a skinny stick with a suggestion of a point.That’s all I’m writing in this post about it, except this one more thing. Every time I look at it now that it’s home, I shake my head and say to myself. Dumb, dumb, dumb. And I’m not talking about the bow and arrow or me.)

But, I digress. Back to why I think the practice of charging more for a bag checked in at the airport is flawed. The assumption is that everyone has access to a computer when they are traveling. Or Wi-Fi. I spent a good part of vacation traveling for three weeks with a laptop without Internet access. There are places and circumstances beyond ones control. Here’s another aside. If you’re at the Telluride public library using the Internet –kind of–with your laptop, watching paint dry would be faster.

Here’s another truth. Not everyone has access to a computer at home either for that matter. My father doesn’t have a computer, for example. My father works at a place where you are not supposed to do personal business on company time. As much as it’s hard to believe for those of you out there in the world of Blackberries that aren’t fruit, not everyone is wired to the hilt. Not everyone wants to be either.

But back to baggage. So the assumption that Delta is making is that everyone has access to a computer where they can check bags on-line. I’m thinking about those people who can’t because of not having the equipment, or those people traveling under duress, like my mother has done twice this summer because of a family emergency. My mother has a computer but using it for things business related where you have to enter your credit card number makes her suspicious. Plus, under duress one isn’t sure what one is doing at all.

There are people like that who might just say I’m through with flying. I’ll take the bus or the train. I’m retired. I have time on my hands. Why not take transportation where I’m not nickel and dimed to death and treated poorly in the process-like cattle being sent down chutes to slaughter?

So, let’s say someone doesn’t have access to a computer. Or technology is something they’re not that great with. Or a harried family isn’t sure how many bags they need to check for that trip back home. Or whatever reason someone waits until they get to the airport to check a bag. There they are at the airport and it costs them more money.

Or there they are at TSA with their tempers up because they can’t take that jar of apple butter their grandmother gave them that they forgot about until TSA pulled it out of their bag (This happened to a friend of mine), or that souvenir snow globe or that bow and arrow set–the flimsy CHILD’S toy, on the plane, but they happen to have that carry-on and the time to check it. Air travel already gets people anxious. I’ve blogged for two years at Gadling and I’ve read plenty of stories.

In any of these situations wouldn’t it be better to have them be able to check that bag without being even more ticked off or more annoyed that they are trying to turn a bad situation better or be a good traveler by using the check-in kiosk themselves and it cost them more? We checked the one bag before we arrived at the airport in Columbus, but for the return trip checked all at the airport using the kiosk for the first three without any assistance, and the 4th one with the assistance of the check in person because she wasn’t doing anything when I arrived with the 4th bag. There weren’t any other passengers in line either. If the 4th bag would have cost $20 instead of $15, I may have said forget the bow and arrow, it only cost $7.50. The airline would have not made the $15.

Personally, I think airlines are becoming less and less passenger friendly and the people who are working behind the counter or in the airplanes–and that means flight attendants like our dear Heather, are trying to do their best to make flying on their company planes bearable. With baggage fee nonsense like Delta is adopting, flight attendants and check-in folks have their work cut out for them.

Delta is not ready when you are. Not anymore. Not if you’ve only managed to get ready when you arrive at the airport.

Oh, Northwest how I miss you and am not too pleased with your substitute. I can recognize the evil twin.

*By the way, there were four of us traveling, that’s why the last bag could be checked by me under my son’s name.