Spirit Airlines CEO stuffs himself in an overhead bin to justify paid carry-on fees

Spirit Airlines president and CEO, Ben Baldanza took some time out of his busy schedule to try and calm the masses about their upcoming paid carry-on baggage fees.

In his video clip, he claims passengers are annoyed by full overhead bins, and long lines to board the plane. He tells people that Spirit has lowered ticket prices, and lowered checked bag fees. In his logic, by introducing these new carry-on bag fees, the entire experience of flying Spirit Airlines will improve.

Now, lets take a look at his logic – too many people bring too much stuff on the plane. They crowd the overhead bins, and they create long lines for boarding. Why do people bring stuff on the plane? Because Spirit Airlines is one of a long list of airlines that charges for checked luggage ($25 for the first two bags when paid at the airport).

So, instead of removing that fee, and making the experience nicer for everyone, the airline earned itself the ridicule of the airline world by introducing the carry-on bag fee.

And seriously, even though the CEO thought he could be cool by trying to spin this with a funny video, the fact remains that the move to paid carry-on bags will probably cause the airline more than they’ll ever make off their new scheme.
Assuming Mr. Baldanza reads Gadling, I’ll explain why his scheme sucks from the perspective of a traveler:

  • People carry bags on board because they don’t want to pay the checked bag fee – they also want to prevent the airline from losing their bag, setting it on fire or having someone steal the contents.
  • Telling people that their carry-on bag fee is offset by really low price of their ticket doesn’t make the situation any better – people have a built in distrust of anything an airline tells them. A family of three may be forced to pay for three carry-on bags (each way). I suspect Spirit Airlines won’t be able to show that these tickets will be $270 cheaper when the carry-on fee is introduced.
  • People will vote with their wallets – there are still airlines out there that don’t charge for checked bags, and as of right now, Spirit is the only one with a carry-on bag fee.

In a Reuters interview, Ben Baldanza sated the following:

Sprit has reduced fares “by at least as much, or even more than the amount of the carry-on fee”, says Baldanza. “Southwest makes you pay for checked bags even if you don’t check bags, since they have to cover those costs but give you no break if you don’t use the infrastructure. At Spirit, you spend only for what you use and don’t pay for what you don’t use.”

We did an entirely non scientific test to check that. On a Boston Detroit-Tampa ticket, we found the following cheapest prices:

Spirit Airlines: $195.40 total

Southwest Airlines: $220.80

Both flights are priced after the new carry-on fee goes into effect. As you can see – Spirit really is cheaper (by just over $25). This means that a passenger on Southwest Airlines will pay more than on Spirit Airlines.

Assuming of course that the passenger on Spirit is able to pack a weeks worth of luggage into a bag that will fit under their seat.

In reality, nobody is able to do that (unless they ship their bags), so a family of three will end up saving $76.20 on the ticket, but will have to pay a minimum of $90 for three carry-on bags (if they pre-pay online, $135 if paid at the airport).

Goodbye savings.

To me, the fact that the CEO of the airline had to resort to filming a stupid video means the PR backlash from this idea has hit them a little harder than they expected. At least Ben Baldanza is no stranger to bad PR (though he is no Michael O’Leary).

In the end, I’m sure the new measure will take place no matter how much we complain, though I doubt it’ll create the “soaring sales” claimed by Mr. Baldanza, as I really can’t think of a single kind of traveler that saw the new fee and thought “hey, that is really smart – let me start flying this low cost carrier with all the fees”.

What is your opinion? Do you think the idea is smart? Or more importantly – why do you think it is smart (or not)?


UPDATE: See the results of the poll here. A surprising number of folks actually like the new fee.

EU rules on liquid carry-ons may become “fluid”

Grab a drink, if you feel inclined … in Europe, at least. The European Union is getting ready to lift the ban on liquids in carry-ons. The target date is still pretty far in the future, because the technology the EU plans to use isn’t widely available yet. Originally, the prohibition was supposed to expire in April, but now it’s looking like no later than 2014.

Okay, so don’t rush to celebrate the change.

That being said, the EU’s transportation officials are pressuring the technology companies involved to move quickly.

The rules against liquids in containers larger than 100 ml and not in clear bags have been in effect for three years, after a terrorist plot was uncovered in Britain. The perps were planning to use liquid explosives in soda cans.

Now that everyone’s safe, we’re also free to gripe about what we can’t take on board – not to mention longer waits at security checkpoints. Progress may be slow, but at least it’s happening. Let’s give a nod to innovative thinking, with a technological solution being devised to give us back some of our time without compromising our security.

If you need action sooner, there’s a chance that the rules may be eased a bit for duty-free liquids bought outside the EU.

Avoid high baggage fees – rent clothes from Zero Baggage

Airline baggage fees just keep going up, and there seems to be no end in sight. With few airlines left that don’t charge for checked bags, travelers who can’t manage to get everything they need into a carry-on bag could end up paying some hefty fees. One Canadian company has come up with a plan to help.

Zero Baggage promises to provide travelers with an “environmentally responsible, anxiety-free way of living and traveling”. How? By renting clothing. Travelers select the clothes they need to rent (either pre-worn or, for more money, brand new), Zero Baggage delivers them upon arrival, and the items are returned when no longer needed. Travelers have access to a wider variety of clothes, at less cost, and without having to pack a larger bag and pay checked-luggage fees.

Or at least, that’s the plan. The company says it will begin offering service in early 2010 in Toronto, Canada and Gold Coast, Australia.

As someone who has, over time, learned to get by with less and now rarely takes more than one carry-on for a trip of 2 weeks, I don’t think I would use the service. And even in an emergency (a fashion emergency), I’d probably just run out and buy something new. But it is an intriguing idea. What do you think?


5 days 5 bags – Day 5: Tom Bihn Aeronaut

Welcome to the 5th and final day of our “5 days 5 bags” luggage lineup. In the previous 4 reviews, I covered 2 rugged backpacks, a business backpack and a TSA friendly laptop bag.

In today’s review I will be showing you a bag designed by one of my personal favorite brands – Tom Bihn.

We’ve covered their products in the past, and even our own Kent Wien uses a Tom Bihn bag as part of his flight kit.
The Tom Bihn Aeronaut is one of the smartest bags I’ve come across – but the poor thing suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. The Aeronaut is a great duffel. But at the same time, it is also a very respectable backpack and an excellent shoulder bag.

Many bags have a second way to carry them, but the Aeronaut takes this to a whole new level, because each of the carrying methods feels like it is the only, and best way to use the bag.

The bag is huge, but I like to think of it as “smart huge”. By using thinner materials and very little bulky padding, you end up with a duffel style bag, without the cheap duffel bag look and feel.

The 45 liter storage space inside the Aeronaut is so big that I was able to put it through my “full rolling suitcase” trial which involves me moving everything from a large 22″ roller into the cavernous main compartment of the Aeronaut. I like to call bags like this bottomless bags, because no matter how much you pack inside, there is always room for some more crap.

The bag is split into 3 compartments; one main portion and 2 side pockets. The main compartment has a zippered flap that provides access to the entire space. The side pouches are spacious enough for shoes or an oversized toiletries bag.

The left side has a second zippered storage pocket for more stuff, and on the right is an open storage pocket for things like an umbrella or water bottle.

On the back of the main compartment flap is a zippered mesh pocket. The bag itself is made of ballistic nylon, and all the zippers are splash proof as you can see in the photo above.

On the back of the Aeronaut is where you’ll find one of its coolest features – hidden behind a zipper are the backpack straps, which allow you to convert it from a duffel into a regular backpack.

When fully packed with your stuff, the Aeronaut manages to stay within the limits of carry on baggage on most airlines, which explains why Tom Bihn refer to the Aeronaut as the “Maximum carry-on bag”.

In order to use the Aeronaut as a shoulder bag, you’ll need to purchase one of the Tom Bihn shoulder straps.

That’s right – you do not get a shoulder strap as part of your $180 purchase. The reason behind this is that Tom Bihn lets you order the strap you want, instead of including a strap you might not use.

Their $30 Absolute shoulder strap is one of the best in the industry, and is like a shock absorber for your bag. $30 may seem insane for a shoulder strap, but don’t judge it until you’ve tried it, you’ll thank me later.

Last but not least, a very important “feature” of the Tom Bihn Aeronaut bag is that it is made in the USA in their Seattle, WA facility. If you visit their retail store, you may even be able to catch a glimpse of the Tom Bihn staff assembling your next favorite bag.

As I mentioned – the Aeronaut costs $180 with $8 for ground shipping. Just remember to order a shoulder strap if you place an order.

Dimensions (W*H*D): 22*14*9
Weight: 2.71lb
Colors available: Black, steel, crimson
Warranty: Lifetime
Price: $180.00
Product page: Tombihn.com