“No one wanted this strike-certainly not this pilot group. We have sacrificed so much to see this company prosper. Now we are sacrificing our paychecks until we get a contract that reflects our contributions to this airline,”.
As of right now, the strike should end this evening, and all flights will resume as normal tomorrow.
UPDATE: The strike has been extended through Tuesday June 15 2010.
Passengers on canceled flights will be issued flight credits along with an additional $100 Spirit Airlines credit. More information on the strike can be found here.
It has been five years since the last strike at a major US carrier when mechanics and cleaners went on strike at Northwest Airlines. The last major pilot strike was back in 1998 – once again at Northwest Airlines. Of course, it could always be worse – British Airways just got out of their third batch of strikes in under a year.
Citing extra space and lower weight, the airline claims that this will help passengers save money by keeping prices low. But in reality, it’s just another stunt to cram as many passengers as possible into the already crowded, fee-riddled aircraft. The Sun Sentinel has more details on the upcoming plan below.
The whole plan has triggered a lot of responses, from both sides. Some people are (justifiably) annoyed that airlines don’t pay much attention to oversized bags from passengers that take up too much space. Others (correctly) point out that when airlines started to charge for checked bags, passengers had no choice but to carry stuff on board.
Still, nothing makes a point better than some cold hard numbers in the form of a survey – a whopping 5,425 of you took the time to respond (thanks!). The results are pretty clear – 93.2% are against the fee and a mere 6.8% think it is smart.
Of course, 5,425 Gadling readers won’t be enough to convince Spirit Airlines that they making a stupid mistake, but if enough passengers do indeed decide to fly someone else, the message will eventually get through to them.
The clip of Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza reporting from an overhead luggage bin suddenly makes sense – his plan to introduce carry-on bag fees has reached two senators, who are outraged over the proposal. So outraged in fact, that they are drafting legislation that will prohibit airlines from charging for bringing bags on board.
Senators Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) have created the Cardin-Landrieu Free of Fees for Carry-On Act. The bill covers the following:
Prohibits each air carrier operating in the United States from charging any fees for carry-on baggage that falls within the restrictions imposed by the air carrier with respect to the weight, size, or number of bags;
Requires each such air carrier to make detailed information about restrictions with respect to the weight, size, and number of carry-on baggage available to passengers before they arrive at the airport for a scheduled departure on the air carrier;
Requires each such air carrier to make available to the public and to the Secretary a list of all passenger fees and charges (other than airfare) that may be imposed by the air carrier.
Kudos to these senators for working on behalf of travelers. Of course, the bill is still in such an early stage that it is hard to determine how much support it will get.
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.
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 afterthe 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).
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.