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Got a number of emails reaction to last week’s story about how Southwest Airlines is considering the possibility of imposing baggage fees - if that’s what consumers say they prefer - after years of saying that its no-fee approach is what makes it different.

MNB reader Sharese Alston wrote:

If SW wants to start charging baggage fees, they better go back to the $79 one way strategy, and being the cheapest airline again.  Right now, their prices are the same as everyone else’s, but they win because people save $50-100 for their luggage roundtrip.  I’m just not sure what will set them apart if that changes.  Well, they still don’t have cancellation fees I guess.  It will be interesting to see what happens.  For sure, people hate their train-style boarding so that’s not a winning attribute that will help maintain their profits either.

MNB reader Steven Ritchey wrote:

When Southwest starting airing the commercials about no baggage fees, I said to myself, I hope they never start charging fees after shouting from the rooftops, “no baggage fees”.  Some of us  have rather long memories.

From MNB reader Matt Karpinko:

Having been a flier on Southwest Airlines for many years, I’ve always appreciated their no-nonsense approach to the business.  Top notch customer service, well trained and motivated employees (I once witnessed flight attendants conduct a singing contest at the front of the plane to give away tickets to a Vegas show), and cheeky ad campaigns.  I don’t fault a company for looking at what’s right for long-term profitability, but at the same time it will be an awkward moment when the day comes they have to take down those bright yellow “I CARRY FREE BAGS” signs from all of the luggage carts on the runways.

From MNB reader Rosemary Fifield:

When I fly Southwest, I know that I have no baggage fee and I figure that into my comparison of pricing because I do check luggage every time. But those who only carry their bags are subsidizing my luggage choice. I’ve always assumed it’s built into the price, and I happen to be on the receiving end of the benefit. Without knowing what percentage of customers check bags and what percentage do not, I don’t know if this is a good business move.

MNB reader Rich Heiland wrote:

This has nothing to do with your Southwest comments on baggage, but is related.

The Houston Chronicle had a story today about how United is going to change its computer system to lessen the chance for lower cost tickets. It notes that its latest earnings report shows a problem with too many low fare tickets, as determined by the computer program that balances empty seats versus discounting them within a certain window to put a butt in the seat.

While this would not involve last minute purchases I was shocked at the cost of tickets for New Year's to places like Cancun, Puerto Rico. My wife and I had thought of a getaway but now are going to a friend's hideaway in Northern Arkansas instead. 

I have to say that when my consulting/speaking career is over in a couple of years, I no longer will have loyalty to any airline. In retirement I will be the ultimate bottom feeder. Service has flattened out at such a low level, frequent flyer programs have been devalued to the point that my question on airline loyalty is fast becoming "why?" 

I also noticed that airlines are making seats smaller, which seems to fly in the face of our broadening butts. I commented to a friend that the only difference between a Greyhound and a 737 these says is altitude and time....and the bus has a better seat.

And, from another reader:

If ever existed an industry without a clue, it is the airlines. The a la carte model is certainly a huge revenue driver.

But, the law of unintended consequences does get in the way.

Far too many people carry on bags. That slows down every thing: the security lines; boarding; stowing bags on board; removing bags from the overhead; and exiting the planes. Some of folks cannot even lift or remove the bags without assistance. That is not their fault. They're just avoiding the bag check fees. No blame intended here. It is a good idea to avoid spending money whenever possible.

When I traveled extensively on business (for more than 30 years), I almost always carried on my bags. It saved time with very tight scheduling. I would have gladly paid for it.

Why not reverse the situation? Charge to carry luggage on to the plane. Stop charging for checked bags (unless more than two bags or excess weight or size). I think that is done - but I don't recall the airline(s) doing it.

Airlines make money when the flights are in the air. They should maximize flight time and minimize ground time. Connect in/out of London. The leading airline there makes it tough to carry on much more than the clothes you are wearing. While I don't particularly like their policy, it works. And, it does not matter how far up the elite scale you rank with their partner airlines. If you're in coach, you don't carry on a roller bag.

Make it easier and faster to get everyone through security and then on/off the planes. Southwest has been doing that superbly for years. Now it looks like they're at risk of coming down with the "dumb" virus infecting the airline industry for far too long.

If an airline market researcher asked me if I would rather have lower fares and pay for checked bags, I would (of course) say 'yes.' But having elite status exempts me from having to pay for checked bags.

And, responding to my RIP note on Friday about the passing of NY area sportscaster Bill Mazer, MNB user Tony Moore wrote:

Wow – blast from the past.  I grew up in North Jersey listening to him in the 60’s on the radio.  Remember getting  a book of his for Christmas and thought it was the best present that year.  While not a student of broadcast history, I always felt he was the “Father of Sports Broadcasting.”

Michael Sansolo and I were chatting about this on Friday. We agreed that if Mazer had been born 30 years later, he would’ve been an enormous star on ESPN or WFAN or any of the other all-sports format media ventures out there today. And you’re right … in many ways, he was the father of many of them.
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