Alaska Airlines has a 20 minute baggage claim guarantee. They launched this in 2010 it isn’t a new idea. If your bags don’t hit baggage claim within 20 minutes of your plane’s gate arrival they’ll give you your choice of 2500 miles or a $25 discount on your next flight.
Delta competes vigorously against Alaska in Seattle, and introduced their own 20 minute guarantee offering you 2500 miles if they fail to deliver.
Yesterday United became the first big US airline to increase checked bag fees to $30 for first bag (and more for some routes). So what do you get for your money?
In the past when airlines (even United) devalued their offerings they at least tried to claim they were offsetting it in some way. For instance dozen years ago when Mileage Plus devalued their award chart they told members that it was so they could promise award seats would be available on every flight, every day. But a higher bag fee doesn’t come with a promise that begs will be delivered on time.
United says their “purpose is customer service” and that they’re “committed to connecting people, along with their bags, to the moments that matter most.” But beyond that they promise you nothing.
United is telling employees they should tell customers who complain that their “hope is to reinvest in a more enjoyable and caring flight experience.” They don’t promise to do this. They don’t offer you anything if you don’t get a more enjoyable experience for your increased fee.
Not only isn’t United getting more efficient, providing better service at lower cost, they’re raising the price of checked bags and not providing any greater value for your money.
Or we ought to get to ride the baggage carousel ourselves along with our bags for that kind of money like the singer from Puddle of Mudd did in Denver.
As I wrote when word of this change broke — on the Friday afternoon at the start of Labor Day weekend (a.k.a. “take out the trash day”) — American Airlines is going to have a hard time not following this move, because they’ll have to explain why to investors who naively think raising prices is how you make more money in a competitive industry. American does not offer a baggage guarantee.
Indeed while delivering bags when you take money to do so is just textbook contract law from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (“bust a deal, face the wheel”) a customer who sued when US Airways failed to deliver her $15 checked bag in a timely manner back in 2011 is still fighting American Airlines over it.
It seems to me that if checked bags are going to be separately charged, then customers should be refunded if their bags are lost and offered compensation if their bags are delayed. But it’s a special type of gall for an airline raise the price of checked bags and not offer basic assurances in return.