Under the leadership of then-President Scott Kirby American Airlines developed a ‘basic economy’ fare more draconian than what Delta had in the market. Customers wouldn’t be able to bring a full-sized carry on bag onto the plane unless they bought a more expensive fare.
When Scott Kirby went to United he had them scrap their basic economy plans and get more punitive, bringing the idea of a carry on bag ban with him. United even rolled out the idea first.
Initially the airline admitted to losing about $100 million on basic economy. That’s because their fares were less desirable than those of competitor airlines. But they were sure American was going to impose the same restrictions, they just had to wait it out.
American did indeed roll out basic economy fares that did not allow passengers to bring a carry on bag on the plane, just a personal item like a laptop bag or a purse. American admitted they were losing business to Delta because when both American and Delta had the same lowest fares, Delta was cheaper for customers who wanted to bring a carry on bag on the plane. So American jettisoned the restriction.
United proudly is the only major airline that has kept the ban on carry on bags for basic economy customers. In fact they’re more punitive than that, even. A basic economy customer who isn’t checking a bag isn’t allowed to check-in online or via app. They have to show up at the airport early in order to stand in line to check in, so an agent can personally verify they don’t have a carry on.
Airlines have rolled out basic economy fares between the US and Europe (for instance Delta and its joint venture partners announced it at the end of 2017 and American and its partners last March), but the carry on bag restriction didn’t take hold for transatlantic travel. Now it seems like it might not be able to even if airlines tried.
Ryanair has been fined 3 million euros over its carry on bag policy. They’ve fined Hungary’s Wizz Air 1 million euros for the same thing.
- Ryanair started allowing only a small personal item for free in January of last year. If you wanted to bring a full sized carry on bag onto the plane you’d have to pay for Priority Boarding.
- If you showed up at the gate with a carry on bag but hadn’t paid the fee, they checked it for free… until November 2018.
- In November they started charging customers who showed up at the gate with a carry on bag they hadn’t paid for.
The Italian Competition Authority found that the policy was implemented in a non-transparent way. They also found that a carry on bag is inherently part of air travel, so must be included in the cost of a ticket.
“Hand baggage is an essential element of the air transport service and its transport must be permitted without incurring any additional costs,” AGCM said in a statement.
“In fact, also on the basis of the European legislation on air transport, the foreseeable and unavoidable supplements must be included in the price of the basic service presented since the first contact and, therefore, can not be separated from this with the request for further sums.
“Hence the deception for consumers, as the price to be paid at the end of the booking process will almost always be higher than the tariff presented at the beginning of the process.”
Copyright: trevorbenbrook / 123RF Stock Photo
If the characterization of European law is accurate then charging for a carry on bag would be impermissible on flights to Europe. Even if the interpretation is novel, if it’ allowed to stand, then flights to Italy would not be able to impose such restrictions.