Last week, SmarterTravel readers were mostly concerned with fees—the good, the bad and, well, the maybe bad. Take it away, readers!
It's Getting Harder to Hide From Fees
Fabian commented on the entry, What Is the Future of Air Travel?:
"Fees are hurting the airlines as much as helping. Case in point. A friend of mine recently moved from Atlantic City to Nashville. Though she is a frequent flyer with both AA and UA and prefers to fly those airlines, she made 3 trips on Southwest (1 round trip and 1 one way) because of their no baggage fees policy. This way she was able to get all her clothes and a large number of smaller items to Nashville and save moving costs. I work as a Corporate Travel consultant and we have a number of our business flyers now requesting Southwest due to their no baggage fee policy."
Fabian brings up an excellent point, which is even more pressing now that Virgin America will be charging for all checked bags. With only JetBlue, Alaska, and Southwest offering free first-checked bags, the options are dwindling for travelers looking to minimize their expenses. Will the remaining three carriers reap the benefits of their fee-free stance, or will they cave to market pressures and add fees of their own?
Southwest Losing its Appeal?
Steve had this to say about Southwest, which is considering onboard food sales:
"Southwest has ALREADY moved away from the formula that worked for 30 years. Within the last 2 or so years - they have moved their emphasis away from the 'pleasure travelers' that created their growth - to catering more towards the business travelers - almost forgetting those who helped make them what they are today."
I believe Steve is responding to this line from the blog: "The more varied Southwest's service becomes, the further it gets from the business model that has worked for so long. Southwest might even alienate some of its loyal fans as it becomes more like its competitors." His comment highlights a major hurdle Southwest is facing as it tries to grapple with the economic downturn. The carrier needs to find new revenue sources, but risks damaging the strong connection it has with its customers, a connection born from its identity as an affordable, no-frills airline. How Southwest navigates the next few months will be crucial to maintaining its newfound dominance in the sky.
Don't Take Away My Free Chips
Serge thinks fees are okay, as long as airlines aren't charging for something that used to be free. And hey, if an airline like JetBlue adds some good sandwiches, that's fine, too:
"I agree completely. It is like upgrading from coach to first on any other carrier. It is another option we have as loyal Jet Blue customers and one that deserves commendation. The idea of charging for something that was once free is what is upsetting. Also the idea of charging for checked luggage and then not having it when you arrive at your destination, and not being refunded the fee because of incompetency at PHL on another US Scareline. I have never had that happen on JB, so paying for a meal upgrade is no big deal to me and give me an option I may or may not take advantage of."
Jamie seconded Serge's sentiment:
"I agree. What bothers a lot of us is when airlines take something that used to be free and start charging for it. If it was never offered for free, adding it as an option is perfectly reasonable."
Charging for checked bags, which used to be free? No thanks. But adding a menu of sandwiches alongside the existing free options? Now we're talking. This is a key distinction passengers are making, and airlines would be wise to pay attention.
Readers Show Love for the Emerald Isle
Lastly, we had a lot of great comments on our Affordable Ireland Favorites entry. Many of you shared your experiences and tips for saving money or making the most of an Ireland vacation, so if you haven't been back to the story, check it out. Here's an example from reader cyn1st:
"As long as we're talking the West Coast be sure to drop in on Ennis. Just big enough & we had a great time there just walking around town. Another favorite was staying the night at Ross Castle. Big rooms but homey & the lake was beautiful at sunrise. It's also reported to be haunted. All at B&B rates! The Wicklow area (SSE) was beautiful, mysterious & historic."
And this, from reader Seamus, sums up the Irish spirit about as well as I can imagine:
"Anyone who doesn't love Ireland is in disfavor with our Dear Lord! (from a first-generation American of Irish descent) Seamus O'Ryan, Duluth, GA"
Thanks to everyone who contributed to a great week of discussion, and keep those comments coming!