June 10, 2009

Would You Pay? (An Airline Game)

Today at work, we were discussing RyanAir’s announcement that they will be charging to use lavatories inflight. I’m all for this decision. I don’t often use the lavatory inflight, and if I really needed to, I’d be happy to pay a few bucks to do so. However, one of my coworkers pointed out that some people will do anything to save a few dollars, and that it might result in some rather disgusting behavior. I definitely think that is unacceptable; however, if they had a way to enforce the policy to be sure gross stuff didn’t happen, I would be fine with it.

In general, I’m a big fan of nickel and diming, especially when it’s for things I don’t want to use. First bag fee? Bring it on, I only check bags when I’m going somewhere for several weeks. Charging for drinks? Despite my alcoholic nature, I never drink inflight – I typically just booze up at the airport bar and then sleep it off on the plane. People tend to get very upset with extra fees, but you have to consider that even though you’re paying extra for something, your ticket price is going to be cheaper by that amount or more, so if you were going to use it anyway, it’s break even, and if you weren’t, you’re saving money. (Yes, I realize this brings up the question of whether airlines are just looking for ancillary revenue or are just trying to cover costs – let’s just assume the latter).

With all this in mind, here are some ancillary revenue fees we discussed and my reactions. Please note that these are not being considered at all as legitimate fees; this is a what-if scenario. If they cost extra, would you pay for:

Seatbelts? Yes. They help in turbulence.
Oxygen masks or life preservers? No. If my plane is going down (already a near impossibility), these aren’t likely to do that much anyway.
Ability to recline? I would love if this were a fee so I could avoid paying it. I almost never recline on flights – I like to sit up straight. And I hate when other people recline into my lap and make it difficult for me to use my laptop. It would be fantastic if airlines designated one column of seats (would have to be front-to-back of the plane to make it fair) as non-reclining.
Window/aisle vs middle? I won’t ever pay for advance seat selection, and I don’t pay for extra legroom seats, but I’d probably be willing to kick in a few bucks to guarantee not getting stuck in a middle seat (depending on stage length of the flight). Particularly on the large trans-Atlantic flights where you have blocks of 5 seats in the middle, these are the worst! That said, if Boyfriend were next to me, I’d take a middle and cuddle up with him.

Electrical outlets (to plug in your laptop)? No, my computer gets good enough battery life.
Wi-fi? If it was strong and good, yes. However, I’d only pay $3/hour, which is much less than most current carriers charge, and they have terrible bandwidth that makes it really slow.
Television? Nope. I’ll bring my laptop and watch stuff on there. I rarely watch the inflight TV or movies anyway.
Headsets? Yes, I always bring my own, and don’t want to subsidize yours.

Food and drinks? Definitely. I don’t consider those a necessity for a flight anyway, and I can bring my own if I don’t want to pay.
Bathroom? As discussed above, would happily pay for this if I felt the need to use it.
Barf bags? (Note: RyanAir also announced they will charge for these). I don’t like the idea of charging for sick bags, because it could result in some messy situations, but I think if you DO get sick, you should have to pay a surcharge. That is nasty to sit near and even nastier to clean up!

Curious what all your opinions are – just no fighting please, as I realize these are some hot-button issues 🙂


28 thoughts on “Would You Pay? (An Airline Game)”

  1. I think all those things should come standard with the ticket price. I hate nickle and diming! I’ve only noticed this with American air carriers – charging for everything. And then the service sucks, the seats suck, the food is horrible; everything is subpar compared to some other airliners, such as Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

  2. I think people should also be charged for every stupid question they ask (yes there is such a thing as a stupid question) such as “why is my flight late?” as the 17th bolt of lightning in the past 10 minutes strikes.

  3. I don’t think I’d pay to use the toilet unless it was some kind of cosmic emergency (even if ya spend a quarter at the gas station, they let you use the bathroom for free!), but I also don’t think I would actually see a decrease in ticket price due to charging separately for various services.

  4. Don’t care what they say, paying for the toilet on a plane will NEVER happen. I understand that this particular airline has mostly short (1 hour or less) flights, but the liability on their end must be enormous if there is any kind of emergency or accident.

    I’m all for paying extra for comfort items, like food, outlets, wifi, headsets, legroom, etc. Seatbelts are a safety item and cannot cost extra!

  5. If there is something luxurious that one can go without during a flight, I am OK to have to pay extra if I want to use them/have them. But when it comes to use of toillets, or seatbelts, etc, those should be included in the ticket price. Ana-Maria

  6. Paying for booze, blankets, whatever, is fine. But in terms of toilets? That can hardly be considered as “frugal”. What about people with medical conditions or pregnant women?

  7. I understand charging for booze and headphones and such. I think safety features should be in the ticket price and to me that includes the bathroom.

    I still hate the charging for checked baggage feature. I now don’t check bags that I used to check so there’s never any room in the overhead compartments, and now I never have hair gel on trips because of security screening. It makes for some frizzy haired vacation pictures.

  8. Paying for the bathroom with my two kids on a flight would make it way too expensive. Like someone else said, I don’t believe that ticket prices would drop with the nickel and diming system.

  9. The problem I have with all the nickel and diming is that it’s always in addition to the price of the ticket. I haven’t noticed any decrease in fares by the carriers who started charging for checked bags. I’d just assume pay one ticket price and have everything included like it was in the old days.

    My biggest beef with most airlines is that Southwest is managing just fine without nickel and diming people, and they maintain super cheap fares. If they can manage, why can’t the others.

    I don’t have a problem with charging for headphones, movies, alcohol, extra leg room… but things like checked baggage, food, and bathrooms should come included in the ticket price. I should not have to pay to take a poo. 🙂 If you gotta go, you gotta go.

  10. I like that headphones, wifi, and television are extra. I wouldn’t pay for these so I wouldn’t want them included in my ticket price. I also don’t mind that food is an additional charge. I’d rather make my own healthy choices about what to eat then feel like I have to eat what the airline provides because I’ve already paid for it.

    Window/middle/aisle is an interesting one. I know some people would like the ability to pay for these perks. But personally I’m glad that as a smart consumer I can still get the seat I want without having to pay extra.

  11. Ok, this just might be a serious idea to consider. Have one price for a no frills ticket, any extras are extra, then have another price with a “bundled” (I stole this idea from AT&T) amenity package. The bundle might include free soft drinks and juice, free snacks, up to 2 free checked bags, free pillow and blanket, free headset, free wifi, etc. The no-frills price could be like $50 less than the bundled amenity ticket. This would eliminate the nickel and diming and please the cheap travelers like me, while catering to people who pine for the good old days. And I too, think essentials like bathrooms and seatbelts should be included in all ticket prices.

  12. The nickel and diming drives me nuts. And relatively speaking it is not coming from my pocket but my employers.

    For personal travel, I fly only Southwest because they have reasonable prices and it is one set price.

    Flying business relatively recently on a 1 day out and back trip I have had my single carryon turned into checked when there was no room left. What is the point of packing light when you have to wait 1 hour for bags that should have fit in the overhead?

    I would suggest your company think about the law of unintended consequences when creating/increasing surcharges because some will work the system, others will pay and many might just leave for a more fair company.

    As for your specific question:
    1) I use potties alot. I am one of the 10% of people who are not dehydrated in life. I would not expect a surcharge.
    2) Safety items. They should be included (and I suspect the FAA would agree:-)
    3) Beverages. They should be included until the TSA stops the ban on liquids. Traveling alot recently there are airports that charge ~$1.50 for a 20 ounce name brand soda and others that charge $3-4. At Safeway I pay $1 for the same soda pop. Until I can bring my buck soda it seems that these items should be free
    4) Wifi/Headsets etc. are luxury items and thus a surcharge is reasonable. And you can always bring your own.
    5) Food-I tend to bring my own because my experience with food is that it is pretty much about as good as my grade school cafeteria (which is not saying much!).

    I guess my philosophy is that if a passenger can bring an item, definitely airlines can charge a fee for the item. But if you cannot choose to bring an item, the airlines become a monopoly, thus surcharges are not reasonable.

  13. I’d pay for just about any extras RyanAir asked me to. They got me around Europe for less than $80 one summer – that’s four separate flights through three different countries. At that price, I expect to shell out for extras like headphones, baggage check (though I’ve never had to), and meals. With the prices charged by US airlines, I’d be less inclined to pay more for some things, though
    thre are many items on your list that I would be willing to pay extra for, particularly entertainment (TV, movies, headphones, WiFi) and food/drink. However, I’d imagine there are regulations in place that would prevent making seatbelts and oxygen masks optional, and making people pay for being airsick would probably prompt more than a few lawsuits, probably the same with toilets.
    When I travel, I value my time and convenience more than I value a couple dollars. That’s why the bag check fee annoys me – it discourages people from checking their bags, which clogs up security check lines and makes it take longer to get off the plane. I’d pay for OTHER people to check their bags 🙂

  14. I think the problem is that you are now being asked to pay for something that once came standard with the ticket. And no, prices don’t always go down when they start the nickel and dime shit or start taking away services. It is all about the money. How much can we as an airline save so that we as an airline can make more money. It has nothing to do with saving us the customer anything.

    Seriously, the airlines don’t care about the customers. It’s all about the Hamilton’s.

  15. To clarify: my airline is not thinking about ANY of these things. My coworkers and I were discussing as part of random lunchtime chatter about what RyanAir was doing. We are all analysts in pricing and have absolutely no say as far as what fees we charge 🙂

  16. I don’t necessarily mind paying extra for certain things, but I don’t like the fact that we are currently being charged for things that used to be free, such as non-alcoholic beverages (on some airlines) and checking your bags. I’m not a heavy packer unless I’m legitimately going to be gone for a long time, but the fluid restriction makes life much more difficult. You either have to squeeze everything into travel bottles, check your bag ($$), or buy stuff when you get to your destination (also $$). My bag usually ends up getting checked anyway because people bring monster bags carry-on (to avoid paying fees, I’m sure), and then my normal size bag doesn’t fit. At least I don’t get charged when that happens, but it’s kind of annoying.

    I know you need to make money, but I think the airlines are getting away from customer service, much like other industries in the US. In Europe, “public” bathrooms often come with a fee, but since I grew up in the US, I can’t imagine paying to go to the bathroom! If I saw a drop in ticket prices or something, I might be okay with being charged little things, but there is something everyone likes about the “all-inclusive” idea.

  17. I’d be for charging for anything IF they first reduced the price and then added in these things to bring the price back to where it was if you use all of them. But since that won’t happen.

  18. I would pay extra NOT to sit in a middle seat (or next to someone who wanted to take up part of my seat or fall asleep with their face near mine). I would also pay a minimal fee ($10 per flight total) to use the restroom and for a snack/drink during the flight.

  19. I hate the idea of charging extra for all those things..I much rather pay $15-20 more in ticket price..and just be comfortable in flight and not reaching in my wallet every 2 secs…just my 2 cents though

  20. I think charging to use bathrooms is kind of silly, people can’t really control their bodily functions and I use the bathroom quite often during flights just because I drink a lot of water and have a small bladder. I would be pretty pissed if I had to pay extra just to pee!

  21. You know what I wish? I wish you could buy a huge 1.5 liter bottle of water on the flight. Even if they charged $5, I’d do it, just so I could be hydrated and not have to schlep around the airport trying to carry 3 bottles of water I bought after I went through security. Or pay $5 for unlimited, snark-free water refills from the flight attendants.

  22. I’m a former flight attendant and think I should get paid the extras! 🙂

    All kidding aside – no one should pay for the bathroom. But yes, extras like: food, alcohol, headphones, etc. should cost money.

    This was a fun post – I like hearing what other have to say! 🙂

  23. Interesting what Melanie says above. Contrary to it’s image, Southwest’s fares are not *super* cheap. There are many places I fly (mostly on United) where the fares on United are competitive with Southwest. All Southwest has done is an effective job branding.

    As for nickel and diming – increase my fare $20. I’d rather pay it that way.

  24. Barf Bags… YES! I would pre-pay. Ok this will be TMI but I’m gonna tell it anyways. I’ve never gotten sick on a flight and I don’t easily get sick. BUT I must have eaten something bad in Germany on my way home from Greece. I remember the plane taking off then suddenly waking up and immediately vomiting. If it wasn’t for that bag it would have been messy.

  25. I don’t think a lot of runners would be too happy if they had to pay extra to use the bathroom on a plane because they were hydrating on the way to a destination marathon. It seems like a necessary precautionary safety measure (the extra hydration) esp when it comes to hot-weather marathons..

  26. i think paying for the bathroom is crap. I think they should charge for seat choice, food and other things but not for the bathroom. That’s insane. They should also offer internet and it would be fine to charge for that too!

  27. I’m not a fan of nickel-and-diming in this situation, just because it’s annoying to pay for something you’re used to getting for free. Like the barf bag, I’ve never in my life needed a barf bag–nor seen anyone else use it except to throw away their gum. But if I did need one, I’d hate to be charged a dollar while I’m tossing my cookies. It would add insult to injury.

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