Planes, Banks and Stupid Fees

I’m late. I know.

OK, so last post asked why the airline industry has been able to get away with fees on just about everything but Bank of America wasn’t able to pull off a five dollar monthly usage fee on debit cards. Well, I figure there are four reasons: options, necessity, anger and commitment. More than one of those reasons explain a lot of the way the airline industry works the way it does.

First reason: Options. Pretty much every airline has added pretty much the same fees. Baggage fees were first, then charges for snacks and drinks, charges for not notifying that you’re bringing a carry-on, charges for seat selection, so on and so on. The airlines that don’t have as many fees are smaller than the major carriers and don’t fly everywhere. That means you don’t have options. Pay the fee or go on a road trip.

Second reason: Necessity. You don’t have to fly, but you do need a bank. That means more mad people. Simple math.

Third reason (maybe most obvious): Anger. People are mad at banks. Multi-billion dollar bailouts will do that. In BoA’s case, the animosity is exacerbated by layoff announcements and foreclosure increases. Airlines didn’t get those same bailouts. Now, one might argue that people’s anger at big banks couldn’t have gotten any worse than it already was (a similar argument is grounds for defense in libel cases), but there’s just no limit to some people’s anger, especially in a down economy.

Fourth reason: Loyalty. Frequent flyer programs be damned – there is little loyalty in air travel. If there were, sites like Expedia and Travelocity wouldn’t exist. Hell, there isn’t even loyalty to travel sites. If there were, Kayak wouldn’t exist. People want to fly cheap and choosing an airline for a specific trip has but a short commitment. Next time you fly, you’re welcome to switch airlines with no extra work. Banks require more commitment, especially for those of us who have direct deposit. Switching is much more labor intensive.

The way I see it, that fourth reason explains a little about how airlines behave. This isn’t based on in-depth research, but my opinion of airline customer service has gone way down. I imagine many would agree. Well, if loyalty is at such a low, why go the extra mile?

Next post: I explain ways to make air commuters happier.

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