Paying for carry-on bags? It could happen on major airlines.

Might major airlines like United someday charge for carry-on bags? It could happen, an executive at another airline says. Photo: M. Spencer Green/Associated Press

Might major airlines like United someday charge for carry-on bags? It could happen, an executive at another airline says. Photo: M. Spencer Green/Associated Press

Could you someday have to pay for carry-on bags on United, American and Delta?

Andrew Levy, president and chief operating officer at Allegiant Air, says he thinks you will. His airline, known for selling deeply discounted coach tickets mainly to and from leisure destinations, has been charging for all but the smallest carry-on bags since 2012. So far, in the United States, only Allegiant and competitor Spirit are charging for cabin bags.

“I would be shocked if in three years we were still the only ones charging for carry-on bags,” Levy told me in an interview last month. “I think if you are platinum medallion on Delta you ‘ll never pay for those. But if I’m ‘Joe Blow’ who only flies twice a year, I’ll always pay.”

You probably don’t believe him. But keep in mind, Allegiant was among the first carriers to charge for checked baggage, making customers pay for bags well before American Airlines shocked passengers in 2008 with the new fee. A fee that was almost immediately copied by every major airline except Southwest.

That could happen again with carry-on bags.

“I personally believe it is inevitable that there will be a charge for carry on bags,” Levy said. “I think it will be a widely adopted fee. But we’ll see. I could be wrong. But the industry has been moving pretty consistently toward where we are and where Spirit is. I don’t think it will stop.”

Charging for carry-on bags is beneficial for airlines in a couple of ways, Levy said. The first one is obvious. The airlines make money off of something that used to be free. The second is a slightly harder to quantify. But if charging for bags means passengers bring less stuff, airplanes will presumably fly at lighter weights.  And over time, that lighter planes can bring some fuel savings.

For many passengers, the key is that an airline’s best customers will actually be rewarded by this move. First, they’ll end up getting a perk, since they almost certainly won’t have to pay to use the overhead bin. Second, the bins will have more space than they do now, since passengers will no longer have an incentive to avoid checking luggage.

What do you think? Do you agree with Levy’s prediction? And do you think airlines should charge for carry-on bags?

And check back next week for more of Levy’s thoughts on ancillary revenue products.




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Report: Delta seeks new Airbus and Boeing widebody jets

According to Aviation Week, Delta is in the market for more A330s, provide the plane has new, more efficient engines. Rendering: Airbus

According to Aviation Week, Delta is in the market for more A330s, but probably wants the plane to have new more efficient engines than today’s models.  Rendering: Airbus

Delta Air Lines is looking for a replacement airplane for its fleet of widebody Boeing 747s and Boeing 767s, Aviation Week’s Jens Flottau wrote this week.

“The carrier plans to look at four options,” Flottau wrote. “The Airbus A350-900 and -1000, all three models of the Boeing 787, the current versions of the A330 and a re-engined A330.”

What’s interesting is Delta CEO Richard Anderson’s comments about how the carrier does not want to buy airplanes that are not appropriate for the missions they fly. If, for example, Delta wants an airplane to fly the relatively short distance from Atlanta to Europe, it doesn’t need a Boeing 777 with a range of 7,000 or more nautical miles.

“Aircraft that underfly their range are uneconomical,” Aviation Week quotes Anderson as saying. “You cannot make a 777 consistently profitable flying only East Coast to Europe. That would be routes 1,000 or 2,000 naut. mi. shorter than what it was designed for.”

As many readers know, Delta has recently taken a more cautious approach toward buying new airplanes than competitors American and United, which have been aggressive in being the next wave of jetliners, like the Airbus 350 and Boeing 787. Instead, Delta has been buying up both used aircraft, like the 717s it acquired from Southwest, and new versions of older planes, like the A330 with older technology engines.

Which jets would you like to see Delta buy?

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Will a new terminal mean more passengers for Burbank Bob Hope Airport?

Burbank Bob Hope Airport is exploring building a new 14-gate terminal. Photo: Burbank Airport.

Burbank Bob Hope Airport is exploring building a new 14-gate terminal. Photo: Burbank Airport.

Within the next decade, Burbank Bob Hope Airport wants to build a new terminal with all the goodies passengers have come to expect, like spacious gate areas, plenty of power outlets and popular concession brands. Early plans call for a 14-gate terminal with about 350,000 square feet, making it about  150,000 square feet larger than the current building.

This is old news. But for a story published today, I wanted to know whether the new terminal might help Burbank Airport reverse its slide in passenger traffic. The quaint facility built in 1930 is not thriving. In 2013, Bob Hope Airport served 3.88 million passengers, a decline of 5.2 percent from the previous year. At the airport’s peak, in 2007, more than 5.9 million passenger used it.

So will a fancy new building — one that might cost between $300 and $400 million — reverse Burbank’s decline? Not likely, experts say.

“The problem is the communities want to have a good front door and that’s nonsense,” said Mike Boyd, a Colorado-based aviation industry consultant. “The best airport is the one that the customer doesn’t remember. Unless you have asbestos falling from the ceiling or rats chewing away the ticket counters, you don’t build a new terminal and get more traffic.”

Burbank’s problem isn’t really its terminal. The problem is Los Angeles International Airport, where four major airlines — United, American, Delta and Southwest — are vying for market share. That’s where the air service expansion is coming.

“You have something called LAX you can get to reasonably easily that has a whole lot more air service and airlines,” Boyd told me. “LAX is the giant sucking sound.”

If Burbank is to thrive again, some say, it will to be because LAX has reached its breaking point. No one is sure when that will be, but LAX is on pace to break its all-time passenger traffic record this year. It was set in 2000 at 67.3 million passengers.

““We don’t really believe that building a new terminal building is going to induce new service,” Burbank airport Executive Director Dan Feger said. “What we do think over time is that over time the congestion of LAX will drive passengers to Burbank.”

What do you think? Are Boyd and Feger right? Will Burbank only thrive again when LAX can’t handle more air traffic? Or is it possible that a new terminal will make the airport more popular?

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Spirit Airlines will give extra frequent flier miles to most frugal customers

Spirit is poking fun at Delta Air Lines. Photo: Spirit.

Spirit is poking fun at Delta Air Lines. Photo: Spirit.

Spirit Airlines is having some fun at the expense of its much larger rivals.

In a bit of gorilla marketing on Monday, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based airline said  it will temporarily give bonus frequent flier miles to passengers who book the cheapest fares.

If you book a one-way fare for fewer than $36, you’ll receive 1,000 bonus miles from Spirit. If the fare is between $26 and $65, you’ll get an extra 500 miles. And if your fare is between $66 and $99, you’ll receive an additional 250 miles.

Last month, Delta Air Lines revamped its Skymiles structure so that customers who buy expensive tickets will receive far more miles than those who buy cheap ones. Other larger airlines are also moving in this direction, though not as quickly.

“We see an increasing trend in other airlines switching to an elitist frequent flier reward system that essentially favors customers who have deeper wallets and can spend more money on their flights,” Bobby Schroeter, Vice President of Consumer Marketing said in a statement. “Our FREE SPIRIT program rewards customers based on their loyalty and we
firmly believe that the more money we save our customers, the more loyal they will be.”

Customers who buy Spirit tickets before April 15 will be eligible for the promotion.

Spirit is known for two things. Cheap fares and suspect customer service. NPR’s Planet Money program did a feature on Spirit recently, and it’s worth a listen if you haven’t yet heard it.

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Virgin America wants to add flights in Dallas

Virgin America will add flights in Dallas. Photo: Virgin America.

Virgin America will add flights in Dallas. Photo: Virgin America.

Virgin America is branching out from San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The airline announced today that it wants to add 18 new flights from Dallas Love Field. For now, Virgin doesn’t have any gates at the airport, which is considerably closer to downtown Dallas than the much larger Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport, but it wants to acquire from American, which is required by the Justice Department to give its gates up. (Delta wants the gates as well. So does Southwest.)

In October, the federal government will lift long-time restrictions on which destinations can be served by large jets from Love Field. Competitor Southwest Airlines, which already has some gates at Love Field, previously announced its proposed Love Field schedule.

Here’s what Virgin America plans from Dallas. It’s notable because Virgin America has been, since is founding in 2007, a California airline, with just about every flight, touching San Francisco or Los Angeles.

  • DAL to New York (LGA) (four roundtrip flights a day).
  • DAL to Washington (DCA) (four roundtrip flights a day).
  • DAL to LAX (three roundtrip flights a day, expanding to four in 2015).
  • DAL to San Francisco (SFO) (three roundtrip flights a day, expanding to four in 2015).
  • Virgin America also would add two roundtrip flights a day from DAL to Chicago O’Hare in early 2015.

I know many of my readers are incredibly knowledgeable abut the airline industry. So I ask you this question: Will Virgin’s Dallas experiment work?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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