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A rare victory of passengers over an airline

From September 5, 2018 American Airlines will allow passengers traveling on basic economy tickets to bring a carry-on bag into the cabin. Until that date they are only allowed to take a personal item that fits under the seat in front of them. If they want to take another bag they will need to pay a fee.

The current policy has nothing to do with cost, for taking a carry-on bag into the cabin does not affect the airline’s cost. But carriers charge numerous fees that are unrelated to their cost – like seat selection fees - just because they believe they can.

In most cases they can, indeed, but obviously not in the case of American’s basic economy policy. The carrier’s basic economy revenue has fallen short of expectations, so travelers may have shown they are fed up with American’s nickel-and diming.

However, Google may also have played an important role. Google flights includes a filter that asks you whether you want to bring a carry-on. If you say yes, American flights show up considerably lower in the list of search results than they did before because Google automatically adds $25 to American’s fare.

Thus, Google flights neutralizes American’s and other airlines’ deceptive pricing techniques by showing the real price – including a fee for carry-on bags - as opposed to just the base price.

Although the fee for a carry-on bag is included in American’s fine print that you can read after you have booked, quite a few passengers who do not use Google flights are unaware of it. This not surprising for 2 reasons.

First, it is quite logical to think you can take a simple carry-on into the cabin without paying a fee. Second, American does not reveal the carry-on bag fee on its website. They list only the fees for checked bags.

Obviously, American made a miscalculation by thinking they could increase their profit further by charging a carry-on fee for travelers flying on a basic economy ticket. In contrast, Delta Air Lines does not charge a fee for carry-ons for those traveling on basic economy tickets.

The question is now for how long United Airlines can continue to charge passengers traveling on basic economy tickets for carry-on bags. United is the only remaining US network airline that still charges for carry-ons.

Thus, from September 5, 2018 passengers can choose 2 alternative network airlines that do not do so. If sufficient passengers switch to an airline that does not charge carry-on bag fees United will be forced to follow American’s and Delta’s examples.

Tags: carry-ons, bag fees, Google flights

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