Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spirit Airlines: Enough, Already

After I vaulted high on my soapbox and raised hell here about Spirit Airlines abominable new policy of charging passengers $45 for carry-on luggage, my biggest concern was that major media outlets would ignore the issue. After all, JLo has a new movie coming out, and most of the 23-year-olds that now command reporter posts at corporate media aren't old enough to remember when the words "airline service" worked in tandem.

Thankfully, the issue has caused such a stink that some heavy-handed politicos are getting involved. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has taken issue with Spirit's announcement that some flights will only cost a penny—that is, of course, until you add their fees. He says the DOT is "going to hold the airline's feet to the fire" on the matter of disclosing accurate airfare.

In addition, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, concerned that this will become standard practice in the industry, got five major carriers—American, United, US Airways, Delta and JetBlue—to vow they will not follow suit. At a press conference yesterday, he also said he plans legislation to designate carry-on baggage as a necessity. That technical change would make fees that airlines collect taxable. "Peanuts may not be a necessity for air travel. But carry-on bags most certainly are," Schumer said.

Meanwhile, Spirit is doggedly pursuing yet another way to make air travel more miserable: quietly rolling out planes with "pre-reclined" seats, so that it can fit more passengers on already packed planes—packed, that is, until Spirit is either forced to rescind its absurd policy when passengers flee for other carriers, or it declares bankruptcy for the same reason.