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United Makes Plans to Drop 'Baggage Neutrality' 682

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the too-strange-to-fathom dept.
theodp writes "If you need a clue as to how creative ISP execs might get in the absence of network neutrality, look no further than United Airlines CEO Glenn Tilton, who is wowing Wall Street with his willingness to examine new ways to wring money out of the carrier, including making economy passengers pay a fee unless they want their luggage to come last off the plane." Now I think when i was like gold ultimate handjob elite years ago my bags had tags that usually made them come out first, but this seems just kinda crappy. I mean, remember when you got a meal on airplanes? No wonder people hate to fly.
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United Makes Plans to Drop 'Baggage Neutrality'

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  • by langelgjm (860756) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:17AM (#21062741) Journal
    The baggage claim is not a dump truck! You can't just keep dumping stuff on it...
    • Re:Not a dump truck (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cayenne8 (626475) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:26AM (#21062787) Homepage Journal
      This kind of stuff is why I try to fly Southwest Airlines whenever possible.

      I mean...yeah, I'm not thrilled with the 'cattle car' mentality you go through, but, hey....at least their prices are reasonable, they seem to be about the best with respect to flight times, and they don't seem to try to fsck the last $ out of their customers.

      I hope, though, that they stop the policy of trying to keep good looking chicks with skimpy outfits off the planes....that was kinda stupid.

      • Re:Not a dump truck (Score:5, Interesting)

        by JohnnyGTO (102952) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @11:08AM (#21063077) Homepage
        When I was doing VTC installs on the west coast I usually flew Southwest and it was great because I just wanted to get there and get home. If I got to the airport early I usually got on an earlier flight no problem, if I was late then I got on a later flight with no extra charges. I packed light personally but had a 50 pound tool kit that never was a problem. I rarly had a reason to bitch about SWA.

        Now the other west coast carrier, America West was a horror story almost every time. I would wait overnight and fly SWA before I got on another AWA flight. We once arrived at the counter at 6:30am an hour before our flight, pre-9/11, only to be told that because we booked the flight over 30 days prior and failed to confirm in the last 24 hours we were bumped. Even though the seats were paid for. Of course they tell us this after our luggage went down the chute, which they told us we could retrieve if we ever got to Portland. Then promised us to get us on the next flight. Fast forward 8 hours and we are still being fed bullshit by the ticket agents, of course I forgot to mention the two little bored kids with us. AAAAAAAAAAAhhhhh never agian AWA we went done the counter and immediately got on a SWA flight, kids got to sit with the pilot during a lay over (pre-9/11 again dang I miss the old days) and arrived 12 hours after our luggage, which was dumped beside a carousel out in the open. Never again AmericaWorst!
        • Re:Not a dump truck (Score:5, Interesting)

          by tompaulco (629533) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @02:33PM (#21064707) Homepage Journal
          Southwest, the only airline making money, is usually only a bit more expensive than the cheapest airline. The employees seem to be treated very well, because they are almost always happy, giddy even. They keep maintenance costs low by only flying one type of airplane (granted the 737 has a large number of subtypes). They don't punish emergency flyers by jacking up the prices in the last two weeks. If you arrive to the airport early or arrive for a connection early, they will try to get you on the earliest flight for free. Southwest understand that delays are cumulative, so getting you out of the airport and to the next stop is a priority over keeping everyone in their appointed seat on their appointed flight. Late night flights on Southwest are therefore sometimes nearly empty, so that flight undoubtedly loses money, but in the grand scheme of things, they make more money by not having to spring for hotels for lots of stuck travelers and making people happy by getting them where they wanted to be, perhaps even ahead of schedule.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Dorceon (928997)
            Southwest is not the only airline making money. Delta (post bankruptcy) has started turning a profit as they shifted a lot of capacity to more profitable transatlantic routes. Meanwhile, American (which never went through bankruptcy) posted a $175M profit last quarter, which is its sixth consecutive profitable quarter.
          • by whoever57 (658626) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @08:35PM (#21067385) Journal
            Any airline that won't let you take an earlier flight is just stupid. The later flight may be full and they might have to bump people, or there might be an equipment problem, or a 100 other issues that would mean lost revenue. A passenger flying on an earlier flight is not only a happy customer, it is also revenue earned.
    • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:26AM (#21062791)

      The baggage claim is not a dump truck!

      Of course not. It's a series of belts.

    • by AvitarX (172628) <me@brandTWAINywi ... org minus author> on Sunday October 21, 2007 @11:15AM (#21063117) Journal
      This is not equivalent to net neutrality.

      The analogous situation to no net neutrality would be to say the destination countries need to pay to guarantee good baggage delivery, so people don't associate them with lost baggage.

      Charging the customer for better service is a perfectly acceptable way to handle getting more money, both the cable and phone companies do it.
      • by Hognoxious (631665) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @11:32AM (#21063233) Homepage Journal

        Charging the customer for better service is a perfectly acceptable way to handle getting more money
        It seems more like blackmailing and gouging the customer if he wants to get any service, including ones that you'd reasonably expect to be included anyway.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AvitarX (172628)
          Or,

          It is like offering customers a chance to save money by not even using checked luggage (which I pay for even though I don't use it).

          How is tiers of service price gouging? And why can't I sacrifice decent service for cheaper prices? I do that for everything else.
          • by Smallpond (221300) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @12:48PM (#21063871) Homepage Journal
            The downside of this is that everyone will do what you do, which is cram as much stuff as possible into the overhead bins in order to keep from checking bags. This slows down the security lines and getting on and off the plane.

            It does sound like a protection racket, tho. Maybe next will be:

            "Would you like your bag to be handled extra-carefully? For a small fee we can make sure your bag doesn't get dropped or run over by a baggage cart, or maybe show up with the handles wrenched off. Heh-heh."
    • Airport clothes shop (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Chapter80 (926879) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @12:19PM (#21063619)
      I like flying into Cincinnati. They have that shop just off the main terminal that you can get all your clothes and a piece of luggage to carry it in. Sure, the clothes are slightly used, but all are clean and in great shape.

      I pack my underwear and toiletries, and don't bring a single stitch of clothing, other than what's on my back. I'll stop at the shop and pick up a few USED dress shirts, a few casual shirts, pants, sometimes a suit. Everything's organized, in style and well marked. It takes me far less time to pick up my clothes than it would to pack at home, check my luggage, pick up my luggage, etc.

      I leave a credit card imprint for the deposit on the clothes. When I return them, I usually get my full deposit back, less the cleaning and usage fee, which is far less than a typical laundry and dry cleaning bill.

      OK, I made this service up, but doesn't it sound like it would appeal to some class of traveler?

  • TANSTAAFL (Score:5, Informative)

    by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:18AM (#21062743) Homepage Journal
    First, the article saya the CEO of United "wants to pursue everything, from a merger to charging passengers who want their luggage to come first off the plane" (emphasis mine). That's a far cry from the article title which infers it's a done deal.

    Deregulation brought about intense competition in airline fares. The flying public wants to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. As a result, the airlines have been under continued pressure to reduce costs to stay competitive. This has resulted in charging for meals and in some cases, even pillows.

    ISP's are in a similar boat with respect to intense pressure on keeping prices low. It's only a matter of time before they figure out how to charge additional
    fees for "extras". You get what you pay for.

    Oh, and you still get "priority" tags on your bags for being an elite frequent flyer. Whether or not your bags come out first though is strictly a matter of chance.
    • Re:TANSTAAFL (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rjhubs (929158) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:30AM (#21062829)
      The problem is the moves airlines make don't make sense if they wish to stay in buisness. In a competitive enviroment, buisnesses should be seeking to reduce their costs and increase the value a customer recieves. Charging to get your baggage first lowers the value of the product because while people who pay might get added value, the customer who is still paying the same ticket price gets less value by having their luggage no longer randomly come out. If the airlines were interested in being more competitve the correct move would be to offer flyers a discount if they don't mind their luggage coming out last. Removing meals from planes is the same thing. Reducing costs is only effective if you change the way you act internally and the product the public gets doesn't suffer.
      • Re:TANSTAAFL (Score:4, Insightful)

        by pedramnavid (1069694) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:53AM (#21062979)
        Charging to get your baggage first is the same as offering a discount if you don't mind them coming out last.

        Proof: X is the base rate of a flight with unprioritized luggage delivery. The cost of having prioritized luggage delivery, per person, is Y.

        Now you can either charge everyone X + Y and then offer a discount of Y to those who don't need it, or charge everyone X and offer a fee of Y to everyone who does need it. Either way, those who need it are paying X + Y and those who don't are paying X. However, offering it as an added fee gives the appearance of lower prices, which, if you're trying to stay competitive, is important. Removing meals from planes is the same thing. You can offer lower prices than your competition by not including meals in the base price. For those who don't want cold meat, or who don't eat that crap anyway, it's better incentive. It might make it marginally more expensive for those who do eat the meals (assuming it would cost less per person to have meals prepared for everyone than it would to prepare meals for only those who want it), but it would still be just as expensive if you were to offer the discount-method.

        • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @11:35AM (#21063249) Homepage
          It doesn't make any difference to me. My baggage always comes out last.
        • Re:TANSTAAFL (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Teddy Beartuzzi (727169) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @12:41PM (#21063813) Journal
          LOL. Great theory except for the mythical "discount of Y" and "lowering of prices once meals were eliminated". There was no lowering of prices, the meals were eliminated in an attempt to raise profits. Just like there won't be a discount of Y.

          The *reality* is that you either receive less for your X, or you have to pay X+Y to get what you used to get.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mobby_6kl (668092)
            So, you mean to say that flying with EasyJet and Ryanair costs just as much as flying with, say Lufthansa?
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by CaptainZapp (182233) *

              So, you mean to say that flying with EasyJet and Ryanair costs just as much as flying with, say Lufthansa?

              As a matter of fact: It depends.I can't speak for Ryanair, but Easyjet may not be so darn cheap if you fly on short notice or during a popular period. The trick is to book as early as possible.

              See, even when an airline only sports one class, the cabin for any specific flight is divided into a number of sub-classes. Each of those classes are priced in a specific range and this may fluctuate daily. There's probably not such a perishable product as an airline seat. An airline rather charges 50$, which is 5

          • Re:TANSTAAFL (Score:4, Insightful)

            by xdroop (4039) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @02:30PM (#21064687) Homepage Journal

            There was no lowering of prices, the meals were eliminated in an attempt to raise profits.
            You can consider the absence of a rise in prices (or, a rise which is not as steep as it otherwise might have been) as a discount.
          • by Latent Heat (558884) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @07:00PM (#21066845)
            It isn't just meals, and it isn't just bags: getting out of a plane in a wreck and saving your backside also costs you extra.

            Never knew how they allocated exit-row seats, but now Northwest charges for them, either in terms of a cash surcharge or in terms flyer points or one of those "Elite" or "Gold" memberships.

            One thing about exit-row seats is that each of the big exits are "manned" by a flight attendant -- that is what they are there for and anything else they do like get you a pillow or not get you anything to eat in this day and age is incidental. The exit row seats are unique in that they are "manned" by whatever passenger is seated there -- in other words, your safety depends on the conscientiousness of a fellow passenger rather than on an airline employee who at least has had some kind of training.

            Mind you, this exit row thing is a kind of loophole to the safety rules that allows airlines to place revenue seats next to some exits instead of rear-facing jump seat with a flight attendant sitting there. The gummint was OK with this until a few years back that they started to "have issues" with it and issued those rules that the airline had to ask if you, as a customer, thought you were physically fit enough to lift a 40 pound exit door, and the airlines began this lameoid thing of "asking" customers if they wanted to be moved from the exit row -- apparently there are all of these 90-lb 90-year-old grannies who can lift 40 pounds from an awkward angle because no one ever volunteers to leave such a seat.

            AvWeek had a discussion about passengers and exit rows, and the time it was suggested to qualify certain frequent flyers by having them demonstrate that they could operate and lift the plug doors and giving those passengers preferrential exit row seating. The current system, at least on Northwest, is that the exit row is a perk that you can pay for, never mind if you are the kind of jerk who never pays any attention to the safety demonstration or has never looked at a seat card.

            Part of the thing is that 1) airlines have a "don't scare the passengers" approach to airline safety, and 2) most passengers believe that they are French toast in any kind of accident and that the safety info is pointless, and many if not most passengers make a demonstration out of pointedly not paying any attention to the safety drills.

            My own personal perspective is twofold. One is that I lived in Chicago when the 727 jet was new, and pilots transitioning from prop planes lacking the high power-off sink rate of the 727 with all of the droops and flaps down were crumping 727's with alarming regularity. The Chicago Tribune told of one accident in Chicago where after one of these crumped landings, only two people got out, people seated next to exits with the presence of mind to operate them, and the rest of the people died from smoke and not from any other injuries. Secondly, I hold a private pilot certificate and have been indoctrinated in the ways of procedures and checklists. Unlike many other conveyances, airline passengers play an active role in the safe conduct of their flights. Can't be bothered to pay attention to the safety announcements and look at the seat card because you have flown the fourth leg of a trip and have flown hundreds of times? Gee, I guess the pilots can't be bothered with checklists because they have flown thousands of times and must know all of the settings by rote not, don't they?

            So you got fat slobs with frequent-flier privileges who could care less about paying attention to the fact that they are in an exit row and have a role to play in an emergency, and you have the rest of us steerage passengers on the Titanic told we are last in line at the life boats.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by NormalVisual (565491)
          Charging to get your baggage first is the same as offering a discount if you don't mind them coming out last.

          Yes, it is. However, how it's *perceived* can make a world of difference, and people are usually more responsive to a discount than an additional charge. For instance, when I do consulting gigs, I charge the customer a hefty fee for not paying on the agreed-upon schedule. Customers generally don't like that, so instead what I do is inflate the base rate slightly, then offer a discount on the b
      • Re:TANSTAAFL (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Dogtanian (588974) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @11:14AM (#21063109) Homepage

        If the airlines were interested in being more competitve the correct move would be to offer flyers a discount if they don't mind their luggage coming out last.
        You might argue that in a competitive cut-throat world, this "discount" is already included in the ticket price. People who are already going for cheap flights- regardless of what they'll say in questionnaires and surveys- are more likely to go for the upfront cheapest flight.

        The company that says "oh, by the way, your baggage will come last if you but this cheap ticket" will likely lose out to the one that doesn't say that upfront. The company that doesn't implicitly "include" the discount in the price will appear at first glance to be more expensive and lose out- or if they explicitly mention the discount, they'll have the same problem as the company that makes clear your baggage will come last.

        Better to keep it quiet, keep the price of the "basic" ticket very low and then make money charging for the "priority" gravy. Cynical, and it sucks but that's the way modern business works. And to be fair, when prices are being driven down to the bone, that's the sort of thing companies rely on to make money.

        As I said, smart customers would realise all this- but real-world customers often don't, giving priority to obvious (and short term) savings over longer term ones. Either that or they know what's happening, but want to save every last cent on the ticket and *then* get annoyed when they actually have to live with the consequences of their decision.

        IMHO, the companies are both victims and exploiters of this phenomenon.

        Removing meals from planes is the same thing.
        Depends how long the flight is. I flew business class from Scotland to London (approx. 50 minutes), and while the meal (and seats) were nice, the difference in cost over a normal ticket wasn't remotely justified. I'd rather have flown economy and had my employer pay me the difference :) If Joe Public is paying for his own holiday flight, I'm sure he'd rather save a few pounds/dollars.

        I don't doubt that the "cost" of the business class meal was inflated way beyond the cost price, but I still bet that the cost price for the company was significant enough that it would be a serious issue for economy-class tickets. Remember that not only do you have the cost of the food, you also have to store it, serve it and clean up the mess.

        And if you think I'm being picky, bear in mind that Ryanair (cheap Irish airline that is popular in the UK) kept their costs down by removing the magazine holders on the backs of seats, simply because it was one less thing to clean up before flying again.

        So yeah, the meal does make a difference, and I suspect that most people on short or medium-haul flights would rather just save the money. It's easy to bitch about this stuff, but the days in which everyone got a "free" meal were the days in which flying was far more expensive.
    • Re:TANSTAAFL (Score:5, Informative)

      by ChrisMaple (607946) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:38AM (#21062889)
      To a certain extent, airplane baggage systems are LIFO. That guy who just barely got to the airport on time has his luggage put in last, nearest the door. When the luggage comes out, the container nearest the door comes out first. The poor planner wins, either oblivious to his good fortune or proud of his slipshod actions.
      • by mbone (558574) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @11:08AM (#21063073)
        I generally try to be the last person on each flight I take. I take a lot of flights. I generally check a bag.

        Trust me, it does not make your luggage come out first. Not even an appreciable fraction of the time.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Skater (41976)
        Ever see the "Dirty Jobs" episode where he's at an airport sorting luggage? There is no way LIFO (last in-first out) would be assured, or even probable. The luggage goes through restackings both to and from the plane, plus on the plane it could be crammed in in any order.

        Moreover, I can't see how the proposed measure would save an airline money - they'd spend far more money on labor doing the sorting than they would earn, I think.
        • Re:TANSTAAFL (Score:5, Interesting)

          by johnw (3725) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @12:46PM (#21063849)
          I used to fly around small airports in Europe quite a lot (places like Salzburg) and I habitually used a very odd-shaped bag. This seemed to work very well, and I more than once saw it travelling to or from the plane perched on top of the baggage trolley and it usually seemed to come out first on the carousel.

          My theory to explain its early arrival was that its odd shape caused handlers to put it to one side each time they were stacking something and then pop it on top of the trolley at the end. Worked for me anyway.
      • by Hognoxious (631665) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @11:43AM (#21063313) Homepage Journal
        Nope. How it works is this. The baggage handlers can see all the people waiting at the carousel. Not only that, but they know everybody's face and name. Then they search through all the bags, and find the ones belonging to the people who are closest to the belt. They unload those first.

        If it isn't so, why does everyone press right up to the belt, even if their bag isn't there, completely getting in the way of anyone whose bag is on on the belt?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by MightyYar (622222)
          If you think THAT is weird airport behavior, travel through Asia sometime and watch as everyone jostles for position to get on the stupid plane as soon as possible, as if it will leave without them.

          Maybe their trying to get dibs on overhead compartment space?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Maybe their trying to get dibs on overhead compartment space?

            I do that, too, now, on domestic US flights.

            Because I am sick. to. fucking. death. of complete assclowns trying to stuff upto and including fullsize bags into the overhead compartment with zero concern for anyone else, just so they avoid having to check bags. I've lost track of the number of times I've had to try to stuff my (small) laptop backpack under the seat in front of me, and twice I had to have the bag taken from me and check it, becaus

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by MorePower (581188)

              If I was the god of airlines, I would rip out the overhead bins entirely. Tons of time is wasted as everyone tries to squeeze past eachother in the crowded aisleways to find space to stuff in their giant (bigger than my checked luggage) suitcases. Then at the end of the flight you've got to wait for the same people to squeeze their way around to get the bags back down, often dropping their 50 pound suitcases on eachothers' heads in the process.

              If it doesn't fit under the seat in front of you, it's not a ca

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by LinuxInDallas (73952)
          Interesting theory. I flew through two airports in Sweden last summer and they had an interesting scheme. They have a "no mans land" taped off around baggage claim so that people couldn't get up right against the belt. You were only supposed to cross over the tape if you saw your bag. That way if you see your bag you are assured that you can actually get to it. A good idea I thought and I'm not sure why I haven't seen it elsewhere.
    • by Erris (531066) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:58AM (#21063013) Homepage Journal

      You get what you pay for.

      Sometimes your money vanishes into a CEO's private yacht.

      United is a prime example of an unethical company that fails to meet any of it's three primary responsibilities: customer service, job security, and investor return. It does not matter that this "plan" to screw customers is not a fact yet, because United customer service is already the pits. How could it be otherwise when the employees are demoralized by games like this:

      In an Oct. 15 letter to United's board, the president of United's flight attendants union questioned why the company is mulling selling assets that it insisted were vital during its three-year stay in bankruptcy. "It has only now become clear that the sale of these assets is not only a viable option, but that a timely sale would have avoided the need for severe concessions and, perhaps, avoided the bankruptcy altogether," wrote Greg Davidowitch, president of the United master executive council of the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents 17,000 United workers.

      One of the "concessions" was the elimination of employee pension plans. Bankruptcy, of course, screwed investors. It's little wonder that United is often mentioned when I hear bad travel stories. Please do not talk to me about regulation to protect such scumbags. The kinds of things United is accused of are crimes that should be punished.

      The other half of TANSTAAFL is a free market. Without that, there's no such thing as a fairly priced sandwich lunch. Glenn Tilton is lucky there's air on the other side of most doors.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mikeplokta (223052)
        Actually, any listed company has only one primary responsibility, which is investor return. Pursuing job security or customer service where those conflict with investor return is not only unethical, it's illegal. Of course, good customer service generally leads to a better investor return.
        • by tompaulco (629533) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @02:01PM (#21064455) Homepage Journal
          We need to educate the investor that making $1 this quarter by selling vital assets, screwing customers, and weaseling out of agreed to pensions is no match for the $10,000 you could make in 10 years by treating customers like customers, standing behind your employees and keeping equipment well-maintained.
          Actually, it is pretty much a misnomer to call the modern breed of stockholders 'Investors'. They just want to buy it, run it up and sell it. They are not interested in 'investing' in the company at all.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ultranova (717540)

          Actually, any listed company has only one primary responsibility, which is investor return. Pursuing job security or customer service where those conflict with investor return is not only unethical, it's illegal.

          A company has whatever responsibilities the law dictates, because it is simply a fictitious legal entity rather than a real natural one. There is no natural right to keep on getting profits while being shielded from any consequences - such as jail time - of the actions your hirelings - the CEO,

        • by Vengie (533896) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @03:27PM (#21065191)
          Illegal? Under Delaware corporate law at least, a company's charter can be whatever it wants. If a company wants to incorporate into its charter that it MUST tithe, that's perfectly fine. Corporate donations (and social spending, i.e. on employees, the community) are far from illegal, they are encouraged (or perhaps even mandatory.) See e.g. AP Smith Mfg. Co. v. Barlow, 13. NJ 145 (1953). [Since you obviously don't know "the law" -- Delaware's corporate law is basically a copy of Jersey's, with lower fees.] Clearly, you've never heard of the Business Judgment Rule. Please don't opine on the law if you don't know it. thanks.
    • There's a perpetual argument on slashdot that goes like this:
      Lin/Win: Macs are more expensive.
      Mac: No they are not if you configure them Identically
      Lin/Win: okay here's a Dell thats comparable and it costs $100 less
      Mac: You are overlooking the value of a system that works. It's only cheaper if your time has no value.
      Lin/Win: Well I get to choose with my PC, Mac forces me to pay the mac tax whether I want to or not.

      So apparently there's a large number of people, larger than the max zealots, for which savi
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Vellmont (569020)
        I have a basic disagreement with much of your argument. Much of it seems to rely on the assumption that consumers are rational actors and will find the information on "good apples vs bad apples". In general people aren't rational actors, they're driven by desire.

        For cars in particular, you only need to spend a couple bucks on a Consumer Reports subscription to find that many luxury cars are extremely unreliable. So in this case, those luxury cars are really "bad apples" as far as reliability goes. I hap
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by snarkh (118018)
        So apparently there's a large number of people, larger than the max zealots, for which saving a dime at the expense of time and frustration is really a consideration. United is catering to that large segment. It's what they want.

        What are you talking about? United and other traditional carriers, Delta, AA, etc., are oriented (get most of their money from) toward business travelers and are certainly not the cheapest around. Many people are actually willing to pay a premium to fly them over ,say, Southwest, be

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by marcosdumay (620877)

        "It's only cheaper if your time has no value."

        Of course, that is only an argument if one assumes that Macs work better than the other two, what depends on the kind of use and user the computer will have.

        Inserting a hidden assumption into the argument is a quite used logical falacy... It makes dishonest argumentation looks like it is reliable.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcrbids (148650)

      Deregulation brought about intense competition in airline fares. The flying public wants to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible. As a result, the airlines have been under continued pressure to reduce costs to stay competitive. This has resulted in charging for meals and in some cases, even pillows.


      That is because the commodity of airline transportation is highly fungible [wikipedia.org]. It really doesn't make much difference which flight you take, or which airline, so long as certain basic minimums are met,
  • No problem (Score:5, Funny)

    by LordSnooty (853791) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:21AM (#21062759)

    making economy passengers pay a fee unless they want their luggage to come last off the plane.
    If no-one pays the fee, all our luggage will come off at the same time. Problem solved.
  • by Jack Malmostoso (899729) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:22AM (#21062769)
    I do. And I'd rather forget, believe me.
    • Back in the 60's, EVERYBODY got a good meal. Of course, what is not mentioned is that it was the time of regs and the prices were about the same. That is tickets cost 200-300. Today, not a lot, but back then, well, that was a LOT of money.

      I had it good WRT that. My father was an airline pilot so we got to fly free. And yes, even in coach the service and meals were good. Free Booze. I tend to think that Midwest airline had the right idea (leather seats; 4 across on a super 80; good service), but I believe
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)
        When do you not get a meal on the flight? The only times I've not had one has been on very short flights, and they've always had a snack of some kind. It still bugs me that whenever I fly in the USA they charge you for alcoholic drinks (which, of course, you then can't claim on expenses), while every non-US airline I've flown with has included booze in the ticket price (a gin and tonic or two takes all the stress out of flying).
  • Yeah, service ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:24AM (#21062775)
    I just flew both American and United this past week. American gave me a mixed bag of sticky dried stuff, and United offered to sell me a "snack box" for the princely sum of five dollars ("Buy-Onboard service", they called it.) Both offered a free soft drink, so I suppose that's something.
  • by squarooticus (5092) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:25AM (#21062779) Homepage
    Flying sucks because of all the security theater annoyance. I used not to check bags for more than half my trips, but now I have to check a bag every time because I don't feel like going through the annoyance of having my toiletries inspected at the security line. Fuck that shit. I now drive wherever possible.
  • EasyJet/RyanAir (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:28AM (#21062813)
    The airlines all have to be looking at the low cost European carriers, such as RyanAir or EasyJet. I haven't flown EasyJet in a while, but on RyanAir, the ticket covers carriage, everything else, baggage, excess baggage, drinks, priority seating, luggage tags, calls to customer service, etc. etc. are a premium. It's declared up front, and you take the "a la carte" items you wish.

    The problem is, that taking one part of this model will not work, you have to take it all - very low cost tickets, fly only one type of plane, open seats, fast airport turn around, and so forth. The leading carriers in the US don't get this, so will nickel and dime without adding service or reducing costs/fares.

    • Re:EasyJet/RyanAir (Score:5, Informative)

      by allcar (1111567) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @11:26AM (#21063191)
      The low cost Airlines are actually being taken to task for the lack of transparency in this approach. The problem is that they are advertising flights at a specific price point, but it is never possible to actually travel for that price. I was particularly annoyed by a recent Ryanair flight. Checking in each item of luggage cost an extra 10GBP, so the wife and I thought we would save a tenner by sharing a single case. As it turned out, for checking in without a case, there was still a charge of 4GBP. So the advertised price was not a real price at all. In order to get on the plane you had to pay at least 4GBP over the advertised price, before you even start to talk about airport taxes and fuel surcharges. I can see no point at all in having a price that does not include check-in, as check-in is compulsory. It's just a marketing game.
      To make things worse, our shared case was overweight, so we ended up paying 25GBP excess baggage - teach me to be a skinflint.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jobsagoodun (669748)
        The airports have started doing this too. At Liverpool John Lennon you can either go through the security queue, or pay for the 'Fast Lane' through security. Just wait 'til theres an emergency or a fire - "Could all passangers with Priority Emergency cards please make their way to the fire exits. Everyone else please wait in the lounge, you will be called soon".
      • by 91degrees (207121) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @05:47PM (#21066287) Journal
        This is something I wrote a while ago after buying Ryanair tickets. It seems appropriate to repost here.

        If airlines ran Burger King

        "I'd like a cheese burger please"
        "That will be £1.20".
        "But it was only 99p yesterday!"
        "That was the weekend special price."
        "Okay. Here you go"
        "Oh, there's also 21p VAT"
        "Riiight... any other hidden charges?"
        "no. By the way, please pay the £2.15 purchase fee"
        "I see. So that's not a hidden charge?"
        "No. It's simply an extra surcharge that you are obliged to pay for the burger."
        "Okay. What else will I have to pay?"
        "Nothing at all. So, what would you prefer - Beef burger or vegetarian?"
        "beef please"
        "Okay, That will cost 45p on top"
        "Oh. I'll go for the vegetarian option"
        "Good choice. Certainly. That's only 60p"
        "Right. Do I get my burger now?"
        "No. You'll only be able to eat it between 20:00 and 21:00 though. Please check in at least half an hour early or you may forfeit your burger"
  • by mdmkolbe (944892) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:29AM (#21062823)

    This doesn't seem like a neutrality issue to me.

    Isn't this closer to a customer just paying for a lower latency connection?

  • by Hangtime (19526) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:29AM (#21062827) Homepage
    Submitter has never worked in the airline industry before.

    You will notice bright orange tags as they come off the converyor belt in baggage claim. Those tags are for GS, 1K, Premier Exec, Premier, *Gold, and *Silver. The idea is that you alert ground crews to the bags belonging to the best customers so that they will offload those first. This is no different from AA, Delta, USAirways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, and every other airline that flies. All Tilton wants to do is offer this service as an add-on so if you are NOT an elite member and feel it necessary to get your bags off in a hurry (tight transfer in ORD or LHR perhaps) you can purchase that service.

    *wacks subby over the head*
  • by Cracked Pottery (947450) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:30AM (#21062833)
    It is also a stupid idea. It takes more work to prioritize luggage and sort it according to a set of rules determined by the price of tickets than to put the luggage on randomly in a first come, first served basis. You don't usually have to wait that long anyway. The intelligent objective is to load and unload the plane in as little time as possible. Gate time is expensive.
  • by Hawthorne01 (575586) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:30AM (#21062835)
    If they do this, it'll just mean more and more people will try to push the limits of carry-on luggage, rather than pony up for another fee. And we all know how much fun it is to be stuck in the aisle, waiting to get off the plane, while some PHB wrestles a laptop bag and an extra-large "carry-on" from the overhead bin.
  • by PeeAitchPee (712652) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:31AM (#21062843)

    As someone who travels quite regularly for their job, I avoid the airports whenever possible because of this type of crap. These days, if it's under 500 miles each way, I'll drive it. I used to wish for the airlines to all go out of business, hoping that they'd be forced to figure out a business model that was actually profitable, but gave up on that after we (US taxpayers) were forced to bail them out after 9/11. It's a mess with no easy fix in sight, unless someone can magically make all of the airline lobbyists disappear.

  • by blantonl (784786) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:32AM (#21062853) Homepage

    gold ultimate handjob elite
    I haven't had one of those in years.

  • by martyb (196687) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:34AM (#21062865)
    FTFS:

    ... United Airlines CEO Glenn Tilton, who is wowing Wall Street with his willingness to examine new ways to wring money out of the carrier [CC], including making economy passengers pay a fee unless they want their luggage to come last off the plane.

    Let's think this through for a bit. At first, only a couple of people pay the fee. No biggee, and not much impact. Then someone, whose baggage came off last, notices the "priority tag" or whatever they use to identify the "don't take me off the plane last" tag. So s/he now ponies up for the fee from now on. Repeat for a few iterations. Now, nearly everybody has paid the fee, and they all come off just as before.

    EXCEPT when some poor customer has paid the fee, AND his stuff comes off AFTER someone who did NOT. Guaranteed Upset Passenger.

    The real kicker: what happens when someone:

    1. HAS paid the priority fee, AND
    2. UA loses their luggage?

    Yep, sure sounds like <sarcasm>great customer service</sarcasm> to me. With increasingly ubiquitous video cameras, all it takes is a couple of postings to YouTube, a few blog posts, and then the REAL FUN begins!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jotok (728554)
      Yep.

      "Hey, my bag came out way after all those people, and I paid the fee."
      "Sir, sometimes our system fails to deliver your bag on time..."
      "Well, give me my fee back. You didn't give me the service I paid for."
      "Our policy is not to return any monies..."

      I always wondered about the "Our policy is..." nonsense. "Our policy allows us to take your money and not give you anything in return; we know this because we wrote the policy." At some point it has to become absolute bullshit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jimicus (737525)
      The European low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet already do stuff like this - you pay for the privilege of being allowed to check in online, checking in baggage, being allocated a seat, being in a queue which gets priority to board the plane, being allowed into the fueselage rather than sticky-taped to a wing. (I made up that last one).

      They solved the "bad publicity" problem in two ways:

      1. Don't know how true this is elsewhere in Europe, but in the UK it's quite common to find that there's only
  • by dpilot (134227) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:42AM (#21062909) Homepage Journal
    Way back when, flying was a rare novelty, so it was inherently fun.

    Today pretty much everything about it is a hassle, so it's only worth flying when constrained by time, or when other driving just isn't practical. I've done long-haul Greyhound long ago, and to be honest that wasn't so hot, either. I've never traveled by train, just taken tourist-type train rides.

    As an aside, the annoyance starts when you book a flight. My wife has checked it out, and for at least one airline, the magic interval is three-weeks-and-a-day. Booking closer than that, the rates are outrageous. That is, except for a flight with an empty seat that is so close in time that you can't even get to the airport. One thing we've realized is that it appears that they accept new bookings right up to flight time, even for full flights. For the prices they charge for a near-in booking, they can bump someone, give them a free flight at the longer-term booking rates, and still make more money on that seat.

    Then there's TSA, and the overloaded ATC delays, and the overloaded airports, etc, etc, etc.

    Flying is just a way to get from point A to point B when other means won't work out.
    • by pla (258480) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:59AM (#21063019) Journal
      I've never traveled by train, just taken tourist-type train rides.

      Travelling by train actually pretty much rocks, if you don't need to get across the country in three to five hours (or cross an ocean, obviously).

      They don't pack you in like sardines, you frequently have real tables and comfy seats (as in, you can face your travelling companions and play cards or something), you can move about (pee, go to the bar, etc) whenever you want, usually no assigned seating (which could count as a downside, but usually the non-commuter-trains have so few passengers you have all the choice you could want)... For a vacation rather than a business trip, I'd highly recommend going by train - And as a bonus, you'll actually see the country rather than seeing clouds.

      Of course, like the rest of our lives, we Americans even make our leisure time a non-stop rush-rush-rush flurry of activity. Get "there" as fast as possible, then lose more sleep than normal trying to visit every point of interest in a 100mi radius of our destination. Thus we have the phenomenon of needing to come home an extra day before resuming work because we need to crash from what we call "relaxation".

      Sad.
  • by fermion (181285) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:45AM (#21062929) Homepage Journal
    What is next, pay extra for not having you luggage damaged?

    Really, there are two issues with this. First, it seems that more people are using carry on anyway. In my experience flying, more carry on reduces the already dreadful flying experience. I see this as a competitive disincentive.

    Second, I wonder if the cost of implementing such a plan, which would require marking and sorting bags, would be less than the additional revenue. This is the same question I have for the ISP. Will the costs of all the additional equipment really justify the additional fees such equipment would impose on the end user. Wouldn't it be better, like the airliines, to impose a fixed limit on throughput, and allow users to pay for more?

  • Can it get worse? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Angst Badger (8636) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:49AM (#21062961)
    Ever since the increase in "security" after 9/11, I have done everything I can to avoid flying unless it's absolutely necessary. I've gotten pretty good at getting through the security gauntlet without an orifice probe -- playing dumb and cheerful seems to be the ticket -- but even then, most planes make the city bus feel like a luxury limo by comparison and airports seem to have been designed by a retired platform game designer. Add to that the bizarre security rituals, like the TSAA guard in New Jersey who banged my shoes against the floor before declaring, "Nope, no bomb in there," and if I can skip traveling, I will, and if I can't skip it, I'll drive. About the only reason I'll board a plane voluntarily now is to vacation abroad, and even then, I have to ask myself if it's worth the extra-special unlubricated scrutiny you get when returning from abroad.

    So now my bags are going to be delayed a few minutes? Who gives a shit? That's like being told that in addition to being worked over for an hour by mafia goons, someone will now call you a sissy at the end of your beating.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I've gotten pretty good at getting through the security gauntlet without an orifice probe -- playing dumb and cheerful seems to be the ticket

      I don't even believe half the stories I hear. I've flown eight times this year for work, and other than it being slow, I've yet to see anyone even taken to the side. There's nothing to get get good at. Hell, I was hand carrying a box of A/D converter chips in an ESD bag and it was no problem.

      most planes make the city bus feel like a luxury limo by comparison

      Yeah, but a
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jay L (74152)
      I'm glad it's not just me that thinks that... why do I even care? The horrible part of baggage claim is waiting for the bags to show up in the first place, and trying to wrench them off the belt with no elbow room, not the delay between first bag and last bag.

      And the horrible part of flying is living 20 minutes from the airport, but still having to show up three hours early in case there are traffic delays... inside the airport! Not baggage claim. It's line after line after line, where I'm always mentall
  • by Hangtime (19526) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:57AM (#21063005) Homepage
    I'm seeing a lot of anger and discussion as to why are airlines *cheapening* the flight and do all of these things like what United does with Economy Plus or Continental and Northwest charging for exit row. So let me bring you into the world of US domestic air travel.

    Domestic air travel is one of the five most price elastic products avaliable for purchase today. This means when you go on to Orbitz we all charge practically the same thing. Internal tests in the airlines have proven that a $5 difference in airfare will dry up your demand. So, no people for the most part say they want everything but time again have proven through actions that they will only buy for the most part on price. International flights are a different story.

    Price, Schedule, Frequency in that order is how people buy airfare. The idea now is to shrink the price as much as possible and try to recoup through the difference with ancillary revenue streams. This is why you see such things as purchase of Snacks on Board, charging for pillows, SkyBus and RyanAir charging for everything. People complain about buying a $5 meal on the plane but you can create a better product and for most part people realize they will pay $10 in airport for the same caliber of meal.

    Since the industry is so price sensitive it is trying to debundle the product. It costs money to serve meals and when you make as little as $200 on a flight from JFK to LAX TOTAL, you have to find other ways. So what do we do, we try to offer things that people are willing to purchase. Economy Plus 5 additional inches of leg room on most United flights...it makes a big difference when you go cross-country or across the ocean. Purchase an Admirals Club ticket from AA for $35 for the day so you have a place to shower and change because you can't check into your hotel in London until after 4:00 PM but you got there at 10:00 AM.

    Programs like giving luggage priority to the customer that flys 1 or 2 times a year is to give customers what they want (a lower flight price), but also for those folks that want something extra a place where they can purchase it.
  • The Point Is... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by beadfulthings (975812) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:59AM (#21063017) Journal

    You don't get what you pay for, but you're required to pay anyway. As in:

    1) You pay for homeowners' insurance only to find that your particular disaster isn't going to be covered. Just ask the people on the Gulf Coast.
    2) You pay for a utility, like phone or cable, only to find that when you've got a problem or outage, you're without your service--not for hours, but for days or possibly even weeks. (Ever try to get a rebate from, say, your phone company when they take four days to send out a "technician" to spend twenty minutes fixing your trouble?)
    3) You pay ever-increasing costs for your health insurance only to find that a catastrophic illness or accident leaves you in debt for years.
    4) You pay for what is termed "unlimited" Internet services only to find that your ISP is cutting you back because they have a different idea of what constitutes "unlimited."
    5) You earn your money, but you are required to pay the bank ever-increasing "fees" so that they can use it until you need it. In some cases, you even have to pay to speak with a human being (as opposed to an automated system) to receive an answer to your question.

    We're all part of a vast pool of money to be tapped into at will, and the game is to return the bare minimum of value for what we're all willing (or able) to pay. Why should the airlines be any different? An interesting article appeared on CNN [cnn.com] a couple of days ago. It seems the "working poor" are having increasing trouble making that paycheck stretch from one payday to the next--and the term "working poor" is now encroaching more and more into the "middle class." The Big Box Marts are starting to notice an impact to their bottom lines.

    The airlines will find that fewer and fewer people can afford to fly, so they'll focus on ways to wring more out of the people who can still afford to fly. It's not surprising.

  • by ottffssent (18387) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @11:22AM (#21063165)
    Yes, I'm sure this will increase the long-term profitability of Mr. Tilton's business enterprise. Imagine the happiness one must feel settling down into an industrial bank of chairs at the gate, knowing that for just a few dollars more per ticket, one has secured the incalculable benefit of a different colored baggage tag. Much like a different-colored credit card or checks with pictures on them, the knowledge that one is, in actual fact, a big shot must be splendid. Why, I'm nearly overcome with joy knowing that for just a few dollars more on my taxes, I've summoned into existence an entire army of highly trained professionals who are ensuring that rather than the coffee I've brewed at home, I am enjoying, while seated in those industrial chairs, only the finest brew, made from beans blessed by a bored TSA agent who languidly waved through a man he's met every day of his job, pushing the same cart of restaurant supplies to the same place. As a happy side-effect, I'm protected from the dangers of e. coli in my juice and cryptosporidium in my water.

    This sense of serenity is surely not measurable by such pedestrian metrics as dollars and hours.
  • by yelvington (8169) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @12:02PM (#21063495) Homepage
    0. Dress properly. Leave the metal and piercings at home; you'll just make your security check worse.

    1. Travel light. [travelite.org] If you're crossing the ocean for two weeks, plan to use a laundry.

    2. Avoid connections. If at all possible, drive to a hub airport.

    3. Planeside check on your outward trip. This ensures the baggage monkeys don't lose your luggage. If you failed to follow tip #1, and you must check your bag, be sure you carry with you the basics for an overnight stay.

    4. Check your heavy baggage on the return trip. Barcode scanners track everything in a database in Atlanta. Airlines don't actually lose your luggage, they just misroute it. On the way home that's a benefit: You don't have to carry your bags to your car! They'll deliver to your home, eventually.

    5. Eat a good breakfast. You're not getting fed on the plane unless you're crossing an ocean.

    6. Bring your own entertainment -- a book, videogame, etc. Unless you're crossing the ocean on one of those new 767s with the cool Linux personal entertainment system, you're going to be on your own. On most flights, even if they're showing a movie, you won't be able to see it.

    7. Noise-suppression headphones really do work.

    8. Book early, book online, and select an exit-row seat. Legroom and laptop space will be adequate for a change.

  • by penguin_dance (536599) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @12:22PM (#21063645)
    It's called "carry on" learn it, live it, love it.

    Seriously--lest some idiot thinks I'm trolling: After seeing so many of my more well traveled friends dealing with lost luggage--not to mention having to put on locks rigged so that baggage people can open and paw through your stuff--I take carry on luggage and haven't had a problem stowing it. You don't need half the things you think you do on trips (and restricted to small amount of carry on liquids now saves space.) And if you forgot or need something, unless you're going to 'outer Mongolia', you can usually purchase it at your destination. I haven't lost a bag yet! And I can just grab my bag and head out of the airport instead of hanging out in baggage claim.

     
  • by amyhughes (569088) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @02:35PM (#21064729) Homepage
    shareholder value (v) - 1. To reduce the value of a product or service to increase profit. The box was shareholder valued to increase profit 0.2% by reducing its size by 10%.
  • by theolein (316044) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @07:10PM (#21066887) Journal
    I fly to South Africa from Europe once a year. I almost always fly Emirates. It's really out of the way and adds on much longer hours, but Emriates:

    Has absolutely amazing staff. Friendly, professional, speak the languages of source and destination country, take their time with difficult passengers.
    Has comfortable, cheap economy seats, with video entertainments systems in each seat back - that work.
    Provides free drinks and fantastic meals. The best I've ever had on any airline.
    The major hub, Dubai, is a large, roomy, comfortable airport with every and any convenience. It has friendly, professional staff. The queues are managable.
    They do not treat their customers like criminals (USA take note), while providing excellent security.
    They are the cheapest airline to fly the route.

    They are not alone in this quality service. Singapore Airlines is just as good, if not better, and other new Arabian Gulf Carriers like Air Qatar and Al Etihad are also competing at this level.

    United Airlines is going to lose any business they have on the routes these other airlines fly if they treat their passengers badly and charge them for things that have been normal part of service... on buses!

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