News that JetBlue is dropping a free checked bag for those who purchase its cheapest fares is making the rounds. Speculation had been running rampant that the airline would make such a move with a drumbeat of analysts and pundits wondering why the airline was continuing to leave money on the table by not doing so. Personally, I’ve always liked JetBlue’s model when it comes to bag fees. I think one bag is (should be) an inherent part of the travel experience and it should be included in the fare. Obviously, the rest of the airline industry in the USA disagrees with me, except Southwest. And that leads me to ponder…..will they add checked bag fees?
I don’t think there’s any near-term chance that Southwest does so. They’ve built a considerable bit of brand awareness around “bags fly free” and there may be value in that. However, as an airline with costs that aren’t exactly the lowest in the business, the revenue attraction may prove too difficult to ignore in the longer term. What’s standing between Southwest and checked bag fees? Well, there’s that “bags fly free” brand awareness I mentioned, which my very well have bought them some business. I can imagine the Twitter uproar that comes if they make a change. What else? I can’t help but wonder whether the airlines well-known antiquated IT issues prevents them from charging for bags even if they wanted to do it.
In the end, I doubt we see bag fees from Southwest anytime soon. But the perception that the airline is just leaving money on the table that it could be collecting may prove too difficult to ignore over time. What do you think?
-MJ, November 20, 2014