United Airlines screws everyone

Several venues, including Fortune and PuffHo, report that as of January, customers flying in the cheapest seats on United Airlines will no longer be able to put their luggage in the overhead bins, but will be restricted to carry-on items that fit below the seat. Since United already charges $25 to check a bag, this automatically puts most passengers trying to economize out by $25, for who can go away for a week with only what fits under your seat?

The “no overhead bin” fares won’t be cheaper than present economy fares; they’ll be the same. You’ll have to pay more for the privilege of choosing your seat and stowing your gear overhead. As Fortune reports:

United, the No. 3 U.S. airline by passengers carried, said customers who bought its cheapest fares would not be assigned seats until the day of departure, meaning people on the same ticket may be split apart.

United will also prohibit these travelers from carrying on bags that can only fit in overhead bins, and they will not accrue miles toward elite status.

The company expects the moves to add $4.8 billion to its annual operating income by 2020, although the figure does not include rising wages.

Fare initiatives such as “basic economy” will account for $1 billion of this, as more customers pay to check bags or select higher fares that give them two “free” carry-ons.

“Free” carry ons my tuchas! Who do they think they’re fooling? And, in PuffHo, you can read the pathetic excuses that United gives, trying to make it seem that the passengers are benefiting from this avarice:

“Customers have told us that they want more choice [!!!!] and Basic Economy delivers just that,” Julia Haywood, United’s chief commercial officer, said in a news release.

The boarding process will also be faster because fewer customers will be searching for overhead bin space, United said.

Chicago-based United said it would begin selling the no-frills fares in the first quarter of 2017 for travel starting in the second quarter. Prices will be comparable to low fares it now charges for the economy cabin, but with more restrictions.

Do we look like we just fell off the turnip truck, United? The airlines I use most frequently are United and Southwest, and I have many frequent-flyer miles on each one. But if United pulls a stunt like this, I can’t say I’m going to remain a loyal customer. Southwest gives you two checked bags for free, has SNACKS, and loyal customers like me get drink coupons periodically. And if you buy a ticket and have to change it, you don’t pay any fee; all your money is saved for a future Southwest flight or used toward your new ticket.

If you want to complain to United Airlines, you can use the form here. I’ve already made a complaint.


  1. Jan Suchanek
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I live in New Zealand and find stories like this about US airlines incredible. Free checked bags, overhead storage, free drinks and snacks are completely standard for any flight I take anywhere in the region. Paying for drinks in a lounge, which I think is standard in the US, is unheard of. I absolutely can’t stand flying domestic in the States.

    • Posted November 19, 2016 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      How do the ticket prices compare? In the UK we have both types of airline, and the likes of Ryanair really are cheaper.

      • Jan Suchanek
        Posted November 19, 2016 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

        Yeah I have to admit I don’t know a lot about how prices compare. I am mostly comparing just the flying experience. I prefer paying a little more to be more comfortable and that option doesn’t seem to be available too much in the States.

        • compuholio
          Posted November 19, 2016 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

          I also prefer to pay a little more for additional comfort. However for the extreme low-cost airlines you also need to keep in mind that they often fly to airports which are far outside the cities.

          Once you factor in the additional costs for the extra transportation they are usually not that much cheaper anymore.

      • somer
        Posted November 19, 2016 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

        Only travelled once with Ryanair but they seem heaps better than this They offer More overhead storage than Any of the other airline, are very friendly, the flight was absolute punctual (unlike British airways which was constantly late), offered free tea/coffee as I remember and the food for purchase, though i didn’t want a meal, looked very nice and reasonably priced.

    • Posted November 19, 2016 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      These things are not really free, they are bundled into the ticket price. Domestic airfares in NZ are considerably higher than in the United States, particularly for full service.


      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 19, 2016 at 6:19 pm | Permalink



    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 19, 2016 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      “I live in New Zealand and find stories like this about US airlines incredible. Free checked bags, overhead storage, free drinks and snacks are completely standard for any flight I take anywhere in the region.”

      Huh? Do you always fly Business Class?

      The airline I usually fly on (Jetstar), at the lowest-cost fare you get 7kg carry-on baggage, that’s it. Checked baggage and in-flight meals are a few dollars extra at booking time. That’s absolutely fine with me, I don’t even want a meal on a 45-minute flight nor do I want much baggage. (This is ‘domestic’ flights). You get what you pay for.

      ‘Free’ extras are never free, somebody’s paying and I much prefer that it’s not me paying for someone else’s mountains of baggage.

      I do have to acknowledge that the Internet is bloody marvellous in enabling me to search out the best value-for-money in all sorts of bookings.


  2. ploubere
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, this is bs, a result of the continuing consolidation of airlines, who appear to be in collusion on pricing and add-on fees, with the exception of Southwest, although their ticket prices have risen substantially of late, in spite of lower operating costs because of lower fuel prices.

    They’re also figuring out ways to make seats even smaller and closer together. Air travel in the U.S. has become a dreaded experience.

  3. Vladimir
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know which article you read, but yes the ticket is cheaper, that’s the whole point. It’s meant to compete with cheaper airlines like Spirit. You don’t have to get Basic Economy, you can just get the regular Economy seats you’ve always been getting, it’s just an extra option. See this: http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2016/11/17/united-airlines-introduces-basic-economy-class-with-carry-on-bag-restrictions.html

    • Posted November 19, 2016 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      I read this, which is in the PuffHo article:

      Chicago-based United said it would begin selling the no-frills fares in the first quarter of 2017 for travel starting in the second quarter. Prices will be comparable to low fares it now charges for the economy cabin, but with more restrictions.

      This pretty much states that the no-frills fares will be the same as what the economy fares are now.
      And, by the way, your comment is on the rude side: “I don’t know which article you read.” Did YOU read the two articles? I don’t know which of us is right, but my interpretation clearly came from one of the two articles I read.

      • Simon Hayward
        Posted November 19, 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        Been scanning a few articles on this over the last couple of days, and I was under the same impression as Vladimir, that these are supposed to be cheaper seats. My concern was that my employer, who already insists that Economy Plus is a non-reimbursable upgrade, will now restrict us to recycling our underwear on long business trips. I’m told that won’t be the case….

        I guess if people simply refuse to buy tickets with no service the airlines will have to change. However, in general the downward pressure on prices and service seems to be what people vote for with their wallets, even though we all complain about it.

        I used to use Southwest a lot from Nashville and loved them, but it’s a pain in the neck to get to Midway from where I live, while O’Hare is easy – so I’m sort of stuck with United and American.

      • jeremy pereira
        Posted November 20, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        So what they are doing is they are putting their prices up, but also introducing a new low tier of service to make it look like they are not putting their prices up.

  4. rationalmind
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    They have a reputation for poor customer service. Like this song United Breaks Guitars

  5. Posted November 19, 2016 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    I despise United. They are consistently the most overpriced and rudest airline I ever have to deal with. And they act like they are the grand marshall of airlines. Unfortunately, for so long I’ve been essentially forced to use them (or else waste a lot more time) when I wanted to return to Chicago to visit family and friends, as they are the only airline offering direct flights from Vancouver to Chicago.

    This may be the last straw though. A Delta connection in Minneapolis or Seattle would be easier to swallow then this exploitation.

  6. John
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    You get what you pay for (including, moaners, seat size). If there isn’t enough competition to keep prices competitive then that’s not the airline’s problem but a regulation problem.

    Plus, encouraging folk to take less baggage is excellent for the planet (less CO2 burnt carrying your crap).

    As an aside (to a pampered first-worlder, how many plane journeys should an individual terrifyingly take in a lifetime?

    • John
      Posted November 19, 2016 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      *terrifyingly = responsibly

  7. Tim
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    A couple of years I had to fly from the USA to the UK at the last minute because my father was very ill and was expected to pass away within a few hours.

    I made a reservation which required changing planes in Los Angeles. Unfortunately my flight to LA was running late, so I informed the gate agents and the crew on board of my situation. The gate agent couldn’t care less, but the flight attendant was sympathetic and when we arrived at LA a cart was waiting for me (and some other passengers also flying to London). We only had a few minutes to spare but were now quite hopeful we would make the connection.

    But as we got to the gate for the London flight, the plane was already pushing back – five minutes EARLY! Apparently according to United, it was the pilots discretion to leave or wait (even though transatlantic flights frequently arrive early and have lots of buffer time). I’m sure if I had been an elite mileage member it would have been different and they would have held the flight, but a passenger with a dying parent doesn’t have any clout.

    So I was rerouted through Washington and arrived in London about 9 hours later than planned. As it happened my father passed away en route, and I never would have made it in time anyway.

    Of course I complained to United, but they never apologized but said something like “we are sorry you didn’t feel you had a good experience”, they never really truly apologized.

    And just last week I flew into Newark on a United flight that was about an hour late. Several passengers were connecting to a flight to Dublin. Our flight arrived about 5 minutes after the Dublin flight was supposed to leave – and guess what, it left early so none of the passengers made their connection!

    I really avoid flying United whenever I can, but unfortunately sometimes I don’t have a choice – but it is truly the most uncompassionate airline I have ever encountered.

    • rickflick
      Posted November 19, 2016 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      My adviser in software engineering at grad school was running 10 minutes late for a flight returning from attending a conference. He called the Airline to say he’d be late and gave his name as Dr. Soandso. They mistook this to mean he was a medical doctor and decided to hold the plane. I considered this convenience when trying to decide whether to pursue my doctorate.

  8. Don Terndrup
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    A friend of mine flies for Delta, which started something like this recently. He says the bosses care only about shareholder value, which means finding the absolute minimum level of service people are willing to pay for.

  9. Ralph
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    A company is telling you clearly what product they are selling and telling you the price. How does that qualify as a “stunt”? I think outrage is only appropriate if charges are being deliberately hidden. Otherwise, it seems to me that a tiered pricing model is better – a cheap no-frills price, and you pay extra for the things that you actually need.

    United may be using this as a stealth method to increase overall prices, but that effect won’t last. Every business tries to charge as much as the market will bear for its product. In a market economy, prices are not kept down by companies being kind to us, they are kept down by competition.

  10. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    I approve this move by United. In my opinion, airlines blundered badly when they started charging for checked bags but not carry-ons, thereby incentivizing travelers to bring all their luggage into the passenger cabin with them instead of relegating it to the cargo holds where it belongs.

    This is turn contributed to the proliferation of roller bags that block escalators, congest corridors, and cause delays at security checkpoints as bag after bag is wrestled onto the conveyor so it can be scanned needlessly. The end result is a tragedy-of-the-commons in which everyone’s travel experience is degraded.

    Any step in the direction of reversing these perverse incentives is long overdue.

    • Posted November 19, 2016 at 3:58 pm | Permalink


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 19, 2016 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      I strongly agree with that. I recently flew halfway round the world and the boarding / disembarkation everywhere was hampered by people dragging enormous wheeled suitcases masquerading as ‘carry-on baggage’ and trying to hoist them into overloaded overhead storage bins.


      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted November 19, 2016 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

        Here’s another hidden cost: if 150 people with roller bags each take two seconds to stop-and-drop as they step off the plane (heaven forbid they should carry it up the jetway), that means the guy in the back row has five minutes less to make his connecting flight.

    • Posted November 20, 2016 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      But they’re still charging for checked bags!

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted November 20, 2016 at 10:58 am | Permalink

        So they’re halfway to getting it right. That’s still better than completely wrong.

  11. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    At least you get a choice. Airlines that fly in Canada are fewer and now that United has started this trend, I’m sure the Canadian airlines will start clamouring to jump on board the flight avarice.

    Pretty soon we riff-faff will have to travel below with the luggage – I’m sure there will be a discount for lack of air pressurized seating that the airlines will expect us to be grateful for. Bring your own oxygen and snowsuit.

    • Posted November 19, 2016 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      It is the lack of competition. As Ralph points out above, airlines do not do what they do out of kindness or lack thereof. The Canadian airline market is a duopoly with two airlines, Air Canada and Westjet, dominating market share, and it is the only major first-world market without a low cost carrier. Partly the fault is geography, but Ottawa is to blame as well.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 19, 2016 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

        I agree however I’ve flown on Air NZ and it’s sooooo much better. I call Air Canada “Total Bastard Airlines” after the SNL sketch in the 90s. I’m embarrassed sometimes that the name has “Canada” in it.

        • Grania Devine e
          Posted November 19, 2016 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

          Air Canada: “We’re not happy until you’re not happy”.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted November 19, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

          I refuse to fly on Air NZ. Since, like, they stuffed a DC-10 into Mount Erebus and tried to blame the pilot.

          Besides, other airlines both domestically and internationally are both better and cheaper.

          Emirates, Etihad, Air France, Cathay Pacific come to mind…


  12. DrBrydon
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    I take three or four trips by plane per month, and I have been avoiding United for several years already. I think this new strategy is wrong, will alienate many travelers, and cause innumerable delays when boarding planes. All airline routinely do a bad job limiting carry-ons. I can just imagine a family living Orlando, and being told they have too many bags, especially when some of them are just plastic bags or shopping bags with souvenirs. Lots of discussion/argument and bad feelings, while the rest of the passengers are discomfited. It will probably piss off the flight attendants, too.

    • Ralph
      Posted November 19, 2016 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      I think United have done their research, and I suspect that you and your hypothetical overladen family are in the minority. As others have mentioned, getting on and off the plane is faster if carry-on is reduced, and that benefits all the people who are not overloaded.

      Given that the carbon footprint from air travel is directly related to the weight carried, it makes perfect sense to move to a model with a base ticket price for carrying just a person, and a separate added charge for the total weight of all the luggage you bring. This way, you can still bring as much luggage as you wish when you have a real need for it, but you have the appropriate economic incentive to bring ONLY what you really need.

      This does not imply higher ticket prices overall. Competition keeps prices down, and if there’s lack of competition in certain markets that is something for the regulators to address. It really has nothing to do with whether airlines charge inclusive or add-on pricing for baggage.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted November 20, 2016 at 9:31 am | Permalink

        Given that the carbon footprint from air travel is directly related to the weight carried, it makes perfect sense to move to a model with a base ticket price for carrying just a person, and a separate added charge for the total weight of all the luggage you bring.

        It would make even more sense to weigh the passenger and baggage together, and charge by the combined weight .

        • rickflick
          Posted November 20, 2016 at 10:23 am | Permalink

          Weighing passengers seems logical but would delay boarding and might cause some embarrassment and even a law suit. As a small plane pilot, I sometimes have to ask passenger’s their weight. On one flight with friends, I had to inquire as to the weight of a rather large woman. She was not shy about telling me and we are still friends.

        • Ralph
          Posted November 20, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

          Economic and environmental concerns suggest that this is sensible, because both cost and carbon footprint are directly related to payload.

          But, unlike luggage weight, body weight is a difficult social question. Under the current system, we have a tacit social contract that we all pay for one human of average weight, with lighter people subsidizing heavier people.

          Of course, there are weight differences beyond just those attributable to obesity, but the obesity question is the predominant one. It seems to me that there are probably better ways for society to create health incentives than through differential airfares, for example differential taxation of foods that are strongly associated with obesity or other poor health outcomes.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted November 20, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

          “It would make even more sense to weigh the passenger and baggage together, and charge by the combined weight.”

          I would certainly go with that, being not unduly heavy. In fact I’d be pissed off if I was charged some exorbitant fee for 10kg overweight baggage then ended up seated next to some horrendously fat person.

          There would still need to be some minimum charge per seat, though (since obviously the seat occupies a given volume regardless how small the occupant.

          Apropos of which, why do kids get reduced fares? They occupy a seat space and potentially are greater nuisance than the average passenger. So they should pay the same fare as an average (non-overweight) passenger.

          (Now I’ve managed to make all fat people *and* parents hate me… )


  13. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Big business screw it’s own customers. Film, as the saying goes, at eleven.
    I put a submission into Slashdot a couple of days ago about Google killing a number of users accounts (and so deleting all their photos, emails, contacts, etc) without warning for some arguably-legal loophole hopscotch with “state sales tax”. The title I gave for the submission was “The iron fist peeks out of the velvet glove” – though whether that gets past the editors is an open question.
    Obviously, United and Google are singing from the same hymn book. Or their managers got the same (MBA?) degree from the same university.
    Shocked? I’m not as shocked as the man who kicked a torpedo, mistaking it for a Torpedo.
    Looks like I made it to the front page, again. But nobody’s surprised or outraged enough to comment.

  14. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    It all makes me happy I no longer have to fly at all. Just a reminder however, back in the late 70s in the U.S. our government decided it was a great idea to deregulate the hell out of transportation, including the airlines. Everyone jumped on board with love for this idea and here we are today. So you can blame the airlines individually or collectively and you can blame govt. or other agencies. In the end, there is no one to blame but yourselves because you got what you wanted. Chaos and every person for themselves.

    • Todd J Morgan
      Posted November 19, 2016 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

      well, airfare has fallen about 50% in the last 30 years.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted November 19, 2016 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

          You are correct and your article is correct as far as it goes. So I ask again…Why all the complaining and whining and crying? You should be loving your cheap flight.

          The real test would be to take one of your cheap charlie flights, say LA to Chicago. This would be cheap because, this is a competition route. Now look for a flight from say LA to Des Moins or Springfield, Mo. The main routes are cheap and cheaper but if you live someplace else, not so cheap at all. Go some where with no competition and they will stick it to you. Anyone can say overall, it is 50% cheaper than. But that doesn’t really tell you anything.

          And now lets compare the service. There is none today in comparison so we don’t even need to talk about it. And there are lots of places you simply cannot go because they no longer have service. To bad but hey, that’s deregulation.

          • Posted November 20, 2016 at 9:12 am | Permalink

            I won’t fly unless it is in the first class cabin. And since I can’t afford that, I don’t fly.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted November 20, 2016 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

              I don’t fly unless I have to.

              Unfortunately, living in New Zealand, if I want to go anywhere else it’s either fly or swim.


  15. Todd J Morgan
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Frontier is like this. I prefer it. you basically pay for the seat and if you want extras, you pay some more.

  16. David Duncan
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    I hear lots of bad stuff about United. The solution: fly with someone else. The bean counters will soon get the message.

  17. Hempenstein
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Happy to say I’ve never deliberately flown United. Or if I did it was back in the late ’70s. Since then, I may have been on a United flight or two when a non-United flight was scrubbed and I wound up on one of theirs.

  18. somer
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Paid meals (other than tea/coffee/fruitjuice)are standard on cheap domestic flights but I suspect the standard of no frills in the US is considerably lower than in other rich countries. No frills but with *no* overhead luggage? *no* allocation of seats in advance of departure? And (admittedly some time ago) Ive heard that there are very often long delays on domestic US flights which only happen here on the very cheapest and smaller flight lines.

  19. Ralph
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    I await some actual evidence that United have a poor reputation and that passengers are deserting them in droves. They are the second most profitable airline in the world:


    Warren Buffett just bought in:

    Complaining about declining airline service seems to engage people’s group-whining tendencies almost as much as complaining about the grammar foibles of kids today. Yet, when people buy airline tickets, most shop solely on price, and few are willing pay a significant premium for extra service. The airlines are simply delivering exactly what most people want: no-frills flights, as cheap as possible.

    • Posted November 20, 2016 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      Ummm. . . .could you just make your argument and not accuse us of “group whining”? That’s a Roolz violation.

      • Ralph
        Posted November 20, 2016 at 8:50 am | Permalink

        If you saw that as a personalized accusation, it was not intended that way – I apologize, I should have worded it more neutrally. I was pointing out the widespread psychological phenomenon that people (in general) complain vocally about declining airline service, yet most vote with there wallets for cheap no-frills services.

  20. Steven Hill
    Posted November 19, 2016 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    I suggest checking out this site:


    • Ralph
      Posted November 19, 2016 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

      Any business servicing millions of people has some unhappy customers. But we’re scientists here, right? Here are some data rather than selective anecdotes:

      Late flights: 5th out of 12 airlines (p5)
      Cancellations: also mid-table (p20)
      Mishandled baggage: also mid-table (p30)

      DoT November 2016 Air Travel Consumer Report

      And, again, if United are so pervasively terrible, how do you account for their market share and profitability (see post above) in an intensely competitive service industry?

  21. Posted November 20, 2016 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Bravo, Ralph!

    I thrive researching psychological topics much more than business data, so thanks for your civility/consistency in dispersing information about United and affording inspiration in expanding my research skills. 🙂

  22. prasad
    Posted November 20, 2016 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    There was some longing upstream for the glory days of airline travel before deregulation, when the service was so much better. Well, you can still get that quality (and better) of service nowadays by paying a comparable amount – fly business. And those of us who want to penny pinch (revealed preferences show this to be most of us) can do that too.

    People like cheap prices. They also like complaining about airlines that give them the lowest base prices and un-bundle extras (extra leg room, snacks, baggage, you name it). Intellectually it’s on a par with saying “I want high services and low taxes.” In fact it’s worse than that, since you can always pay for better seats or for the amenities you want.

  23. Bob
    Posted November 20, 2016 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    United’s attitude is exactly why we never fly when traveling in the US. Rather I pack the car with luggage, hanging the shirts on a clothing bar in the back. I even plug in an electric cooler. Of course being retired, we have time. Even staying one or two nights in a hotel we save money over the cost of air fare for two people. At least the international routes still give us the choice of flying a non-US carrier and that makes for better conditions for the customer.

  24. Ken Crook
    Posted November 20, 2016 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    I’d support free checked bags, but being charged for any carry on greater than, say 5 kg (Wow strictly enforce this). People abuse the free carry on, trying to stuff huge cases into the overhead bins, slowing boarding and frustrating those who have only small bags.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 20, 2016 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      I’d be happy with a small ‘free’ checked-bag allowance, and a proportional (NOT exorbitant) charge for weights over that.

      Your comments re the carry-on are most heartily agreed with.


  25. Ralph
    Posted November 20, 2016 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    The way a market economy should work is that healthy competition gives us superior products and services as cheaply as possibly; and in situations where the market is not operating fairly or transparently to provide that competition, or where it is leading to socially undesirable results, the legislators or regulators should intervene.

    It seems to me that airline travel is a strange beast: it attracts so much anecdotal criticism and it’s particularly susceptible to “golden age fallacy”, presumably because air travel is intrinsically stressful. Yet the data show that the US air travel market is generally extremely healthy and competitive: prices have continually dropped over the decades; safety has steadily improved, so have objective service metrics like mishandled baggage.

    It seems to me that the airline business is really not the place where we should be venting our anger about big business screwing over the customer. Rather, we should be angry about:

    The US real estate cartel that has managed to “fix” prices for decades, so that you still lose 4%-6% of the value of your home whenever you move. With the generally strong US antitrust laws, and the advent of the internet to disseminate information on property far more easily, it’s astonishing to me that this blatant cartel has survived so long. We should be paying around one tenth of what we currently pay for this service.

    The deregulated banking industry, where the short-term profit motive destabilizes the global economy repeatedly. The industry should have been overhauled far more extensively when there was a will to do so in 2008. We should not be whining about how much money Goldman Sachs makes and telling them they are evil. They just operate in the market environment that exists, and do it better than other participants. Rather, the opaque and perverse structural aspects of the markets that they and others exploit should simply be legislated out of existence. Contrary to what the Republic Party seems to believe, extreme deregulation in the banking industry has NEVER worked to produce a desirable outcome for society, because in boom years there is little incentive to be prudent. We need a much stricter version of Glass-Steagall, so that commercial banking once again becomes the dull business of making prudent loans.

    Meanwhile, celebrate the fact that flying across the country to visit your family no longer costs a month’s salary.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted November 20, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Yes, we should be angry about banking deregulation. But personally I have plenty of anger left over for players like Goldman who knowingly bought high-risk mortgages, repackaged and relabeled them, and sold them to unsuspecting investors as low-risk. That’s fraud, and it’s a scandal that nobody went to jail for it. People are right to be angry about that.

  26. Posted November 20, 2016 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Jerry – you likely live close to Midway. Although I am not fond of Southwest’s boarding procedure, I do like their service. Reasonable cost, free bag, snacks, etc.

  27. RichardS
    Posted November 20, 2016 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Agreed, sirlines have become the scumbags of the business world – how to make more money screwing your customers.

    But take a look at the sites below and learn how to travel light. Once you try it you’ll no longer fret about airlines’ restrictive baggage policies. You’ll never go back to bulky luggage because stowing your gear on the rack or below the seat will be no problem. My wife and I (and we’re in our 70’s) have made three week trips to Turkey with tiny bags and only what they will hold. What a pleasure to be free of all that bulky luggage.

    http://www.onebag.com/ – the guru of travelling light.
    And some extra tips for women:

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 20, 2016 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      I *like* the philosophy.

      Having dragged the family (+ baggage) around Europe this year, I’m planning to go back by myself on the cheap next year and I’d already resolved to try and keep my baggage to a minimum. I think I’ll be obsessing over that site you linked in the coming months.

      (My wife, of course, will try and send me off with 500kg of heavy thick clothes, most of which I will never wear anyway. I shall have to try and dodge that).


  28. RichardS
    Posted November 20, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Should have mentioned that we use the Wanderlite Daypack on our trips – less than $28. It’s much more than just a day pack, it can easily be your main travel bag. but I noticed that it’s not currently available. Here’s the site though as it may again become available in the future.


  29. Matthew Hoy
    Posted November 20, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    What should happen First Class business classes and people with Disabilites should be first to Board then the airplane sequence for boarding should start from the back to the front. Airlines should not charge for overhead bin space. A great way to loose customers.

    • Ken Crook
      Posted November 20, 2016 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      This happens already, but people with the big bags heading for the back often dump them near the front of the cabin in case those near the back are already full due to other people with oversized carry ons. This results in those at the front having no alternative but to have their bags checked. The problem boils down to people having no consideration for others. A friend told me that his father once gave him valuable words of advice: “Son, in this world there are some good people and some bad people, but mostly there’s just wankers”.

  30. Posted November 21, 2016 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    IMHO the US major air carriers have the worst service of any mainline carriers in the world. It is a race to the bottom to see how cheap they can do it, not how well they can do it.

    The reason is that most people shop only on price and the airlines respond to this by advertising lower and lower “headline fares” and then nickel and dime you for basic things which should be included such as at least a single checked bag <50lbs.

    Several people have commented on missed connections for international flights. Although I do not know the exact details, many missed connections occur because the planned connection time is too short.

    For example, the airline might offer a connection of 50mins at O'Hare airport between an incoming domestic flight and an international flight. If the sun is shining, there is no wind, and no mechanical issues this is technically possible.

    However, O'Hare is notorious for "ground hold" programs where due to weather or other issues your incoming flight is prevented from takeoff until it can be put into a landing slot at O'Hare. Although the airlines do build some fat into the schedule to allow for some delays, it is not always enough.

    For this reason, I will never book an itinerary where I am transferring to any international flight with less than 2 hours layover. In Chicago, I might even prefer a little more. Better to spend an extra hour or two at the airport than miss an international connection where the delay might up to 24 hours to get on another flight.

    As a very experienced air traveler with over 22 years experience I can tell you that despite the best planning, occasionally shit happens and sometimes totally out of the control of the airline. All airlines have problems like this and United is no better or worse in this regard.

    Good planning for air travel means thinking through possible problems and what you can do if they happen. That way when things go wrong you can think rationally about the options and actually help the airline help you to minimize the pain.

  31. Posted November 21, 2016 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Somehow this makes me think of how dish soap moved from $X for 1 L to $X for 950 mL.

    That said, I don’t use the bins much on any transportation mode.

  32. Posted November 26, 2016 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Journal Edge.

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