By Kevin Meyer
Regular reader Ed pointed me toward this tidbit from a recent Harvard Business Review article:
Baggage Fees Contribute to Decline
in Lost Bags
A global 23.8% decline in the number of mishandled bags last year is partly attributable to passengers' checking in less luggage to avoid extra fees, according to SITA, a transportation IT company. So not only did the airlines derive revenue from baggage fees, they also saved $460 million as fewer suitcases got left behind, put on the wrong flights, or lost. That was a big help for airlines in a year in which their overall losses totaled $9.4 billion, SITA says.
Seriously? As a frequent flyer I've actually wondered about this myself. Fortunately or unfortunately I travel an insane enough number of miles that I no longer am asked to pay baggage fees, so I was shocked when making reservations for my wife a couple weeks ago.
But let's look at this from the customer and process perspective.
The process has failure points because bags are lost. It may be a small number of bags, but still a major impact to the customer. So customers on critical missions are already incented to carry on their bags.
To further skew the statistics by lessening the opportunity for failure, airlines try to add an additional incentive for customers to carry on their bags. Those that don't pay a fee, increasing revenue.
But what happens?
A large cavernous region underneath the seats has increasing amounts of wasted space. Now I don't truly know this – perhaps there's another airline scheme to fill up that space with freight, thereby also increasing revenue. Perhaps, but doubtful.
However have you noticed what's happened to boarding times? As people carry on more and more luggage, boarding times have increased. Aggravation by both passengers and flight attendants has increased as more and more bags don't fit. Disembarking times have increased. Has anyone flown in Europe or Japan recently? Far, far fewer bags are carried on. Boarding is a breeze – although I can criticize the mayhem created by seemingly more airlines not having defined boarding procedures.
So what happens? Boarding times increase, the potential for late departures increase. How is that accommodated? Is the underlying root cause fixed? Nope, schedules are simply adjusted and flight times become longer. It now takes you longer to get from point A to C, usually via a B thanks to the batch-oriented hub and spoke system.
Can you count the forms of waste?