Big Airline Stories this Week, with Predictions!

This has certainly been a busy week for airlines in the news.  First we had Spirit Airline saying they would charge up to $45 for carry-on bags. By most accounts, this was a new low for an airline.

Perhaps upset at losing the limelight as the airline everyone loves to hate, one day later Ryanair proved they could go lower. CEO Michael O’Leary says Ryanair will indeed install pay toilets on their planes. Moreover, they will convert two of the lavs into six new seats, leaving only one for all the passengers.

Next came word that US Airways and United Airlines are in ‘merger’ talks. When the story first broke, it appeared that USAir intended to acquire United.  However, the words changed as the evening wore on where now it is seen as a merger.

With tongue in cheek, here’s my two cents about how these stories will play out:

* My Prediction: The Spirit charge for carry-ons will stick. However, bargain passengers will board wearing six layers of clothing with a coat (exempt from the fee) that has multiple pockets. Passengers will carry on the same amount as they had in their 22” bags but it will be free.

Did they outsmart Spirit?  Not really, because the airline will now say they are ‘oversized’ and charge them a new $75 fee, triple that if they can’t fit in their seat.

* My Prediction: Ryanair’s toilet charge (one blogger called it ‘euronating’) also will stick but it will backfire. At least one passenger will decide it is worth one euro to have more leg room, thus staying in the sole lav for an hour.

The nearly 200 passengers will tire of walking the aisles waiting to get in and seek a backup source.  Eventually, Ryanair flight attendants will have to deal with the inevitable: “Clean up in Seat 32B.”

Out of need or frustration, some passengers will resort to filling the seatpocket bags. Even worse, they will leave them there for the next flight. Undeterred, Ryanair adds a new cabin cleaning fee to each ticket.

* My Prediction: The USAir-United merger will fail. There are serious issues here regarding management, corporate debt, and unions that make this affair unlikely.  However, it opens the door for Continental to step in and acquire both of them, in what would be the most sweeping airline merger/acquisition in history.

Unfortunately it would lead to combining all the major US Star Alliance partners in one airline, similar to Delta’s SkyTeam.  Passengers would be left with only two legacy carriers.

Both of these super carriers will quickly raise airfares and add a carry-on charge, as well as a few surprise fees.  Low mileage award tickets will be nearly nonexistent.  [Okay, that’s already true.]

As the public revolts and begs for high-speed train service, the supersized airliners grow deeper in debt.  After filing for bankruptcy and finding no bailout, they dissolve.

In the end, the only remaining airlines are Spirit and Ryanair.  They agree that Spirit will handle air traffic for North and South America while Ryanair will cover everywhere else.

The good news for passengers: These airlines will offer 1-cent airfare deals that will receive remarkable media coverage.  Really, who would pass up a chance to fly for only one penny?

The bad news for passengers: No one will mention that there are just a few extra charges that are not included in the airfare and it won’t be only the usual additional costs for bags, toilets, taxes, airport charges, food, and water.

No, the two remaining transportation giants also will be charging for use of seats, handling charges, armrest usage, ticketing fees, gate fees, baggage handler surcharges, tire wear and tear, union dues, FAA filings, and Congressional appearances.

But in the end, the passengers win a huge battle as Congress says no when Spirit asks passengers to pay $30 each to cover cabin crew layovers.  Celebrating their victory, passengers once again line up to take advantage of the 1-cent sales. After all, it’s not every day you can fly somewhere for only a penny.

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