As we discussed in an earlier blog, United Airlines recently announced its plan to charge for overhead bin space. Passengers will be allowed one carry-on, limited to 9 inches x 10 inches x 17 inches, and it must fit under the seat. Although some of the low cost carriers have been doing this for a while, United was the first major airline to jump on board.
United reportedly hopes to bring in an additional $1 billion by 2020 through unbundling its services. But United’s profits have been strong in recent years. In 2015, for example, United’s net income was about $4.5 billion – not exactly hanging on by a thread.
When the plan was first announced in early December, several politicians took notice. U.S. Senator Al Franken expressed his concerns in a December 9, 2016 letter to the Department of Transportation. The financial squeeze that many travelers are already feeling from the airline industry and the potential domino effect with other airlines were chief among them.
And now, it looks like United Airlines is getting some consumer push back as well. A recently circulated Change.org petition demands that United stop “nickel and diming” its customers. The petition also notes United’s profits and asks some common sense questions, such as what parents of small children will do given that even a diaper bag won’t fit under a seat. It looks like the petition will have no problem reaching its goal of 150,000 signatures, given that it only needs another 28,418 at the time of this writing.
In any event, if the plan goes through, the skies around United are going to be a lot less friendly toward low-fare passengers. The wonderful thing about capitalism though, is that it generally comes with competition. Hopefully the other major carriers have more sense than to try and milk a few extra bucks out of those who can least afford it.