Other views: Market will deal with lousy airline feesIs it smart for Spirit Airlines to start charging for carry-on bags, as the airline has announced? That’s an interesting question. But it’s not the most important question. The most important question is this: Who gets to decide whether Spirit’s decision is smart or not?
By: Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun
Is it smart for Spirit Airlines to start charging for carry-on bags, as the airline has announced? That’s an interesting question. But it’s not the most important question.
The most important question is this: Who gets to decide whether Spirit’s decision is smart or not?
Judging by the way most Americans live their lives, the answer is that Spirit itself should get to decide. After all, most of us like to shop around, compare prices and make our own decisions to buy, as one drive along 32nd Avenue South in Grand Forks will confirm.
And with few exceptions, the government lets the merchants there charge whatever they want. The system works best that way.
That’s why a group of Democratic U.S. senators — including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. — are wrong to try to use the tax code to pressure Spirit into dropping its new charge. The U.S. government should not be in the business of second-guessing consumer prices, especially in competitive industries such as air travel.
The free market is entirely capable of handling that job on its own.
If Spirit’s decision drives customers to other airlines, then Spirit will discontinue its new charge.
If, on the other hand, Spirit actually draws more customers — remember, the airline is lowering fares at the same time as it’s slapping on the carry-on fees — then consumers also will benefit, as shown by the fact that they’ll be voting for Spirit with their wallets.
Sen. Charles Schumer, who’s leading the charge against Spirit, says he disapproves of passengers being “nickled and dimed.”
But if Schumer is so bothered by this, why has he never gone after the U.S. ticket tax?
Besides, that “nickel and diming” (on a foundation of cheap fares) is exactly what keeps air travel as affordable as it is today.
Decades ago, air travel ticket prices were, in fact, controlled. Flying may have seemed more pleasant back then, but it also was a lot more expensive.
Since deregulation in the 1970s, airlines have competed on price. And here’s the thing: Consumers wouldn’t have it any other way, as shown by the success of reliable discount carriers such as Southwest Airlines and the failure of luxury airlines that charge uniformly high fares.
There are some issues that senators should look at and simply say, “Hands off.” This is one. Spirit’s new policy will succeed or fail in the marketplace, and elected officials should resist the temptation to help that process along.