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The right business decision?

April 7, 2010

There’s no doubt that the airline industry is a cut-throat business. Seat prices seem to change almost hourly, if not more often (certainly true the closer you come to departure time). There are additional fees for printed tickets, checking in oversized baggage and even inflight meals. Seems like they’ll soon charge you for virtually anything.

Well, that time is now.

Just today, Ryanair, based out of Dublin, Ireland, and positioning itself as “Europe’s first and largest low fares airline,” announced that it is considering charging passengers a fee to use the bathroom on any flight longer than one hour. The idea is that they could remove some bathrooms and replace them with additional seating.

To make matter worse, another discount airline, Spirit Airlines out of Florida, will be charging passengers $20 to $45 to place items in their overhead bins. Each person can bring on one item for free, such as a purse, briefcase, backpack or laptop computer, however additional items will cost the traveler, based on whether they are members of the airline’s ultra-low fare club and whether they “pre-reserve” their carry-on bag in advance.

And to add insult to injury, good old American Airlines will begin charging travelers $8 for a blanket and pillow on any flight lasting more than two hours. Of course, first- and business-class travelers will not have to pay the fee nor will consumers on international flights.

So the question begs, are these the right business decision? As a public relations professional, has your company or organization either contemplated or implemented policies as radical — and perhaps controversial — as these? What’s been the backlash and does it seem to have been offset by perceived cost savings to the consumer?

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