Airlines Rack Up Huge Profits As Passengers Face Shrinking Seats And Rising Fees

ori_402-34292-2215352-Orig-Canadian-Pacific-AIRLINES-Poster-White-1960s-FRL9103MCCPAWe have been following the increasing lines at security checkpoints in our airports due to budget cuts and TSA incompetence while airlines pile on extra charges for passengers while reducing both room and comfort to the level of cattle cars. As passengers are treated with level more regard than cattle by TSA and the airlines, the airlines themselves are racking up huge profits. Indeed, the most recent report shows that U.S. airlines had a combined $25.6 billion in net earnings last year. Yet, the airlines successfully lobbied to kill a bill in Congress that would have required such things as the publication of leg room on seats.

The after-tax profit for 25 airlines with scheduled passenger service was more than three times the $7.5 billion reported in 2014. Not only that but average fuel prices are 35% lower than the prior year. This is the sixth consecutive years of profits for the industry.

Remember how the airlines justified those baggage fees on fuel costs? Well, they are not rescinding them. Indeed, baggage fees rose to $3.8 billion last year and reservation change fees totaled $3 billion.

Now here is what is most disturbing about the article below:

Four out of five airline passengers said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their travel experience, according to an Ipsos Public Affairs poll commissioned by Airlines for America. The majority of air travelers last year had household incomes of $75,000 or less, the poll found.

In other words, airlines have succeeded in changing the expectations of travelers. For those of us who remember air travel as comfortable and low stress, the status of travel today is nothing short of a scandal. I used to enjoy flying and now I avoid it whenever possible. It is punishing and degrading. Yet, the airlines knew that such memories would fade with the new generation and that they could lower expectations while increasing profits. They gambled on people accepting cramped conditions with few comforts and they won. Although some of us look at the rapid reduction of seat size and comfort for example, many have bought into the new industry move to treat travel more like a bus and people more like cargo.

So now we can wait for three hours in an understaffed TSA line and, if we can still make our flight, we can fight for limited space to store our bags to avoid increasing baggage fees and then squeeze into sardine-like spaces (or converted cargo bays). Where air travel was once an experience in itself, it has become solely a means to an end. It is the equivalent of replacing every fine restaurant with a vending machine on the theory that people only want food at the lowest possible cost. Call me a dinosaur if you will, but I will never forget the golden age of travel when airlines prided themselves on not just the arrival at a location but experience in getting there.

Source: USA Today

27 thoughts on “Airlines Rack Up Huge Profits As Passengers Face Shrinking Seats And Rising Fees”

  1. Fly the friendly skies of Panamerican Airlines. Or TWA. Or Ozark Airlines.

  2. Lack of a free market (i.e. too much government interference ) is often what keep competitors out and prices high. Look at the cause of this rather than the symptoms.

  3. Like Milton Friedman (another Bears fan?) used to say…”vote with your dollars.” Planning to drive the family to SC in spring. Orlando in summer(from the NE). We travel in our own vehicle, and no TSA pedophiles will be touching my girls.
    No support for govt pervs. No support for the airlines who encouraged all of this madness, and now pleads “what can we do-the big govt is making us”…all while bribing corrupt politicians with donations no doubt. Yuck!g

  4. they all treat you like cattle but at least Southwest has a sense of humor about it.

  5. fiver – Typical crony capitalism: profits are internalized and losses socialized. But one might think that corporations that wouldn’t even exist today without the public’s investments and bailouts might be a bit less arrogant in claiming to be rugged individualistic risk takers.

    I couldn’t agree more, let’s get rid of the USPS, Amtrak, monopolized public education and Obamacare.

  6. For all you “free marketeers,” just remember that after 9/11, it was the airlines who, almost immediately, had their hands out for billions upon billions in bailout money as well as immunity from their liability – the very same airlines who had fought against things like reinforced cockpit doors and for things like reducing the air marshals on flights. That’s without even mentioning the public’s huge investment in things like airports and air traffic control as well as allowing the airlines use of public airspace.

    Where is the public’s “return on investment”? Or is that something that only rich, monopolistic, industries are “entitled” to?

    Typical crony capitalism: profits are internalized and losses socialized. But one might think that corporations that wouldn’t even exist today without the public’s investments and bailouts might be a bit less arrogant in claiming to be rugged individualistic risk takers.

  7. I fly Allegiant which flies from smaller towns so I do have to drive to connect, but it is much cheaper. The seats to NOT recline. Food is not served. Service between cities is twice a week. The sooner you buy your ticket the cheaper.

  8. Waiting for a libertarian to explain how big government is responsible for the problem…. In the meantime, Prof. Turley, as someone with “a fair dose of libertarian feelings,” maybe you should simply decline the service being offered. It’s not like anyone NEEDS to fly, right?

  9. Cangrats on the airlines for making a profit. I don’t see the problem here. You whiners are all welcome to start an airline with more leg room and four coarse meals. JT’s true colors showing through his dinosaur skin.

  10. I’m always puzzled why people who believe in Global Warming caused by Man fly on airplanes so much.

    I hate flying now, mostly because of TSA.

  11. Boycott airlines if you can. Learn to drive a car farther.

  12. I will not fly US domestic airlines. The personnel always seem to be either exhausted or overwhelmed.

  13. Renegade, the costs of purchasing or leasing aircraft are already baked into the cake when calculating profit.

  14. Oh for god’s sake Turley get off the airline merry-go-round or are you on the carousel…there is a difference..although neither gets you to a destination while riding it…but it’s fun for kids. BTW…when did you start flying? Born in Chicago in 1961, Degreed in Chicago from undergrad (83) to JD (87).

    It wasn’t too long ago that I couldn’t have afforded a non-stop flight from Seattle to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, London…. and business class was non-existent. Forget first class.

    Hate to say it, but looking at air transport in the early 60s I took a Lockheed Electra which wasn’t too comforting… remember all the wing cracks. DC 3s were still in service as well…feeders like Piedmont. Yep… plenty of room on those babies. Oh and soooo very quiet…right? Great ride too…if you like roller-coasters.

    Remember umbrellas or the blast of ice cold air as you made your way to the steps up to or down from the aircraft? How about when the jet-ways started to come into vogue? OOOoh wait…you grew up in Chicago in 80s.

    So what’s all this got to do with huge profits, shrinking seats and rising fees?

    First the profits. How about showing
    first…the return on investment. $500 million on a fleet of DC3s? That would be egregious.
    Did you ever have that wonderful Gooney Bird experience? Oh and plenty of room for a 6 footer…not.

    The average price for all wide-bodies in current use is about $220Milion a piece.
    A new 787 costs at least $120Million. The new 777 is over $300Million.
    Whether leased or bought, somebody is paying for the aircraft.
    Then add on the jetways…usually built and owned by the airlines.
    Maintenance—for one, check the change out requirements on the engines.
    Maintenance facilities.
    Ground crew
    Flight crews
    Fuel…while the price has dropped drastically, the average American’s mass is considerably more.
    Remember the equation f=ma? force equals MASS times (acceleration squared).
    How about all the previous years of near collapse for the legacy airlines….oooppsss forgot…where are TWA, PSA (California), Western and Braniff now? Hmmm deregulation and oil spike of the ’80s.

    Shrinking seats..actually the pitch is being improved. Some airlines may well reduce seating capacity…but at what cost? Why should airlines be required to show seat clearances??? Imagine the law suits if a small amount is off. Remember the Subway Foot Long suit? Now some lady suing Starbucks over too much ice….funny..I ask for very little ice with no problem…my wife loves ice.
    Besides the info is already fully available to anyone with access to the web. Just search airline seat configuration. Before anyone complains about the airlines’ seats ????? ride a Greyhound……

    Rising fees. Actually a number of fees are quietly disappearing.

    The cost per air mile even if first class is drastically less than it was in the 70s and 80s, especially with inflation. If not for Howard Hughes and Air West, we military would have been stuck.

    As it was…. it took a Navy Commander taking an airliner r/t DC to SF (circa ’69?) on a weekend to prove that the 400 mile liberty limit was out dated. But then you were still in grade school—3rd grade?

  15. Now this is legroom. Just remember to bring earplugs and a very warm coat.

  16. For many people, including myself, the minimum distance for choosing to fly vs. drive is increasing. I drive a lot more now than I did 10 years ago.

  17. I flew on one a couple of months ago. Not going to mention the airline, but I have been on Greyhound buses that were more comfortable.

  18. If one fly’s enough Purchase a TSA waver and go to an airline with the best seats. If we want to lower fees, I am more troubled by legal fees.

  19. I don’t have much faith in a poll commissioned by an Airline trade group.

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