Northwest Announces Cuts, Fees, Plus More Cuts And Fees

Airline customers who feel that service has gradually been chipped down to nothing while fees have been gradually piled on may appreciate Northwest Airlines’ latest announcement. Nothing gradual about this pile of bad news.

So if you prefer a sharp kick in the head to a prolonged beating, here it is:

• $15 to check the first bag, and (still) $25 for the second

• $25 to $100 to redeem a frequent-flier award ticket

• another 2,500 jobs lost, meaning crappier service all around

I’ve heard from plenty of people who prefer the checked luggage fees to higher fares. I get the logic, but I’m not in that camp.

I think there has to be a line, a set of standards, a minimum level of service that is consistent with human comfort and decency. When an airline can’t meet those standards, it ought to raise its fares instead of dropping its standards. Of course, the line is going to be different for everyone, but here’s about where mine is:

• seats with at least 32 inches of leg room and 17.5 inches in width

• an allowance for one checked bag, at least, because people usually need to wear clothes

• free bottled water, because it’s a basic human need and you can’t carry it past security

Those are the essentials. I won’t get into the passenger bill of rights and the whole thing about letting me off the damned plane because I’m not a hostage. That’s another blog entry.

Of course, the problem isn’t just that airlines are willing to drop their standards in the face of fierce financial pressure. It’s also that passengers are willing to accept it rather than pay fares high enough to sustain a business that treats its customers decently. 


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