New bag fees on way for Canadian fliers?

1-IMG_0414Mark my words; it’s only a matter of time until we start paying for our first bag on WestJet flights.

WestJet yesterday upped prices by two per cent in response to the falling Canadian dollar. Air Canada did the same thing, as apparently did Air Transat. With the loonie down around 90 cents (it was up slightly yesterday), they probably have no choice.

Some airlines, including Sunquest and Air Canada Vacations, already brought in special surcharges to make up for the falling dollar.

Experts have said these moves have added seven to nine per cent in total costs to many of our winter vacations. As if that snow falling all around us wasn’t already enough to make us depressed…

The price hikes are one thing. But I see that now West Jet is talking up bag fees. CEO Gregg Saretsky, who’s a very smart guy, was quoted in the Star today as saying the airline expects “to grow that line (ancillary revenues) as an offset to currency changes.

Air Canada charges $25 for the first bag for economy passengers on flights to the U.S. but not on flights within Canada. Porter charges $25 to $28.25 for the first bag on flights to the U.S. but not for domestic flights.

Saretsky told the Globe and Mail yesterday that WestJet doesn’t appear to be gaining an advantage by letting folks check their first bag for free. And that strikes me as an ominous note. I mean, if the CEO says it won’t hurt them to bring in a bag fee, then it’s simply a matter of time until they do so, despite having posted a record profit in 2013 of $268.7 million.

Not that I’m an expert on airlines. But I suspect that WestJet will introduce bag fees for ALL flights, and not just for flights to the U.S. If I’m Saretsky, I probably figure it’s better to announce all the bad news at once rather that introducing bag fees for one type of flight one day and then adding them to more flights six months or a year later.

That’s what the p.r. experts say; get it over and get it done. Quickly. And don’t subject yourself to too much pain.

Sadly, I suspect that the day WestJet brings in bag fees for all flights will be the day Air Canada does the same thing. Which means we could fairly soon be looking at an extra $25 or more on each ticket we buy; tickets that already are quite expensive. And that just went up another two per cent.

We can cry and moan all we like. But we keep flying. And we keep paying. As long as that continues, the airlines have us exactly where they want us.


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