Now an airline is catching heat on a federal level. Delta Air Lines was recently in federal court, where a judge ordered the company to cough up $2.7 million for failing to produce information in a lawsuit related to baggage fees. This order was ON TOP OF another $4.8 million in penalties previously handed down.
According to the judge, Delta dragged their feet, taking far too long to produce the emails and allow them to be entered into evidence. US District Court Judge Timothy Batten blamed Delta’s “ineptitude and missteps” for unacceptable delays.
“Ineptitude” is not the word consumers want attached to their air travel provider. But that’s not the worst news for Delta.
According to the court filings, a group of passengers said that Delta and AirTran conspired to impose baggage fees. According to the suit, the two competitors put their heads together and decided to each begin charging fees for initially checked baggage.
The claim may seem spurious, but since Delta collected more than $860 million in checked-bag fees last year, consumers are paying attention. Bag fees continue to be a hot – and contentious – topic in the air travel industry. Consumers hate the fees, which they see as unfair taxes on air travel. Airlines argue the fees are necessary to remain profitable. Neither side seems willing to bend.
This could be a classic case of something new that people just haven’t become accustomed to. Nearly every fee or tax we have today was initially vigorously opposed but eventually accepted as “normal” by a generation who knew no different. There may come a time when consumers don’t bat an eye about paying a baggage fee. But that is not today.
However, the debate also offers an opportunity. Competing airlines have worked to win consumer loyalty by axing or reducing bag fees. For some, it worked. But only if the airline didn’t have other downsides consumers hated more. That’s an important lesson in today’s Instant PR culture. One-off gimmicks might put butts in the seats, but that might not pay off if those customers don’t enjoy the experience.
They may never tweet about not having to pay a bag fee … but you can start looking at airline complaints now on Twitter and never run out of reading material.