The numbers are in and airlines again made a killing in baggage fees in the third quarter. One of the chief earners in that category is Delta Airlines. I certainly do not fault a company for making a profit but their latest round of fees has me wondering what their whole approach is in chasing the competition.
Delta Is Chasing the Wrong Competition with Their Latest Fees
Last week, it was found out that Delta is starting to charge baggage fees on even the first checked bag for flights between the US and Europe when the traveler books the cheap Basic Economy fare. This goes into affect for tickets purchased from December 6, 2017 and will go into affect for travel after April 10, 2018.
The fees are (for tickets purchased in Basic Economy between the US and Europe/North Africa):
- 60 USD/75 CAD / 50 Euro for first checked bag
- 100 USD / 120 CAD / 85 Euro for second checked bag (same as it is for Main Cabin now)
This is the latest move by Delta to capitalize on the hunt by travelers for the cheapest fares and to make money on them for basic things like checked bags that always use to be free (for the first checked bag) for flights to Europe.
Who Delta Is Chasing
Obviously, they are chasing carriers like Norwegian, WOW, and others that are offering low fares to travelers with options to add things like bags and seat selection on for a fee. If someone wants to travel for cheap and travel light, those discount carriers can help them get to Europe at prices that would rival transcontinental prices.
The Same Old Baggage Policy Is No More
But that is not Delta! People are familiar with the ability to check a bag for free and not having to pay $60 each way for that “privilege” of doing so. I guess I can kind of understand those bag fees for domestic flights as it is easy enough to travel with just a carryon.
But it is rare for many people to travel to Europe with just a carryon. I travel internationally with just a carryon all the time but I am in the minority on that one.
Cheap or More Expensive Ticket?
Now, people that may have been used to flying on Delta to European markets will find themselves with a choice – pay more for the ticket or pay for that bag. On a random search for JFK to Milan next May, the difference is $100 on a $1,000 ticket. If you check a bag, Delta is basically pushing you to pay for the more expensive ticket since one checked bag roundtrip would cost you $120.
Who Should Delta Be Competing Against?
It is amazing how much Delta and the other US carriers have complained about the big Middle Easter airlines like Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar about government subsidies and how it is not “fair” for them to be able to compete on certain markets (like Emirates new Newark – Athens route).
Yet, rather than try to compete with these airlines that present very good value for economy passengers, they choose to chase the bottom of the barrel when it comes to customer experience in airlines.
It is not because Delta cannot afford to compete with Emirates – they can. They just choose to complain about them and compete with an airline like Norwegian instead. To me, that is really beneath a legacy US airline.
Comparing Value to Emirates
Let’s compare on a route that both Delta and Emirates fly on. Delta charges $976 for Basic Economy and then $60 for a checked bag each way or $1,076 for a regular economy ticket with a free checked bag.
On that same route (JFK – Milan), Emirates charges $1,017 – somewhere in the middle of Delta’s two economy fares. But, Emirates gives 2 free checked bags and a quality onboard product. The meals are good, the entertainment is top-notch, and the service onboard is excellent as well.
Plus, don’t forget that Emirates runs sales fairly often for around $400 to both Emirates and Athens! It should be interesting to see if Delta matches those in the future with their Basic Economy price or Main Cabin price.
We look at Delta and the meals are not that good, the entertainment is not nearly as expansive as Emirates and service by the flight crew can really be hit-or-miss with various attendants. Plus, Delta now is playing games with the free checked bag that everyone is so used to getting (while Emirates gives you 2!).
Obviously, Delta is making decisions that they believe will bring them the most amount of money. But, I think their choice to chase carriers like Norwegian is a really bad one for a long-term strategy. Rather than start the process of nickel-and-diming customers that have long been familiar with the regular baggage standard on Delta, they should target passengers that like what airlines like Emirates offers.
Airlines like Norwegian and WOW are about cheapness and convenience. Airlines like Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar win awards. Which one should Delta be targeting for competition?
Featured image courtesy of Chris Parypa Photography | Shutterstock