Can Travelers Learn to Love Airline Fees?

Spirit's Baldanza and his fellow fee-frenzied airline chiefs would do well to heed Judge Judy's injunction: "Don't pee on me and tell me it's raining."

If their airlines' profitability depends on a-la-carte pricing, say so. Explain why. (But be prepared to explain how Southwest, the industry's most reliably profitable airline, manages to succeed with minimal fee-dinging.)

If there's a compelling case to be made for the fairness of a-la-carte pricing, make it.

While not all travelers are Nobel economists or distinguished professors of moral philosophy, they're generally well educated and business savvy. They're more than capable of assessing the facts, if they have them, and judging accordingly.

The Right Thing to Do

Of course it could be that nothing the airlines can say or do would be enough to convince their customers that fees are a benign addition to the travel landscape, or at least a necessary evil. The public's distrust of the airlines runs deep and such ameliorants may be too little too late.

Still, questionable prospects for success notwithstanding, the airlines really don't have much choice in the matter—there's only one transparent, sensible, humane, honest thing to do.

Tim Winship is editor at large for SmarterTravel , as well as the editor and publisher of FrequentFlier.com, and a frequently quoted expert on frequent flier programs. SmarterTravel provides expert, unbiased information on timely travel deals, the best value destinations, and money-saving travel tips.

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