Free markets or…

Fair warning, this post is likely to end up with some politics involved. Last week I posted about Spirit Airlines starting to charge for carry-on bags that go in the overhead bin. I pointed out that while controversial, this approach was at least different and customers could let Spirit know how they liked it with their wallets. Maybe they won’t get the chance.

Turns our that Congress has decided this action by Spirit in a deregulated, competitive industry may be against public policy in some way. The Secretary of Transportation intends to “hold the airline’s feet to the fire on this.” What exactly? Deciding how to charge for a free market service in a deregulated marketplace? Is that really the role of the Secretary of Transportation? And Chuck Schumer, US Senator from NY, has asked his staff to try to “figure out how to mitigate this.” Really, this is an important issue for Congress?

Spirit is a small airline that is trying to differentiate itself. If they get it wrong, the marketplace will tell them. They don’t have anything approaching monopoly power. Their CEO has articulated in today’s USA Today editorial rebuttal why they think this is a good idea. Really, a major US newspaper decided this policy was worth an entire editorial? As the saying goes, all PR is good PR, and Spirit is getting a lot of it.

I still don’t know if this is a good idea, but I can’t see any reason the government in a free market needs to be involved. However, Ryanair is trying to figure out how to add more seats, remove bathrooms and charge for their use on their flights. Now maybe the EU needs to get involved in that one. That is going too far…


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