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November 17, 2009  

Baggage fees have become nearly ubiquitous in the airline industry, and Southwest has capitalized on passenger hostility to the dreaded surcharge with its playful Bags Fly Free campaign.

"Some airlines charge your bag up to $20 to ride in the bottom of the plane," says the narrator of one commercial. "In the dark! No peanuts or nothin'. And then if your bag wants to bring one of its little bag friends, for company, they can charge up to another $30. That's up to $100 roundtrip! Why do they hate your bags?"

Southwest has an excellent point—and one that resonates with its customers, Jackie Huba says. She even suggests that baggage fees might explain why Southwest and JetBlue (another no-fee carrier) continue to record an uptick in passenger miles and filled seats while rivals undergo significant declines.

"Those nickle [sic] and dime fees add up, the airlines will say, but really, they do little more than penalize customers with complexity and disguise the end price," she says.

"It's no different when a phone or cable company charges activation fees. May as well call them aggravation fees, as in 'It's aggravating to have a new customer.'"

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