Hawaii airline launches baggage fee


Air travelers griped yesterday about the latest fee tacked on to the ticket price: $10 for their first piece of checked luggage on go! airline.

That fee takes effect Aug. 10, but go! passengers will pay $17 for a second checked bag starting today.

“They might as well raise the ticket prices rather than just keep charging us for things. Next they’ll be charging for the peanuts,” said John Beach, a visitor from Washington, D.C., whose family was checking in three bags at the go! counter at Honolulu International Airport yesterday on their way to Kona.

Neither Hawaiian Airlines, the state’s largest carrier, nor Island Air have decided yet to match the fee, but Hawaiian is “studying it right now,” said spokesman Keoni Wagner.

When go! announced last month it would soon charge for a second checked bag, Hawaiian imposed a $17 fee for second checked bags on interisland flights.

Such fees would have been harder to impose when Aloha Airlines was still in business and the interisland fare war was at full heat. But when Aloha shut down March 31, go! and Hawaiian soon raised ticket prices.

Travelers seeking alternatives to airline baggage fees can consider the Hawaii Superferry, which allows two free pieces of luggage per passenger and $25 for additional bags. But travelers bringing a vehicle can load up.

costs blamed on fuel
go! said higher fuel prices have forced it to raise revenue and the baggage fees give passengers some flexibility.

“We’re just trying to provide options for our passengers,” said Joe Bock, go! marketing officer. “Fuel has gotten more expensive for everyone, especially for the airlines.

“On the Mainland, we’re seeing airlines impose additional fees on checked baggage, food and even the redemption of frequent-flier miles,” Bock said. “The (baggage) fee is really negligible.”

He said the airline hoped the fee would not deter travelers who bring gifts to friends and family on other islands or come to O’ahu for shopping.

Robert Hackney was visibly upset upon learning that a fee would soon be imposed on his second bag, which was filled with T-shirts that he makes and sells. He lives in Hilo and comes to O’ahu as often as twice a month.

“My business will just have to absorb the extra cost,” he said. “Obviously it’s my choice to travel, but they might as well just charge me more for my ticket than for my second bag.”

Tom and Vicki Shoquist rushed yesterday from their Continental flight to the go! counter with four bags to check in. They said they would probably pay the fees to check their bags on the return flight.

“We wouldn’t carry more stuff on board,” Tom Shoquist said. “We’d probably grumble and pay the fees.”

Vicki Shoquist, however, said the airlines should just raise their fares instead of charging travelers with ala carte fees.

superferry an option
Peter Forman, a local aviation industry historian, said the fee for the first checked bag may come to be the thing that differentiates the two main interisland airlines.

“Now that the Superferry serves Maui, that may become an alternative to the airlines,” Forman said. “This may drive additional traffic to the Superferry. So much of what’s going on right now is the airlines are trying to bring in extra income without raising the base fare.”

Forman said the interisland airlines are reluctant to raise their ticket prices even further. “Instead we’re seeing additional fees used to camouflage the real price increases, which are necessary to emerge from the fare war and find profitability,” he said.

When Glenn Funderburk was told in the Philippines that he’d have to pay $76 for his second bag, he decided he didn’t need shoes, umbrellas and other items in his bag and pared down right in the airport terminal.

“I ditched the second bag,” Funderburk said. “I’m carrying more stuff (on board) today because there’s no more room” in the checked bag.