Airlines could hike charges on overweight baggage because passengers are getting heavier, according to an industry expert

Passengers sit in an American Airlines airplane before flying from California to North Carolina
Passengers board an American Airlines flight from California to North Carolina

  • Airlines could use higher passenger weights to charge more for baggage, says an industry expert.
  • American Airlines said its average passenger weights had risen by eight pounds.
  • But experts say airlines are unlikely to weigh passengers before they board their flights.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Airlines could hike charges on overweight baggage as they try to account for heavier passengers, an industry expert told Insider.

American Airlines confirmed to Insider on June 10 that its average passenger weights had increased, while airline officials told the Wall Street Journal that average passenger and baggage weights had risen between 5% and 10%, but did not say over what period.

Henry Harteveldt, president of travel research firm Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider that he wouldn’t be “surprised if airlines use the higher passenger weight estimates to charge passengers more money.”

Airlines might reduce their weight limit for checked bags, increase charges for overweight luggage, or both, he said.

“Somewhere, in the bowels of an airline’s headquarter building, a zealous financial analyst is licking her or his lips, relishing the chance to use this as an opportunity extract more money from that airline’s passengers.”

Weight estimates are used to calculate the weight and balance of the aircraft before take off – vital data needed to ensure the plane can fly safely. Keeping within weight limits can be harder in hotter climates and at higher altitudes where more energy is needed to lift the plane, requiring more fuel.

Airlines had until June 12 to submit new average passenger and baggage weight estimates to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the government body that regulates commercial airlines, the Journal reported.

An American Airlines spokesperson told Insider that its average passenger weight was 182 pounds in summer and 187 pounds in winter, “an 8-pound increase for both seasons.” The spokesperson also said that American expects carry-on baggage to be five pounds heavier in new estimates, and checked bags to be 4 pounds heavier.

American told Insider it plans to use larger aircraft for flights where it anticipates there may be weight issues, and limit ticket sales “if necessary.” It added, however, that most of its flights are able to accommodate heavier passengers. A company spokesperson said there would be no change in customer experience following the weight changes.

Harteveldt said airlines “constantly” look for ways to reduce aircraft weight, for example, by buying lighter seats, scrapping in-seat entertainment hardware, and reducing the size of toilet cubicles.

Harteveldt added that he has even known airlines to buy lighter cutlery and cups to save weight, and stocking the plane with fewer food and drink items.

Helane Becker, airlines analyst and managing director of investment bank Cowen, told Insider that the “trend in heavier people has been going on for years,” and that she expected airlines to both change overweight bag charges and accept less mail and fewer small packages.

Southwest Airlines told Insider that the FAA had approved its submission in early June and had no plans to “increase overweight or oversized baggage fees.”

Industry body Airlines for America, which speaks on behalf of 10 major airlines, also said that it doesn’t “anticipate there will be any noticeable changes” for customers, in an emailed statement.

Delta Air Lines said they had developed an “implementation plan” to minimize any impact on customers, although did not share any details.

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How one of America’s newest airlines, Avelo, stacks up to the competition

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

  • Avelo Airlines is one of America’s newest ultra-low-cost carrier, having started flights on April 28.
  • Its competitors include Allegiant Air, Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines.
  • I flew on Avelo and saw why the airline is offering a better value thanks to its low fee structure.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Americans are ready to travel for leisure again, and more airlines are popping up to serve them.

Avelo Airlines became one of the first major US airlines to launch in 15 years when it debuted in April with three planes and 11 routes. Focusing on low-cost leisure routes, flights primarily serve social distancing-friendly destinations such as California Wine Country and Yellowstone National Park where activities can be enjoyed in peace and nature.

But Avelo is going up against tough and established competitors in the ultra-low-cost realm, which CEO Andrew Levy knows quite well as the cofounder of Allegiant Air. Rivals in the field include Spirit Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines, as well as Levy’s own Allegiant.

Read More: Spirit Airlines’ low-cost model puts it in the perfect spot to be the big winner of the pandemic, a Deutsche Bank analyst says

Those carriers don’t often enjoy the best reputations among customers, something that Avelo is aiming to change with a new attitude toward ultra-low-cost flying.

Here’s how Avelo stacks up with its competitors.

Low fares and low frills

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo began selling tickets in April with introductory fares as low as $19 on all 11 of its routes. The fares are undoubtedly low but not lower than competitors.

Frontier and Spirit frequently offer one-way fares for under $30 on many of its routes, and similarly low fares are not uncommon on Allegiant or Sun Country. But $19 is a great opening salvo for Avelo, especially when compared to rival startup Breeze that is offering fares starting at $39.

Read More: JetBlue’s founder is back with new low-cost airline Breeze. Here’s his plan to reinvent the budget market.

These are, however, introductory fares and there’s no saying just how high they’ll go after Avelo gets its footing. But CEO Andrew Levy did tell Insider that he wants the airline to be known as the go-to for low fares.

“We really want to build a brand that is about everyday low fares,” Levy said. “Quite honestly, I’d love to be able to do over many years what Southwest has done, where when people hear ‘Avelo,’ they just associate us with low fares.”

Less nickel-and-diming when it comes to extra fees

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Ultra-low-cost carriers rely on charging extra fees, known as ancillary fees, to make up for the low fares they offer, and Avelo is no different. Advance seat assignments, baggage, and bringing pets onboard will all incur an extra fee.

The difference between Avelo and many of its competitors, however, is that Avelo’s fees are much lower. Checking a bag, for example, will only incur a $10 fee on Avelo and seat assignments start at $5 for an aisle or window seat.

Bringing a carry-on bag is still $35 but passengers at least have the option to check a bag for cheaper. There are some caveats, such as an additional $10 fee if customers don’t pre-purchase baggage allowance online.

But there are some services for which Avelo doesn’t even charge a fee. Booking a flight through a call center, making changes, or even canceling a ticket will not incur a fee.

“As far as change fees are concerned. I think that’s one of the biggest pain points in the airline industry,” Levy said. “It’s been that way for years. Airlines for years have used that as a money grab, and it has no relationship to what it truly costs to manage a change.”

A limited network

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo’s strategy focuses on serving secondary airports across the US to provide a more convenient and cheaper experience for customers. Hollywood Burbank Airport is the airline’s only current operating base, from where all of its routes originate.

“We’re a low-cost carrier we’ve built to offer low fares but at the same time, we’re going to offer a great level of convenience by utilizing Burbank, which we think is probably the best secondary airport in the country,” Levy said.

But beyond the West Coast, Mountain West, and Southwest, you won’t find Avelo at the local airport and for the most part, the airline doesn’t fly between big cities. A limited route network so early into the airline’s life is not something the airline can be faulted for but it doesn’t hold a candle to the established route networks of Spirit, Frontier, Allegiant, and Sun Country.

Avelo will soon expand to the East Coast and open a base in New Haven, Connecticut by year’s end. The planned routes from New Haven have not yet been announced but the airline will likely serve popular leisure destinations along the coast.

A unique in-flight service

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo is offering a modified in-flight snack and drink service during the pandemic. The “convenience package,” as the airline calls it, is a sealed package containing a bottle of water, a sanitary wipe, and a package of shortbread cookies.

Airlines are slowly bringing back the in-flight snack and drink service but some ultra-low-cost airlines have been slower than others. Frontier has abandoned the in-flight service altogether during the pandemic, as Insider found on a recent flight from Las Vegas to Seattle, and only sells water bottles on request.

Spirit, for its part, still offers an in-flight service. The difference from Avelo is that nothing comes complimentary and everything from snacks to a cup of water will incur an extra fee.

Avelo’s flights are short enough not to notice the lack of a snack and drink service but it’s a nice touch and makes the flight a little bit more welcoming.

Whether or not the offering stays after the pandemic is over, however, remains to be seen. Ultra-low-cost airlines thrive on selling ancillary items and Avelo won’t likely balk at the chance to do so.

Similar onboard products

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo’s flagship Boeing 737-800 aircraft are packed with 189 seats in an all-economy configuration. The default legroom on the aircraft is 29 inches of pitch, while extra legroom seats are available at a premium.

That can be tight quarters for some but it’s not uncommon for an ultra-low-cost carrier. And in terms of seat pitch, Avelo is actually better than Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant, which offer as little as 28 inches of pitch on some of their planes, according to SeatGuru.

Sun Country’s lowest seat pitch is on par with Avelo at 29 inches, according to SeatGuru.

Avelo’s seats also offer minimal cushioning and don’t feature adjustable headrests. The noticeable difference, however, is that Avelo’s seats recline and have full-size tray tables. Frontier, for its part, is upgrading its aircraft to include full-size tray tables, so the airline will soon be on par with Avelo in that regard.

Avelo doesn’t currently offer in-flight entertainment or WiFi but the latter is slated to come later in 2021. Spirit is also in the process of adding WiFi to its fleet and Sun Country currently offers streaming entertainment.

Older aircraft than some competitors

Avelo Airlines Boeing 737-800
An Avelo Airlines Boeing 737-800.

One area where Avelo falls behind some of its competitors is in the age of its aircraft. Avelo’s planes are second-hand Boeing 737 aircraft with an average age of 14.8 years, according to Planespotters.net, with previous owners including Turkish Airlines and TUI Airlines.

The aircraft cabins have all been retrofitted with brand-new seats and the airline’s paint job gives the appearances of a brand-new plane, but the age does show in the interior. It doesn’t take away too much from the experience but flyers won’t be flying on a brand-new plane.

Frontier and Spirit, however, are known for their young fleet of aircraft. The average age of Frontier’s fleet is 4.2 years while Spirit’s is 6.8, according to Planespotters.net, with next-generation Airbus aircraft including the A320 offering lower costs and quieter cabins.

Avelo’s fleet is more on par with Sun Country and Allegiant, both of which have average fleet ages greater than 14 years.

Which airline should travelers choose?

Flying on Avelo Airlines
Flying on the first flight of Avelo Airlines.

Avelo is undoubtedly the better pick for those that want a low-cost experience while still needing to purchase extras, like a seat assignment or baggage allowance. A $19 ticket with a window seat and a checked bag will only cost $34 in the end, which most of Avelo’s competitors can’t say.

Flexibility is also built into Avelo’s tickets as there are no change or cancellation fees.

But Avelo only serves a handful of routes while its competitors fly across the Western Hemisphere. Choosing Avelo isn’t always an option but when it is, it can definitely be the better pick.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Sun Country is adding and growing 18 routes in a major expansion that will help shape it into the Midwest’s hometown airline

Sun Country Airlines
A Sun Country Airlines Boeing 737-800.

  • Sun Country Airlines is growing its ultra-low-cost route network to more cities outside of Minneapolis.
  • A total of 18 routes are being added and expanded to sun destinations in the US and abroad.
  • Arizona and Florida are the main focus but more flights to the Caribbean are being added.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sun Country Airlines is marching across the Midwest with 18 new and expanding routes in the next year that were just announced on Tuesday.

Fresh from its conversion to an ultra-low-cost carrier, the Minneapolis-based airline is growing its point-to-point route network outside of the Twin Cities. The goal is to win more customers amid a wave of leisure travelers returning to the skies in 2021.

Sun Country has long been Minneapolis’ hometown airline but these latest route additions are a sign the airline is setting itself up to be the Midwest’s hometown airline. Smaller towns across the region lack non-stop flights to leisure destinations but now cities like Rochester, Minnesota, and Green Bay, Wisconsin will see more direct links to the sunnier locales.

Florida and Arizona destinations are among the new routes but the expansion will also see Sun Country fly deeper into the Caribbean with new flights to Turks and Caicos and Grand Cayman. As Sun Country is now a low-cost airline, flyers can expect cheap fares and extra fees for amenities like advanced seat assignments and carry-on baggage.

Read More: Spirit Airlines’ low-cost model puts it in the perfect spot to be the big winner of the pandemic, a Deutsche Bank analyst says

Most of Sun Country’s competition on the Minneapolis-originating routes will be from Delta Air Lines, which maintains a hub in the city acquired in a merger with Northwest Airlines. But routes from Minneapolis comprise less than half of the expansion, with Sun Country facing no direct competition on other routes.

Here’s where Sun Country Airlines is flying in the next year.

Between Minneapolis and Phoenix

Phoenix Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona.

Flights between Minneapolis and Phoenix via Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport launch on November 24 with four-times-weekly weekender service on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. The route to Phoenix’s secondary airport complements its existing route to the larger Sky Harbor International Airport.

No other airlines directly operate the route but Sun Country will have competition from Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Spirit Airlines that operate the route from Sky Harbor International.

Between Minneapolis and Bozeman, Montana

Bozeman
Bozeman, Montana.

Flights between Minneapolis and Bozeman, Montana continue on December 16 with twice-weekly weekender service on Thursdays and Sundays. Bozeman has been growing in popularity during the pandemic as a year-round socially distant destination.

Delta will be Sun Country’s sole competition on the route.

Between Minneapolis and St. Petersburg, Florida

St. Petersburg, Florida
St. Petersburg, Florida.

Flights between Minneapolis and St. Petersburg, Florida launch on November 25 with four-times-weekly service on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport is a smaller alternative to Tampa International Airport, just across the Old Tampa Bay, complementing Sun Country’s existing route to the city.

No other airlines directly operate the route but Delta, Spirit, Southwest, and Frontier Airlines fly non-stop to nearby Tampa.

Between Minneapolis and Punta Gorda, Florida

Punta Gorda Florida
Punta Gorda, Florida.

Flights between Minneapolis and Punta Gorda, Florida launch on December 10 with twice-weekly weekender service on Mondays and Sundays.

No other airlines directly operate the route.

Between Minneapolis and George Town, Grand Cayman

grand cayman, cayman islands, shopping area
George Town, Grand Cayman.

Flights between Minneapolis and Grand Cayman launch on December 18 with twice-weekly service on Mondays and Fridays.

Delta will be Sun Country’s sole competition on the route.

Between Minneapolis and Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

providenciales turks and caicos
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.

Flights between Minneapolis and Providenciales, Turks and Caicos launch on December 18 with once-weekly service on Saturdays only.

No other airlines directly operate the route

Between Duluth, Minnesota and Fort Myers, Florida

fort myers
Fort Myers, Florida.

Flights between Duluth, Minnesota and Fort Myers, Florida launch on December 17 with twice-weekly weekender service on Mondays and Fridays.

No other airlines directly operate the route

Between Duluth, Minnesota and Phoenix

phoenix
Phoenix, Arizona.

Flights between Duluth and Phoenix launch on December 17 with twice-weekly weekender service on Mondays and Fridays.

No other airlines directly operate the route

Between Green Bay, Wisconsin and Fort Myers, Florida

Fort Myers Florida
Fort Myers, Florida.

Flights between Green Bay, Wisconsin and Fort Myers, Florida launch on December 16 with twice-weekly weekender service on Thursdays and Sundays.

No other airlines directly operate the route.

Between Green Bay, Wisconsin and Phoenix

Phoenix Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona.

Flights between Green Bay and Phoenix launch on December 17 with twice-weekly weekender service on Mondays and Fridays.

No other airlines directly operate the route.

Between Madison, Wisconsin and Phoenix

phoenix
Phoenix, Arizona.

Flights between Madison, Wisconsin and Phoenix launch on December 16 with twice-weekly weekender service on Thursdays and Sundays.

American will be Sun Country’s only competition on the route.

Between Milwaukee and Minneapolis

minneapolis minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Flights between Milwaukee and Minneapolis launch on August 26 with twice-weekly weekender service on Thursdays and Sundays. The route will help connect Milwaukeeans to Sun Country’s greater route network.

Delta will be Sun Country’s only competition on the route.

Between Milwaukee and Cancun, Mexico

Cancun, Mexico
Cancun, Mexico.

Flights between Milwaukee and Cancun, Mexico launch on December 18 with once-weekly service on Saturdays only.

No other airlines directly operate the route.

Between Milwaukee and Las Vegas

Las Vegas
Las Vegas, Nevada.

Flights between Milwaukee and Las Vegas launch on August 26 with twice-weekly weekender service on Thursdays and Sundays.

Frontier, Southwest, and Spirit will be Sun Country’s competition on the route.

Between Milwaukee and Fort Myers, Florida

Fort Meyers, Florida
Fort Myers, Florida.

Flights between Milwaukee and Fort Myers launch on December 15 with twice-weekly weekender service on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Frontier, Southwest, and United Airlines will be Sun Country’s competition on the route.

Between Milwaukee and Phoenix

arizona
Phoenix, Arizona.

Flights between Milwaukee and Phoenix launch on December 16 with twice-weekly weekender service on Thursdays and Sundays.

American and Southwest will be Sun Country’s competition on the route.

Between Rochester, Minnesota and Fort Myers, Florida

Fort Myers pier
Fort Myers, Florida.

Flights between Rochester, Minnesota and Fort Myers launch on February 3, 2022, with twice-weekly weekender service on Thursdays and Sundays.

No other airlines directly operate the route.

Between Rochester, Minnesota and Phoenix

Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona.

Flights between Rochester and Phoenix launch on February 4, 2022, with twice-weekly weekender service on Mondays and Fridays.

No other airlines directly operate the route.

Read the original article on Business Insider