05/19/2014 05:00 EDT | Updated 07/18/2014 05:59 EDT

Porter Airlines Bag Fee Likely To Be Matched, Air Experts Say


Fasten your seatbelts – for some, the cost of flying has just gone up.

Porter Airlines is now charging passengers a $25 fee for their first checked bag on domestic flights, the first Canadian airline to do so.

And it may not be the last. As long as consumers keep clamouring for cheap fares, airlines will find new ways to make money off our travel.

Porter, with its free snacks and luxury waiting lounge, is not known for nickel and diming its customers. But CEO Robert Deluce said there’s a price to pay for its airfare deals. The new fee, he said, “will ensure that we can continue with the very competitive base fares that we’ve been able to offer.”

Deluce is aware he may be a trendsetter.

“We’re certainly not the first airline to charge additional baggage fees and we’ll probably not be the last one,” he said.

Both Porter and Air Canada already charge for all U.S.-bound checked luggage. Air Canada said it has no plans to charge for the first domestic bag, but WestJet Airlines is exploring the option.

Endless hidden fees

It didn’t start with bags. Over the years, Canadians have been shelling out for many options that used to be included — from blankets to movies to meals.

“[The airlines are] grasping at every little dollar that they can for everything,” exasperated passenger Theresa Nevills said at Montréal-Trudeau airport.

But, it appears, passengers are partly to blame.

“The vast majority of people want the cheapest ticket possible,” independent Calgary aviation analyst Rick Erickson said. Montreal passenger Daniel Roost agrees. “Everybody wants to fly for cheap, for less money,” he said.

Both WestJet and Air Canada pulled in record profits last year, but carriers operate in a volatile industry where a one-cent drop in the loonie can cost millions a year. So, to stay competitive with fares, airlines introduce fees to bring in extra cash, turning travel into an a la carte service.

“Any time you ... want more convenience, more comfort, more flexibility, you’re going to pay for that,” said Erickson. He is not thrilled with the direction the industry is flying and says there could be turbulence ahead.

“We’re rapidly approaching a point where there’s going to be some pushback from passengers,” he said.

For Nevills, we’ve already reached that point. “When they start to charge you for that, your one bag ... I think the airlines are getting it wrong now.”

Luggage fees are common in the United States where some discount carriers have upped the ante by also charging for carry-on bags. Spirit Airlines, the first airline to do so, is already facing a backlash. According to a recent U.S. Department of Transportation report, the low-cost, high-fee carrier generated the most passenger complaints by far over the past five years.

Ryanair, the pioneer discount European airline, faced so much criticism for gouging its passengers with fees, it’s now cutting some of those charges.

On the first day it started charging passengers the new fee, there appeared to be no huge outrage at Porter’s check-in terminal in Toronto. But when asked if she’d prefer lower fares or fewer extra charges, one Porter passenger responded, “Why do I have to choose?”

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