NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Several major airlines announced changes Tuesday aimed at steering flyers in their direction.
United unveiled a new “basic economy fare” that will be available early next year, CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported.
“It’s time to refocus on winning back our customers,” United CEO Oscar Munoz said in a video statement.
The bargain option hopes to compete with rival discount airlines.
“There’s no question that Spirit and Frontier are the low-cost leaders. They’re sometimes hundreds of dollars less,” travel expert George Hobica said.
Hobica is the founder of the flight comparison website Airfare Watchdog.
He said though cheaper, Spirit and Frontier have high complaint rates with the Department of Transportation.
He also said he’s not convinced United’s “basic economy fare” will really benefit customers. Delta already has a similar fare, and American Airlines is promising to roll out something similar.
“I’ve seen Delta selling these tickets for $20 less in some cases than a regular economy,” Hobica said. “I don’t think they’re really worth it. Maybe for some people where every dime counts.”
United’s cheaper flight price comes with restrictions:
- Full size carry-on bags are not allowed, unless passengers are Premier members and have a Mileage Plus credit card or are Star Alliance Gold members.
- You can’t choose your seat. It will be automatically assigned at check in.
- Customers will board in the last boarding group.
As for other airline changes, Delta Airlines’ new baggage tracking system could change the airline industry, as well as help guarantee your bag doesn’t get lost.
Delta is the first U.S. carrier to replace traditional paper bag tags with a radio frequency identification or RFID chip. The new $50 million system allows nearly real-time tracking of every checked bag.
“We believe this is already having a 5 to 10 percent reduction on the number of mishandled bags that we have in our system,” Senior Vice President Bill Lentsch said.
Once a bag is tagged, sensors track it throughout the journey from the ticket counter, to the bag room, to the tarmarc. A red light later indicates a bag should not be on a flight and stops the loading process.
“We’re all human…whether you changed your itinerary, whether you decided not to go or whether we were just thinking about something else and not paying attention to that specific bag tag, it catches it for us,” baggage handler Victor de Rosa said.
There is a reason Delta is spending millions of dollars to implement this new system. Every time a bag is mishandled or lost, it can cost the airline $100 or more.
Starting Tuesday, passengers will get push alert updates on their smartphone and from the app they can pull up a map tracking the bag’s location.
Delta isn’t the only airline with bag tracking technology. American Airlines also sends push alerts to flyers, and Alaska is testing electronic bag tags that update through a mobile app and last for two years.
Delta’s new bag tracking system is now in use at more than 60 airports across the country. The goal is to bring the technology to 84 more airports across the U.S. in the coming weeks.