Skycaps sue American over drop in tips

Curt Nickisch Jan 25, 2007

TESS VIGELAND: And more airline baggage, this time stateside. American Airline’s skycaps across the country are complaining there’s a new lack of gratitude for their services. Make that gratuities for their services.

They say tips have tanked since the airline started charging $2 for each bag checked in at curbside. So they’ve filed a class-action lawsuit against American and the third-party contractor that employs them.

Curt Nickisch reports from station WBUR.

CURT NICKISCH: It used to be that skycaps made most of their money from tips. But now that American and other airlines have started collecting two bucks for every bag checked in curbside, skycaps complain they’re not making what they used to.

Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordon represents them.

SHANNON LISS-RIORDON: How many customers are going to tip on top of paying a $2 per bag service charge?

Not many, complain the skycaps. One says he earns a tenth of what he used to in tips.

On the other hand, they’re making more base salary. The new fee translates into a few more bucks per hour. Even so, skycaps say they made more with the old system.

At least the new fee-based system is better for airlines. American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith says his company used to pay tens of millions of dollars per year to pay for skycap service. Now the fee pays for it. Meaning only those who want the convenience foot the bill.

TIM SMITH: Those who choose not to do it, they bear none of the cost of doing that.

Airline industry analyst Richard Aboulafia says skycaps are just another casualty of lean times in the flying biz.

RICHARD ABOULAFIA: Skycaps are kind of well down the profit margin chain. But nevertheless, they’re another place you can look to try to extract cash from.

Leaving it to customers to tip skycaps on top of their curbside check-in fees . . . or just tip their hats.

In Boston, I’m Curt Nickisch for Marketplace.

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