Continental Airlines, Inc. today is filing a federal antitrust lawsuit against United Airlines and the Airline Management Council at Washington Dulles International Airport to stop anticompetitive practices and illegal interference caused by newly-installed baggage-sizing templates at the shared X-ray security screening checkpoints.
Continental competes with United and other airlines by offering bigger overhead bins and more closet space for carry-ons, and friendlier carry-on policies, each of which are compromised by United`s baggage sizer templates.
The lawsuit states that United has conspired with other airlines under the auspices of the Airline Management Council to limit competition by requiring all airlines` customers to conform to a single, restrictive standard for carry-on baggage. Continental and co-plaintiff Continental Express, Inc. also allege that the baggage sizers interfere with the purpose and intent of federally required security screening.
“In their quest to prevent customers from carrying their bags on-board, airlines like United are thwarting our ability to compete on the basis of offering a superior product that accommodates a broader range of travelers` needs,” said a Continental spokesperson. “Continental refuses to participate in an anti-consumer and anticompetitive practice that is detrimental to travelers. Our customers should not be penalized because other airlines offer poor service or unfriendly carry-on baggage policies.”
United Airlines led the conspiracy among airlines who voted in favor of installing sizers at Dulles, preventing Continental and other carriers from competing for customers by offering more customer-friendly carry-on policies.
“United has even created an `allocation` for each airline, through a medallion mechanism, to limit the number of customers who are permitted to avoid the restrictions of the bag sizing template. This smacks of good ol’ boy agreements made in a smoke-filled room,” the spokesperson said.
Continental believes that individual airlines should manage carry-on baggage policies rather than turning security personnel into “bag cops.” The required security function is compromised when personnel have to constantly fiddle with templates and medallions, and spend a lot of time soothing irate customers.
Continental initiated an expansion of its overhead bin space in 1998, retrofitting 187 aircraft at a cost of $15 million and taking delivery of 107 new Boeing aircraft in 1998-2000 with larger bins already installed. More than three-quarters of the fleet has larger, new-style bins that accept most popular roll-on baggage transversely. The new bins each accept four pieces of roll-on baggage, or twice as many pieces as traditional bins which can each hold only two pieces of roll-on baggage.
Additionally, Continental has installed closet space on every airplane, including closet space for every first class customer. This surpasses many other airlines who are either missing on-board closets or who use small, antiquated closet designs.
In its February 2000 issue, Smart Money magazine named Continental the No. 1 U.S. airline for business travel, citing the carrier’s flexible carry-on baggage policy as one of the reasons business travelers favor Continental’s service. Continental also ranked No. 3 in least number of mishandled baggage in the 1999 U.S. Department of Transportation rankings.