As gas prices approach $4.00 nationally this summer, airlines are looking for ways to keep their profit margins without increasing ticket prices. Even though the average today is still “only” $3.20, some airlines have begun to make some changes.
Carriers have been scrambling for ways to “up-sell” fliers, including selling first-class upgrades, fancy alcoholic drinks and day passes to airport clubs. But they’ve also been stripping out previously free services and charging customers for anything more than basic transportation — everything from use of skycaps and telephone reservationists to on-board meals and, at a few carriers, assigned seats and exit-row or bulkhead legroom.
In my experience on airplanes in the last few years, I’ve been charged extra for food and headphones. In my latest foray booking with Virgin America, they wanted more money to reserve slightly better seats like those in the bulkhead or exit rows.
I’d like to get used to traveling with everything I need in carry-on luggage, but that’s not always possible. Charging for more than one or two checked bags is already part of the flying experience. Check out this chart from Yahoo Finance/Wall Street Journal.
The airlines are doing everything they can to avoid raising ticket prices, thanks to consumers’ tendencies to live and die by the fare price.
US Airways spends roughly $250 million a year on baggage service, Mr. Parker says, and passing some of that cost to customers who actually use the service helps the airline offer lower basic fares. Consumers will switch airlines over even a $5 fare difference, airlines say, but are less sensitive to fees paid at the airport.
The psychology of money is interesting, and I am a victim just like most humans. I’ll search online for the lowest fare that makes sense for my schedule requirements, but buy overpriced food in the airport and opt for upgrades elsewhere.
Baggage Becomes a Big-Ticket Item [Wall Street Journal Online]
Published or updated March 15, 2008.