New airline fees for passengers

April 17, 2008 5:33:18 PM PDT
From fuel surcharges to paying more to travel with a pet, or sit an aisle seat, the airlines are coming out with many new fees for passengers. But will the new a la carte pricing be enough to help offset the rising cost of jet fuel?

US Airways is about to launch what it calls its "Choice Seats" program. You can reserve an aisle or a window seat in the first few rows of coach for -- minimally -- $5 more a seat. It doesn't mean extra leg room, you just pay a bit more for a seat of choice. One other airline is already doing that. More may follow.

"Would I pay for a window seat on a long flight. A little bit more," said Kim Glynn, passenger.

Call it "a la carte" pricing, or "trickle down". Airline passengers are now paying for extras that used to be part of the regular fare. The big airlines are hiking their fuel surcharges. In some cases, it's an extra $25 one way.

United, next month, will start charging $25 to check more than one bag. US Air, Northwest, Continental and Delta are all following suit. If you stuff everything into one bag, and it exceeds the 50-pound weight limit, the overweight charge is doubling from $50 to $100.

Delta is inching up its curbside check-in by a dollar. Of course, box lunches cost, as do drinks, and in some cases, headphones for your in-flight movie.

"I think a lot of people sitting in conference rooms deciding what they can charge money for. So they're going to do whatever they can get away with," said Mike McClain, passenger.

"In the business world I understand it. It makes sense to me. And you get what you pay for. And everything costs money these days. And everything keeps going up," said Brian Driscoll, passenger.

The airlines are loathe to raise fares but are getting killed by fuel costs. United for instance, estimates that this year, for fuel, it will spend $2 billion more than it did last year.

"Ultimately, these extra fees are a drop in the bucket to the airlines' revenue. But at a time when it's tough to pass on regular fare increases, they're attractive to airlines," said Joe Schwieterman, DePaul University.

Even if fuel prices recede, many travel industry experts believe a la carte pricing is here to stay. The air travel association's David Stempler says, on a la carte pricing, where you stand may depend on where you sit.

Also Thursday, United announced that it is laying off at least 50 probationary employees due to rising jet fuel prices.


Load Comments