If you’ve been following airline industry news over the past few weeks, you’ve probably heard news about many American carriers creating new fees for multiple checked bags. If your favorite hometown airline hasn’t started doing it yet, don’t hold your breath, it’s probably on the way.
These changes are too bad for American passengers, but long overdue, I’m afraid. Airlines have been struggling to cope with staggeringly high oil and operational costs over the last few years, all while maintaining competitive and fair prices. Their competition has cut so deep into the bottom line that carriers are now faced with two options: raise ticket prices or implement extra fees.
What currently drives the majority of the airline ticket market, however, is overwhelming demand for budget tickets — regardless of the carrier, class of service or amenities. Raising the bar on ticket prices thus runs the risk of losing large swaths of passengers with each increase.
So the airlines are forced to nickel and dime their regular passengers with extra fees along the way. This includes several in-flight amenities such as headphones or television that have already been integrated into many routes to extra baggage fees, which are unrolling this week.
Where to after that? It wouldn’t surprise me if airlines soon unilaterally started charging for all beverages, preferred seating, peanuts, wheelchair room or overweight passengers. Anything to keep the bottom line in its current place.
As the prevailing trend over the last few years dictates though, most of these changes won’t have any effect on the the frequent and business travelers. In addition to extra baggage fees being waived, most elite members are allowed an additional bag that they can bring along for free. Loyalty pays off, I suppose.
For now, make sure you keep an extra twenty with you when you’re on the road — if you want an extra shred of comfort, food or alcohol on board you’re going to have to pay for it. But as you’re handing your five dollars over for a dried up tuna sandwich on white bread and six ounces of gin, ask yourself, would you rather pay for your oil with your plane ticket or your in-flight privileges?
I don’t know about you, but I would rather save my money upfront, pack light and starve.