Airlines Continue Nickel & Diming
Airlines Continue Nickel & Diming
U.S. airlines are officially out of control, with more and more carriers confirming new plans to price gouge and bleed travelers dry for every dime they’ve got.
The era of comfortable and prestigious air travel is dead. Airlines are squeezing 3 seats into spaces were 2 seats used to be, stealing an inch or more from already tight legroom, while revoking previously standard amenities just to make a fast buck for their own profit. This financial trickery means an advertised $200 fare could actually end up costing $400.
Cheap carrier Spirit Airlines is a pioneer in the budget “flying bus” type of air travel experience. With Spirit, you get a seat and that’s it. If you want a specific seat, if you want to check a bag, if you want to carry on a bag, or if you want anything other than just a place to sit down, get ready to pay for it. Now, the major airlines are seeing dollar signs and preparing to follow suit.
Airlines already charge an exorbitant $150 or more just to change a flight or redeposit frequent flyer miles back into your account (an action that takes 2 seconds and requires only the push of a computer button). Now, they want to go even further.
The latest act of highway robbery by the airline industry occurred recently, when U.S. carriers announced “family fees.” Yes, airlines will now charge passengers extra if they want to guarantee seats next to their loved ones. This means that if a mother is traveling with her 4-year-old daughter and wants to actually sit next to her child, she will need to pay for the privilege. If the mom can’t afford it, little Susie might have to sit way back in Row 33 between Joe and Moe child predator.
This can’t be possible.
According to American Airlines President Scott Kirby, the airline industry has not yet found a way to segregate passengers willing to pay more for a coach seat from passengers who want to pay the absolute lowest fare — and he wants to change that.
Starting later this year, American will follow Delta Airlines by introducing a basic economy class, which means regular seats with fewer amenities.
“We’re moving to a world where we’re going to segment customer demand via features,” Kirby said. “Customers who care about ‘give me the lowest price possible,’ we will be able to offer that. For customers who want a better problem, we’ll be able to offer those customers a better product.
So, what exactly is the “better product” Kirby is referencing?
“In coach, we treat every customer exactly the same,” he said while suggesting those days are done. “We’re going to move to a world where we have more products on the shelf to sell.”
Translation: this is “used car salesman-speak” that customers will soon have to pay for amenities that were previously included. The cost of an airline ticket won’t decrease, but the services will. By splitting the coach cabin into basic economy and premium economy, the airlines see a new cash cow on the horizon. The new increased prices will come with no added perks whatsoever. Or, as the Wall Street Journal notes, “Preferred” seats on American Airlines are often no different from coach.
Basically, the lowest airfare will provide travelers with a seat and nothing more. If you want an aisle or window seat, be prepared to pay a premium. Otherwise, prepare yourself to be squeezed into a middle seat anywhere on the plane. If you want to sit next to your spouse or child, it’ll cost you. If you want to avoid airline baggage fees and carry your luggage on, get out your wallet and ante up. You’ll pay the same price for an airline ticket, but you’ll get fewer amenities. If you want your standard amenities back, you’ll have to pay for the new “premium” class of service — except there’s nothing premium about it other than the name.
Airlines are playing a money game and shifting the definition of what a “regular” seat on a plane is. Choosing your seat when booking used to be part of buying an airline tickets and rolled into the price. Now it’s extra and magically called “premium.” Airlines have convinced themselves that their new rules, stolen amenities and attempt to rebrand coach as if it is something premium is all a grand idea. It is not!
Kirby believes “travelers who would be willing to pay more at a higher price are purchasing at a lower price.” United’s Chief Information Officer Jim Compton agrees, saying airlines “leave money on the table because they are not effectively differentiating higher value products from lower value products.”
Despite Compton’s belief that airlines are leaving free money on the table, they’re actually making out like bandits. For example, have you ever noticed the fuel surcharge fee you pay as an extra tax on each airline ticket you purchase? This fee was added when oil was at an all time high of $200 a barrel and airlines were losing money from the cost of jet fuel. However, now that fuel is less than $35 a barrel, airlines are still charging (and keeping) the same fee as a bonus. Why??
Further, have you noticed that airline frequent flyer programs are also changing? Most travelers no longer enjoy earning miles for every long distance trip they take. Now, airlines are moving to a system where passengers only earn miles based on the type of ticket and cost of fare they purchase. Unreal!
Exactly how far are airlines willing to go? Will a cup of tap water cost a dollar? Will the bathrooms be repurposed as pay toilets?
Looking beyond airlines, consider the possibility of every travel service adopting this mentality. What if when you booked a hotel room, all you got was just a room? If you wanted sheets on the bed or towels in the bathroom it would cost you extra. How about restaurants joining in the fun and charging for salt and pepper or table condiments?
When and where will the madness end?
With security lines a mile long and a 2-3 hour wait, with airlines nickel-and-diming passengers for bags, seats and every other fee imaginable, and now with the new “family fees” just for a parent to be able to sit next to or at least in the vicinity of their child, air travel is quickly becoming hell on earth.