March 07, 2011
NEW YORK – Airlines may begin charging for new services including early boarding, fancier meal options and reclining seats, as they continue to dig around for ways to pile on more fees, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
In recent years, airlines from AMR Corp.'s American Airlines to Spirit Airlines Inc. found new ways to boost profits -- and annoy fliers -- by charging fees for checked bags, selecting a choice seat or other services once included in ticket prices. Airlines started charging for checked bags, snacks, pillows and other items in a big way in 2008. Last year, such fees brought in an estimated $22 billion, or five percent of global industry revenue.
But now they are mulling and testing various new fees for services that never were part of a ticket.
Want a seat that reclines more? A pre-ordered champagne brunch in coach? Insurance against a blizzard that waylays a trip? Access to speedy security lines and early boarding? Soon you might be able to get them all -- for a price.
Carriers could tap into "billions and billions of potential revenue" said Tom Douramakos, CEO of GuestLogix Inc., a Toronto technology supplier that helps airlines sell products and services.
"The airlines are only scratching the surface" with baggage and seat fees, he said. They could become virtual shopping malls, offering captive travelers a variety of buy-while-they-fly items such as theater tickets or a handbag, he says.
Two small, low-fare carriers, Spirit and Allegiant Travel Co., have led the way in the US by charging for almost everything but lavatory access and by marketing travel packages including hotels, rental cars and theme-park tickets along with air travel.
A rich new vein for airline fees is early boarding, which American and United Airlines already sell to their non-elite frequent fliers. As more passengers avoid paying checked luggage fees by hauling their bags on board, overhead bin space is at a premium. That means getting to board ahead of other travelers can be worth a few extra bucks.
Big carriers already have discovered passengers will pay for better seats in coach. Delta Air Lines Inc. recently said it will remove seats from its international planes by summer to create an "Economy Comfort" zone that offers up to four inches (10 centimeters) more legroom and 50 percent more recline than regular coach seats.
Dear Mr and Mrs Airline Directors and Owners -
Take heed, you are falling into a hole from which you will have a very difficult time extricating yourself.
Making money is fine. If it costs 50 cents to produce a widget, charge $1. If gas costs $1.80 a gallon, charge $3.25. If soda costs 30 cents for a can, charge 90 cents. But Sirs and Madams, you are greedy selfish bastards who whine like little children and deserve to be spanked and sent to bed.
The next time the terrorists attack, and use planes, and your planes are all kept on the ground for several days, and you feign poverty and bankruptcy, I will argue as passionately as possible to allow you all to fail and to go into bankruptcy. Not one cent. Never again.
The audacity of your airlines to charge for reclining seats. The audacity to charge for drinks or peanuts. Your airline gets the coke at such a low cost, it would be financially feasible for people who make pennies a day, to have a few cans of soda a week and you charge for it - not a few pennies, but dollars.
The audacity to charge me to sit like a sardine, in a germ infested tube in the sky that at any moment could hurtle down to earth killing everyone on board - including those passengers who paid for the reclining seats.
You should be paying us to fly your airlines. And that hole I referenced earlier - the time is coming when you will be unable to charge what you do currently. Perhaps that is why you are gouging us in more ways than one - you know the future and you are not part of it.