Counting the cost of cheaper flights
Free in-flight services can no longer be taken for granted.
YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
(CNN) -- Airline passengers used to be able strap into their seats safe with the knowledge that an in-flight meal, a comfortable pillow, and at the very least, a quick drink were on the way.
Now, as more and more airlines strip the cost of added extras from the price of a ticket as they struggle with rising operating costs, these luxuries can no longer be taken for granted.
From February, British budget carrier Flybe will begin charging for check-in in luggage. A charge of $3.5 is levied at the time of booking, otherwise passengers can pay $7 at the airport.
In the US, several airlines including American, Delta and Northwest have withdrawn pillows from flights, while Air Canada has begun selling passengers a $2 kit including an inflatable pillow and a blanket on its North American flights.
In-flight snacks have also been hit. US Airways and United now charge $5 for a snack box on domestic services.
These moves come as Air Canada is revamping its pricing system on trans-Atlantic flights to allow passengers to pick optional extras from an a la carte menu -- a shift which may herald a broader trend in ticket costs.
The airline insists that its new fare policy on flights between London and Canada is not an attempt to snatch away passenger perks, but merely put them in control of what they pay for.
"The introduction of simplified fares for transatlantic flights to and from Air Canada's largest European gateway is great news for customers seeking value and clear choices," says Sean Menke, Air Canada's executive vice president.
Menke says the new strategy of selling added extras in pre-determined bundles is a blueprint for the future of airline pricing.
"Air Canada is a leader in North America for simplifying fares and using web technology that puts the choice in the hands of customers," he adds.
"Expanding the benefits of transparent, value-based pricing to international destinations is the next logical step."
While it continues to offer free cabin services, Virgin Atlantic has introduced a "nominal" fee for passengers requesting seats by exits -- sought after for their extra leg-room. According to accounts from passengers, the fee can be up to $150.
A study in January by Consumer Reports highlighted how fees can clock up. On a $238.40 round trip flight from Chicago to San Diego on United Airlines, the watchdog counted an extra $236 in charges.
These included $10 for booking over the phone, $6 for skycap bag check-in, $10 for snack boxes, $50 for overweight baggage and $160 for an extra checked bag.
"Like hotels and financial services companies, airlines are padding basic fares with pricey 'gotchas,'" the report said.
"In the first half of 2005, the nine largest U.S. airlines charged nearly a half-billion dollars in excess baggage and reservation-cancellation fees -- a 350 percent increase over the same period in 1995 and far greater than the 9 percent jump in the number of passengers on those carriers."
|© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.