SEATTLE – Brace yourself for a new trend in flying that could hike airfares significantly. American Airlines will roll out a new “a la carte” menu, aimed at offsetting high gas prices.
When you sign up for cable TV or phone service, you pick and choose from an a la carte menu of features. Starting next year, American Airlines will introduce a similar structure charging for things air passengers take for granted right now.
Air Canada and some European airlines have been offering a la carte pricing for airline flights for years. Fueled by high gas prices and the low-flying economy, American Airlines will be the first airlines in the U.S. to offer the a la carte pricing system.
“Why should I pay extra for a drink? You already have to fight them for the can of soda as it is or a cup of ice,” said Heather Moorcroft, passenger.
“We’re waiting to see what the full package is, but the basic effort here is American Airlines to lead the entire industry into one standard a la carte pricing system,” said Steve Danishek, travel industry analyst.
The system is called “unbundling” and gives travelers lower base fares with the option of paying for extras from beverages to blankets. Some passengers frustrated with gas surcharges and second bag fees are already bristling.
“I think when you buy a ticket that it should be all inclusive. You’re paying for the whole experience. Are we eventually going to have to pay for a seatbelt? For an airbag? For a flotation device? How far is it going to go?” said Moorcroft.
But for the no frills flyer, it could help keep costs low.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” said one airline passenger.
“Now in fairness, they are also going to make credits available if you take no checked luggage you might get a discount,” said Danishek. “If you say I don’t want an assigned seat you might get a discount. If you say I don’t want mileage credit you may also get a discount.”
A sampling of possible airline charges could include seat assignments (window seating may cost more), frequent flyer redemption and “carbon offsetting” fee. Possible airline credits include having no seat assignment, not using your frequent flyer miles, having no luggage and non-refundable tickets. American Airlines has still yet to unveil what will be on their “a la carte” pricing menu next year.