Clear Fog Blog

Political musings from Warren E. Peterson

Airlines Deal with the Oil Crisis

Posted by Warren Peterson on June 14, 2008

Fuel costs really have the airlines in a bind. To cut costs, they have proposed numerous changes. Flying slower, reducing fuel loads, carrying less water and installing lighter seats are measures already implemented. None of these changes directly affect airline customers but there are others that do. Routes and number of flights have been cut. Use frequent flyer points, cancel or change an itinerary, check an overweight bag, order a Coke and expect to pay. For the most part, these are minor annoyances. People deal with rising gas prices every day and they know the airlines are affected too. But a recent fee imposed by United and American has pushed folks over the edge. These airlines, no doubt soon to be followed by others, are going to charge $15 for the first checked bag. On a round trip, that is equivalent to a $30 fair increase. Worse, to avoid the fee, people will carry on more suitcases, cramming the overhead bins with the excess going under seats. And you thought legroom was a problem now. Class envy will increase because business and first class passengers are exempt. Add this to the security hassles and people will not fly. Conduct business meetings, see the new grandchild, they can be done on the Internet. Vacations can be closer to home. Amtrak, the Grey Dog or even driving starts to look attractive. Why don’t the airlines simply impose a fuel surcharge? They can make a reasonable case for the need and people will see it as necessary. A surcharge is simple, transparent and less likely to tic off customers. Of course, if fuel costs go down so will the fuel surcharge. Those other fees, however, would probably remain. Clever little devils, those airlines, aren’t they.

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