US Airways trying bold experiment of breaking the last straw

Just when will fliers rebel against all the cost-cutting at the airlines? Probably never. We will just keep taking the charges in stride. If anything is going to make us stop flying, it is that costs are going up and people just don't have the money to travel as much these days.

Today's news about Northwest adding up to an $80 surcharge on flights is bad news, but has become pretty typical these days. The bigger headline may be what US Airways is trying to do, as reported by the New York Times: charge for coffee and other beverages. The hidden lead here is that the fee was originally announced June 12 and did not cause too much of a fuss, even though it marks the first time a major airline has stooped to these cost-cutting depths. It is only surfacing now because the union that represents flight attendants is complaining about it.

Even the company seems a little skeptical that they'll be able to pull it off. Officials are apparently telling flight attendants that they can be liberal in applying the new charges, meaning that if anyone complains, they can just placate them with a free drink.

I can imagine how those conversations will go:
Flight attendant: Would you like a drink? That will be $2.
Passenger: What, are you kidding?
Flight attendant: Nevermind, here it is.

And so on down the row. And just wait until one guy doesn't get the message and figures out that he paid for his lousy cup of coffee and other people got theirs for free just by asking.

What US Airways may be calculating wrong, however, is that they may not make much profit from this angle. They should negotiate now for a bigger cut of the airport concessions business, because more people will be buying drinks along with their food now -- especially since security measures still prevent people from bringing in their own beverages.

I suspect they aren't really trying to make a fast buck with this deal anyway, but rather they are trying to cut back on fuel charges by carrying fewer beverages. I was on a flight recently and asked for a little water to drink (I was very pregnant at the time and was running late and had no time to purchase or refill a water bottle on my way there). And the answer was a curt no. They didn't have drinking water aboard the aircraft. None. Not tap or bottled or anything.

So if you are worried about the next cutback, I would worry most about flush toilets.

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