Surging fuel costs, the increased precautions and reviews required for the post-September 11 era, and intensifying competition for international routes has led to large losses among many major carriers - - a condition that has forced them to raise fares and implement other cost-cutting changes.
Most have also instituted a baggage fee for a passenger's second bag, with some carriers charging for all bags. Still, for the most part travelers have taken the baggage fees in stride. Although viewed as a nuisance by many travelers, the reality is a second bag, in particular, is optional weight that increases flying costs per mile. And with aviation fuel zooming past latte-price levels, that's no significant expense.
Still, US Airways Inc. may have gone one too far with the fee system. Effective today, US Airways will start charging for water on flights by coach passengers, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday (subscription required). Bottled water will be $2. Passengers flying first class are exempt from the extra fee.
Coffee? Tea? That will be a dollar fee
Further, passengers dismayed by US Airway's fee for water may want to consider coffee or tea. US Airway's will charge only $1 for those drinks, effective today, The Journal reported. Who says requesting a higher-caloric drink does not have its advantages?
Stock analyst and frequent flyer C. Leonard Bauer ain't buying US Airways water, because he isn't flying US Airways, anymore.
"They're off my list. They were never really on my list of major carriers as a first choice, but now they are definitely off my list," Bauer said. "Adios, US Airways."
The normally studied and taciturn Bauer was remonstrative. "The baggage fee was just a sneaky way to increase revenue, rather than do it directly through a fare increase," Bauer said. "But charging for water? Coffee? Soda? It's patently absurd and petty, and totally unbecoming the air travel industry in the United States. It's another black mark for US Air, no question, and I can guarantee you they won't get my business." Bauer added that he does not have a rating on or own shares in any airline.
For now, other major carriers, such as American Airlines (NYSE: AMR), Delta Airlines (NYSE: DAL) and Northwest Airlines say they won't charge for non-alcohol drinks, The Journal reported Friday.
Dehydration: a factor at altitude?
Bauer said US Airways' fee for drinks may end up creating more problems than the $1 or $2 is worth, in his interpretation.
"At altitude, even though airlines seek to keep cabin humidity at surface levels, the body loses water," Bauer said. "On long flights, particularly with those who tend to dehydrate quicker, such as the some senior citizens, there may be some medical issues. For this reason, I don't think it's wise to charge for water on flights."
Meanwhile, Bauer said he has the "near perfect solution" for potential dehydration issues on US Airways.
"I will never fly US Airways again. Nor will my kids when they're grown up, if I have anything to say about it," Bauer said.
What's your opinion? Do you think it's fair for US Airways to charge for water on flights? Or is it unreasonable? Let us know what you think.