Just a few years ago, travel on most airlines was an all-inclusive experience. You paid one price and got a seat (your choice of aisle, window, bulkhead, or exit row), a meal, drinks, movies, baggage service, and customer assistance by phone if you needed it. Now however, many of the major airlines charge base fares that basically entitle you to transportation to your destination at some point (not necessarily on time) and that's about it. Taxes and fees are extra, fuel surcharges may be added on, and if want anything else—a snack, checked baggage, an exit row seat with more legroom—you'll have to pay for it in many cases.
Airline executives know these fees are unpopular, and blame skyrocketing fuel costs for their decision to nickel-and-dime their passengers at every turn. Traditionally, the airlines have turned to fees and other cost cutting measures rather raising base prices because American leisure travelers have tended to balk at paying higher fares while appearing less sensitive to diminished service and amenities. (Remember last summer when passenger satisfaction was in the gutter but most planes were still flying full?)
As we've reported each new fee, many readers have written us or posted comments to our blogs expressing their distaste for such charges and asking, essentially, "Why don't the airlines just increase the base fares and lay off the fees." Now that both base fare hikes and extra fees seem to be piling higher each week, we're wondering if most passengers might really prefer a higher base fare that includes all the extras that used to be free instead of a cheaper ticket and all kinds of extra charges at the airport and on the plane.
To help us out, please complete our four-question survey. Click here to proceed. You'll be briefly redirected to another site. We'll be collecting answers for the next few days and will post the results in a feature later this month.
Thanks for your time.
-Molly Feltner, Senior Editor