Getting thirsty on USAir

| Comments (4) | Misc
I'd already heard that a bunch of airlines were going to start charging for checked baggage, but I read that USAir is now going to charge for soft drinks. Unlike the checked baggage policy (and previous policies for good seats), however, it doesn't look like they're going to exempt elite flyers. It's easy to see why that would be inconvenient for them to do ("please show me your card, sir"), but this, along with new, higher fees for award travel (travel bought with miles), elimination of mileage bonuses, and closures of a bunch of lounges, starts to look like they've decided that they don't value their elite flyers. Obviously, they have no obligation to suck up to elites, but the result is that travellers don't have any real incentive to choose USAir over other carriers, so they're forced to compete almost entirely on price.

Conversely, the charge for checked baggage (at least on United) may actually make being elite more attractive, at least comparatively. First, not having to pay the baggage charge is a benefit if you want to check baggage. Second, a baggage charge incentivizes everyone to bring more carry-on, which makes overhead bin space scarcer, which makes the early boarding privileges that come with being elite more valuable.

4 Comments

Agreed. In fact, united sent out a "Don't worry, you're exempt from the first 2 bags-worth-of-fees" email to those on their "You fly enough we treat you better than slime mold" list.

Southwest just has to be loving this right now. They made a huge amount of business by not mucking with the travelers with little fees (eg, no change fees).

The more nickle-and-diming the main carriers do, the more it makes Southwest even more attractive.

Regarding identifying elite passengers: does the card show proper expiration? I think the primary reason why they choose uniform treatment is flight attendants caching in the 5$/7$ instead of reporting it.

I think the card usually does for elite status, but they don't always send the elite card.

I'm a US Airways elite flyer and I follow their changes to see how they impact me. While many changes are annoying, I still value the status level for the following reason: unlike every other US Airline that I've dealt with, US Airways bends over backward to get me to my destination. In New York, that means flying me to any regional airport, regardless of where I am booked, where my luggage is going, etc. This was equally true in the early 90's when I had to visit Jacksonville, N.C. on a weekly basis and I flew into every airport in the state.

I actually can't count the number of times their employees have helped me in the 18 years that I've been an elite flyer on their airline. Two years ago, I remember one of the flight attendants hand delivering important papers to my home after I had left them on the D.C. to Boston shuttle.

Conversely, Delta (whose slogan used to be "Delta gets you there"), now has the opposite attitude about their elite customers. Their behavior wrt international flyers (even elites) at JFK is so awful, that it prompted me to write a Facebook note (and a follow-on report for the FTA notice and comment regulatory rulemaking) which unmasked their systemic canceling of intra-national flights at JFK and subsequent customer inconveniences. (Flying from NYC to Boston on Delta, you are 400 times more likely to have your flight canceled from JFK than from La Guardia and more than 900 times more likely to have an overnight hotel stay associated with the canceled flight. Why? Delta systemically cancels intra-national flights at JFK to enable more international flights when airspace is restricted, and they will not offer passage on other airlines, even for elite customers. The frequent flyer trick is to get your bags, take a $30 cab to La Guardia and fly the Shuttle.)

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