It’s a familiar story. Corporations, this time America’s biggest airlines, reap big profits from plummeting fuel costs, leaving customers holding the bag, in this case with mini pretzels.
The industry is spending only a third of what it did two years ago on jet fuel, so it’s little wonder that the country’s four biggest domestic carriers reported total profits last year of $22 billion. That’s good for the employees and shareholders at American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, but mostly meaningless to their customers, according to The New York Times, which last week reported these and other consumer insults.
Oh, sure — there are more snacks being distributed up and down the aisles of many jets. But baggage fees, sardine-tight seating and ticket surcharges for yesteryear’s high fuel costs (now labeled something else) are still a routine part of flying. So much for those big mergers, which the airlines argued would make them more competitive and thereby improve things for their passengers.
A surefire way for carriers to please travelers is by cutting ticket prices more than the meager 3 percent they declined in the second quarter of 2015, the most recent period for which figures were available. Instead, more fees are being added in the name of greater customer “choice” — charges for things that were previously free. That list includes window and aisle seats on some planes and priority boarding.
No one needs to be reminded that the friendly skies aren’t what they used to be. But airlines that create new ways to nickel and dime customers while reaping big profits only fuel the distaste for flying.