The Big Story Blog

Convenience vs. cost in the airline game

Posted at 9:18 AM on November 29, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Economy

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PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

$10 for a window.

That's what it cost in August when I booked a flight on Sun Country airlines. It was the first time I'd run across the charge for getting a window seat in advance. I saw it as a hassle but I was getting a decent deal on the overall flight, so I clicked OK.

Now, like that first bag fee, the window charge is heading toward an industry standard , one more decision to make in an increasingly complicated process to travel by airplane.

The Star Tribune this morning reports:

Delta is following the lead of other airlines --US Airways, Sun Country and American Airlines, among them -- who are already charging customers extra for window and aisle seats. The fee for such premier seating is the latest in a string of charges by airlines that have generated billions of dollars in extra revenue.

Last year, Delta pulled close to $3 billion in revenue from fees involving baggage, seat assignments and other a la carte services, said Bob Herbst, founder of AirlineFinancials.com, which provides airline industry analysis. Herbst said Delta's latest initiative will generate far more revenue than consumer backlash.

We're thinking about that today with the morning announcement that the parent company of American Airlines has filed for protection from a bankruptcy court, hoping to cut its debt and labor costs.

But while American Airlines regains a "competitive cost structure", it's not going to be bring cheaper fares, or more service, or fewer fees.

We'll look today at the airline business, how well it's treating customers and how the shifts in service and corporate ownership are affecting Minnesotans.

Help us tell the story today. Share your experiences -- positive or not -- with the airline industry. What could be done to make traveling by air more convenient and maybe a little less expensive? Join in.


About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.