US Airways to Start Charging for Checked Baggage, Drinks

High fuel costs have been forcing airlines to shave costs everywhere they can, for instance by slowing down, eliminating magazines and cutting flights. Those efforts, however, haven't been enough, as evidenced by a statement by US Airways CEO Doug parker: "We must write a new playbook for running a profitable airline in this new and challenging environment." And it's becoming increasingly clear that the new playbook is one in which passengers have to pay for everything. Indeed, US Airways just announced that for flights booked after July 9th passengers will be charged $15 per checked bag, and starting in August coach passengers will have to pay $2 per non-alcoholic drink. On top of that, US Air will begin cutting flights and laying off workers. US Air joins American Airlines in adding these charges, leading many to believe that other airlines will soon follow.

So what does all this mean for the environment, the airlines and the passengers? The Environment

$130/barrel oil means that without significant improvements in the efficiency of aircraft (and that means when the plane is in flight, on the tarmac, and being serviced) the airline industry simply will not be able to turn a profit. The next big race in airplane design will not be to see who can build the biggest, but rather who can build the most efficient, lightweight and cost-effective machine. Expensive oil is forcing significant changes that will lead to reduced emissions of greenhouse gases.

The Airline Industry
The airline industry simply can't stay in business without a significant improvement in efficiency. They can raise ticket fares, charge for water, peanuts and checked baggage, but the competitive edge will go to those airlines that don't need to charge more because they are spending less on fuel. It used to be that airlines competed on amenities, comfort, service, etc., but nowadays it's gonna come down to who can save the most fuel, charge less, and lower their emissions the most. The pressure is going to be on the big plane manufacturers to unveil a highly efficient commercial aircraft, and the airlines will have to buy it.

The Passengers

The inconvenience of flying relative to driving or taking the train is becoming increasingly pronounced. We can expect to see more people taking the train rather than flying short distances, and as a result the airlines will be forced to cut back on those routes, further raising prices. At the same time, however, one can't always take a train to get to where one needs to go, and in those situations passengers will avoid airlines such as US Airways that have begun charging for checked baggage. While the airlines claim that they "have been forced" to raise rates, the truth of the matter is that part of the job of a corporation is to anticipate future changes in the marketplace in order to maintain a competitive advantage, which US Air clearly has not done.

Finally, we can expect more people to telecommute, cancel unnecessary trips and find other ways to avoid flying. With greenhouse gas emissions from the airline industry steadily rising, this may not be all that bad a trend.

Via: ::Yahoo News
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