Next Up: $5 Per Lavatory Visit

NEXT UP: $5 PER LAVATORY VISIT….The latest from American Airlines:

AMR Corp. became the first U.S. carrier to make more moves to deal with still-surging fuel costs, announcing additional U.S. capacity cuts, the planned retirement of at least 75 aircraft and more fees — including charging some fliers $15 for their first checked bag.

….Becoming the first carrier to start charging some customers for the first checked bag — just several months after carriers began hitting some with fees on a second checked bag for the first time — American is raising a host of other fees by $5 to $50. They are estimated to generate several hundred million dollars a year.

Airlines have spent years trying to bully passengers into reducing their carry-on luggage — with TSA pitching in to help in recent years. Now that they’ve finally broken us (I finally caved in and started checking everything several years ago) they’re going to charge us for checking luggage. Lovely.

I don’t know anything about airline economics and obviously the American Airlines executive team does. Still, the kind of sleazy pricing practices they and the rest of the domestic industry are adopting, where advertised fares mysteriously rise 20% by the time you actually board the plane, seem like exactly the kind of thing designed to wreck their long-term business. People really don’t like the feeling of being cheated and lied to. The industry’s answer, I suppose, is that they have to survive in the short term in order for there to be a long term, and that’s true enough. But if the problem is a secular, broad-based increase in fuel costs that hits everyone equally, I’m still a little stumped about why a blizzard of fees is supposed to be a better solution than simply raising prices a bit across the board.

Sadly, in a couple of days I’ll be stepping onto an American Airlines flight to London. I sure hope they don’t lose my checked luggage after charging me for the temerity of wanting a change of clothes on my trip. In the meantime, I think there’s a niche somewhere for an airline that raises their prices a bit and runs blaring ads that announce “No Hidden Fees!” Or am I just dreaming?

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