FORT WORTH -- American Airlines Inc., now charges many passengers to check a bag. It'll soon charge passengers for a blanket and pillow. Now, one more free privilege is about to go - the ability for paying passengers to stand by and grab a different flight at no extra charge.
For tickets purchased February 22 and afterward, American will do away with the standby option for its nonelite passengers. If you want to change to another flight at the airport, you'll pay $50 - or you won't change your flight. American spokesman Tim Smith said the carrier isn't just trying to bring in fees with the change. American is trying to improve its operations as well.
It's not the average standby list, but you get one of those Friday afternoon scenarios when you have more than 100 people standing by for a flight out of a business market, he said.
It really does become chaotic getting everyone processed. You have to process each and every one of these people individually. Those who don't make it, then you have to roll them over onto the next flight and start it all over again, he said. It literally can slow up the boarding and ultimately the on-time departure in extreme conditions. He added: There is certainly revenue involved here, too, but the other is a realistic part of the decision.
Premium customers won't have to pay to stand by. That list includes the Executive Platinum, Platinum and Gold members of the AAdvantage frequent-flier program; people in first class or business class; higher-priced coach tickets; and people traveling on military fares.
Passengers traveling on the same reservation as those premium customers will also be allowed to stand by. For those on military fares, that includes spouses and immediate members of their family. But other passengers will not have the option to stand by.
The $50 confirmed flight change fee has been around since 2005, but many people could rely on the standby option to avoid it.
Smith estimated that a majority of American's customers fall into the non-standby category.
It's just the latest effort by a U.S. airline to find new ways to raise money. From baggage fees to pet fares to reservation change fees to sales of onboard meals, the industry has found myriad methods to create a fee or boost an existing one.
American confirmed this week that as of May 1, it won't supply free blankets and pillows anymore on domestic flights. Instead, on flights over two hours, it will sell an $8 package that includes a new blanket and inflatable pillow.
Southwest Airlines Co., which advertises heavily that it doesn't charge to carry the first two checked bags, began charging $25 extra for unaccompanied minors last year. It started allowing small dogs and cats in the cabin for a $75 fee. It let people move up in the boarding line for a fee.
Since the beginning of 2008, the industry as a whole has implemented new fees and charges that are bringing in billions of dollars a year, even as the airlines as a group have been losing billions of dollars a year.
I think that ultimately the ancillary revenue is going to become a significant portion of our future profitability, Continental Airlines chairman and chief executive Jeff Smisek told analysts on a January conference call.