he airlines announced this week that
they will begin imposing "poverty fees" of $25 on all passengers.
The carriers said the fees would be added to the many other levies
that have been introduced in recent weeks to the consternation of
travelers and travel agents.
The hardship fees will be shared by the nation's carriers. The
airlines in Chapter 11 will get the largest percentage, the
almost-Chapter 11 airlines the next largest, and the not-so-close
to Chapter 11 carriers the smallest portion. The few airlines still
making a profit will not share in the proceeds.
The fees will apply to all passengers except those holding
tickets at first class or full-coach fare. Industry observers said
this exempt group would represent so few people that it wouldn't be
worth measuring the number.
The "down on their luck" fees are the latest example of a fee
blitz in recent weeks. The airlines have raised fees for paper
tickets, imposed fees for passengers who wish to stand by on
certain flights, and increased fees in cases where travel agencies
have made ticketing errors.
The wave of fees has caused anger and confusion among the public
as well as travel agencies. One survey showed that 60% of travelers
and agencies were angry at the fee policies, 20% were confused by
them, and the remaining 20% were angry and confused.
The new "pass the hat" fees may not mark the end of the
carriers' accelerating policies of devising charges that augment
their revenues from fares. Widespread reports predict the airlines
soon will set up a three-tiered on-board meal policy with a range
At the highest level, the airlines are reportedly preparing to
provide what one carrier will call "haute cuisine," a French term
for edible food. The second level, at a somewhat lower price, is
expected to resemble earthbound fast-food menus. Tie-ins with Taco
Bell, McDonald's and KFC have been discussed.
The third, and presumably lowest-cost level, is believed likely
to involve minimal food portions of mediocre quality. One carrier
spokesman said that this lowest level would be familiar to frequent
The new policies also are expected to include changes in the
pricing of beverages. Liquor, wine and beer will continue to be
offered at surcharges. Soft drinks, now offered on a complimentary
basis, will be sold at what one airline called "modest" prices.
The carriers were said to be continuing to deliberate their
future water policy, but it was understood that small amounts would
be offered to any passenger who appears dehydrated.