If recent events are indicative, air travelers are in for some major changes at some of their favorite airlines in the near future. These changes are a big deal because they will affect millions of airline passengers — and their wallets.
The major airlines are facing steep competition from the no-frills discount carriers. That means the Deltas and American Airlines of the world are constantly looking for ways to stay profitable. It also makes doing research on respective airlines before you book that much more important.
It’s been only a few weeks since Delta Air Lines, American, United and a few other airlines followed the lead of JetBlue Airways in raising baggage fees. But there are more big changes coming down the pike.
‘Premium economy’ fares are coming in 2019
Early in the new year, United will follow Delta and American Airlines in offering “premium economy” seats, which give passengers just a tad more space, but can cost double or more than what a normal fare does. Premium economy is seen as a middle ground option in the cabin between economy seats and business/first class, according to Bloomberg.
“Anytime you can get paid double for something that doesn’t cost you double to produce, that’s a pretty good place to be for any company,” Seth Kaplan, editor of trade journal Airline Weekly, told Bloomberg.
A major profit driver, premium economy fares were introduced into the U.S. market by American, which sold them on its 787-9 Dreamliners, Bloomberg reports. Delta will reportedly debut “Premium Select” seats in late 2019.
JetBlue Airways: Basic economy fares are coming in 2019
JetBlue Airways Chief Operating Officer Joanna Geraghty recently wrote in a letter to employees, subsequently published on the airline’s website, that the carrier was under immense pressure from discount airlines to get in on the cheap flights market.
“At JetBlue, we never liked the ‘no frills’ approach,” Geraghty said. “But with these competitors now offering basic economy on many routes we fly, customer behavior suggests our success is at risk if we do not disrupt this market by lowering fares without sacrificing the experience.”
Despite vowing not to make passengers “feel like second-class citizens,” Geraghty said that basic economy fares are coming to JetBlue “later next year.”
The major carriers have gotten on the basic economy fares bandwagon in the last few years. The tickets may be cheap, but they often lead to upcharges for things like seat assignments and overhead bin space.
United Airlines: Family seating, but for a fee
United Airlines President Scott Kirby recently suggested that the carrier charge a premium for people who want to sit together on the flight. The remarks came in an interview with Skift, in which Kirby explained why he thought assigned seats should come with higher prices.
“Look, when you go to a concert, do you think you should pay the same price to sit in the nosebleed seats or to sit up front? I don’t know why airlines are unique,” he said. “Every other business that has something like that charges more for a better product. It’s a better product. You know it’s a better seat. I don’t know why airlines would be unique by offering lower prices for a lesser product. That’s what we do.”
No word yet on if or when United will go forward with premium charges for family seating, but the fact that the airline’s highest in command went public with the suggestions may indicate what’s in store for United travelers.
How Clark feels about basic economy fares sold by airlines
Money expert Clark Howard is no fan of basic economy. He describes it is the airlines’ attempt “to try to make flying as miserable as they possibly could.”
He says about the major carriers: “They’ve been bragging to Wall Street that when people get burned by basic economy, the next time they go to book a flight they may click on that airline because they see a low fare and then they sell them up to a higher one.”
Now that you know what kind of big changes are in store from the airlines, here’s how one member of Team Clark decides when to fly basic economy.