FORT WORTH, Texas -- The idea of paying a single, simple fare to fly on an airliner is becoming as quaint as flight attendants in caps and short skirts.
Fort Worth-based American Airlines is about to accelerate the trend of breaking the cost of a trip into an airfare plus many smaller fees. Starting next year, the nation's biggest airline plans to imitate the a la carte pricing structure pioneered by Air Canada. There are likely to be a few basic fare plans, and travelers can pick additional services - for a fee.
Fans of "unbundling," as it's called, say it gives travelers lower base fares with the option of paying for extras they really want, from beverages to blankets. But some travelers are wary and suspect the airlines are just trying to chisel them a few bucks at a time.
Phone and cable companies have been using this pricing approach for years to offer extras like premium channels and pay-per-view events. Now airlines see unbundling as a way to boost revenue and defray sky-high prices for jet fuel. In recent months they have added and enlarged charges for fuel, checked baggage, changing flights, upgrading from coach and other services.
American led a stampede of U.S. carriers to charge customers for checking even a single suitcase.There may be no going back to all-inclusive fares, even with the recent decline in fuel prices.