New Mindset For Fliers: Pay As You Go

A Northwest Airlines plane takes off from Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport in Minneapolis Monday April 14, 2008. Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp., squeezed by record high fuel prices and a slowing economy, are combining in a stock-swap deal that would create the world's biggest carrier. The boards of both companies gave the deal the go-ahead Monday.(AP Photo/Andy King)
AP Photo/Andy King
What will they think of next?

Some airlines are now charging for window seats, or to speak to a person when making a reservation.

Fees first imposed at the height of the fuel price crunch are sticking around and, in many cases, increasing in number and amount charged.

What's going on?

"This is what we're talking about when we talk about moving to an 'ala carte' pricing system," explained Travelocity Editor at Large Amy Ziff to co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez on The Early Show Monday. "The theory is you should have a lower base fare and only pay for what you want. If you don't use checked bags, if you don't need any of the extra help, then you might be happy with this. But, for leisure travelers, especially those traveling this holiday season, they're probably going to be unprepared and have to shell out some extra cash."

United Airlines, for instance, charges $25 to talk to a human to make a reservation.

"Be prepared," Ziff advised. "But more important is going to be what happens when you get to the airport. ... They're gonna charge you for a first checked bag and a second checked bag. They're gonna charge you 25 for the first and 25 for the second. United actually lowered that. They were charging 50 before and now it's 25. I don't know. Is that any good news? But if call and want to talk to an operator it is gonna cost you more. There are lot of other airlines charging. You might be playing for a blanket this year, where you never paid for that before. That and pillows.''

As for food, Ziff says, "You want to remember to pack a snack, because you cannot expect to be fed on these planes anymore. Beverages are going to have to wait until you get into the airport to buy them but bring them on board with you."

Northwest, Rodriguez pointed out, now charges $10 for an in-flight meal.

"Different carriers are charging different amounts," Ziff observed. "Depends on what they're serving and what's available. That might be for a more full meal, something you might want, especially if you're flying cross-country at mealtime. Whereas a snack box might only cost you $5 or $7; a beverage, two (dollars), peanuts, maybe a couple bucks. So, you know, you do have to get in this mindset of paying for what you're gonna use, because that is the way it's going to go in 2009."

In general, Ziff says, U.S. Airways has the most fees, Southwest, the fewest.