unbundling

The airlines are in the process of rebundling fees that they just unbundled. After removing everything associated with service from their basic airfares, airlines are now allowing consumers to get bargains on fees by buying them in bundles. Airlines have bundled fees to allow consumers to avoid fees that the airlines created themselves.

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From a hotel spa notice: “For your convenience, a 20% service charge will automatically be added to each spa treatment and salon serice (sic) received. A tip or gratuity is not included and may be given to the therapist at your discretion.” Ah ha! A service charge for no service. How ingenious.

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How much does your airline ticket really cost? Admit it, you have no idea. Once you add the cost of a checked bag, a confirmed seat reservation and a day-old turkey sandwich, you’ll pay more than you expected. A lot more, probably.

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During the past two years, we passengers have been listening to the airlines tell us they are “unbundling” airfares piece by piece. I’ve been listening and have been appalled at their logic. When you take something that is “airfare” and unbundle it, logically its separate parts are still all pieces of the original “airfare.”

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I never meant to openly challenge American Airlines’ indefensible policy of charging those who can least afford it – budget-conscious leisure travelers – for the first checked bag. I had no intention of making a scene when I boarded a flight to Dallas with my family last week.

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This is a list fees charged by American Airlines for various “services.” It was included in a letter from the IRS clarifying what fees for services would be subject to the 7.5 percent Transportation Excise Tax. Which fees are subject to the transportation tax? Which are not? The sometimes surprising answers are noted after the list.

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As free tickets become harder and harder to get with frequent flier miles, and the award levels get higher and higher, increasingly the main reason to focus business on one airline is the elite status itself. Priority check-in, boarding and seat assignments are worth a lot, in addition to the waivers of checked baggage fees.

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Officials at American Airlines this weekend announced that the airline is planning to move to an “unbundled” fare system in 2009 — even as Europe is about to implement a new rule requiring airlines to quote an all-inclusive price.

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Charlie LeochaThe airline world is being roiled by an “unbundling” trend. Once the costs of baggage, meals, drinks, pillows and blankets were included in fares. Today, most airlines are beginning to charge for these as extras — add-ons to the basic charge of getting passengers from Point A to Point B. But not all of them.

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US Airways will start charging an additional $5 for window and aisle seats near the front of the aircraft.

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