Nightly News | November 06, 2010
LESTER HOLT, anchor: Remember back a couple of years ago when airlines, battered by high oil prices and a recession, were struggling just to survive? Their lifeline was the introduction of a series of fees and the so-called a la carte pricing strategy. Well, it worked for them, but maybe not for their passengers. Here's NBC's Ron Mott.
RON MOTT reporting: The lazy days of summer were busy and uplifting for the nation's airlines. But at what cost? In August alone, passenger complaints rose 35 percent.
Mr. JOE NEDLEY: Fares are expensive enough.
MOTT: Joe Nedley is among those saying the airlines are taking passengers for a ride.
Unidentified Woman: Fees are getting a little ridiculous.
MOTT: Frustrated that add-on charges like checked luggage, premium seats and ticket changes aren't always clear.
Mr. CHARLIE LEOCHA (Consumer Travel Alliance): We all feel like we're being nickeled and dimed every step of the way. From making your reservation to getting a seat to checking your luggage, the airlines are always asking us for more money.
MOTT: And they're getting it, with planes leaving gates packed to capacity. Airline profits are soaring again after being grounded the past couple of years by high fuel and other operating expenses. US Airways : $240 million in the third quarter; Delta : $363 million; United Continental , which merged
October 1st: $741 million combined. And analysts predict airlines are poised to have a profitable fourth quarter as well, the industry's first in a decade, with higher demand and fewer seats during the holiday travel season leading to bigger fares and even longer lines. JetBlue 's chief credits those tacked-on fees for driving his company's record third quarter.
Mr. DAVE BARGER (JetBlue Airways President and CEO): Ancillary fees, that structure is here. I think what you'll see will be a significant focus on transparency. A customer, when he or she books, should know, 'Hey, am I paying for that seat? What about the first bag, second bag?' or whatever the case might be.
MOTT: However much passengers grumble about upcharges, they're still flying in large numbers.
Ms. MARNIE WILLIAMS: OK, all right, that's enough.
MOTT: She knows there are alternatives, but Marnie Williams plans to keep toting her tots by air to visit the grandparents.
Ms. WILLIAMS: Other than that, there's not much, you know, you can do about it.
MOTT: Some pains, big gains; the cost of flying today. Ron