A La Carte Airlines

In an effort to help reduce the basic flight cost for travelers (and to not lose a great deal of money in the process), some airlines are now introducing a new booking concept - a la carte flight booking. When choosing a flight, customers will be shown the basic fare for just the flight. They will then be able to pick and choose "amenities" such as checking luggage, meal service, reserving a seat and various other services offered for that particular flight. To some travelers the idea of paying extra for the advantage of sitting next to their travelling companion seems a bit over the top. Others feel it makes some sense and can save them money instead of making them pay for services they don't need or want. For instance, some travelers rarely eat the food served on flights, even the snack packs. Instead, they bring food from home - which is allowed through security as long as it is solid in form - or buy something non-perishable at the airport and save it for some time during the flight. For these people, the a la carte style allows the option to reduce their fare by not paying for their in-flight meal along with that of their fellow travelers. The seat reservation is a little trickier, since it really costs the airline nothing to allow people to reserve their seats, but it does help to lower costs for those travelers willing to be more flexible with their seating arrangements. The a la carte concept is similar to the no-frills concept of airlines like Southwest - basically, you get what you pay for. If you are willing to give up some of the "luxuries" that you are used to when flying, you get a lower cost. Will it work? U.S. based airlines are already under much scrutiny from travelers for decreased amenities, including the lack of complimentary meal service and added checked luggage fees. Many U.S. travelers heading overseas already choose to fly international airlines such as British Airways or Thai Airways. Those making long-haul flights are generally prepared to pay slightly more in exchange for a more comfortable and enjoyable journeys. Where this a la carte structure might work is for shorter domestic flights, where travelers are willing to forego a meal and their choice of seat due to the short flight time. The program was pioneered by Air Canada and American Airlines is set to follow in their footsteps shortly. Though other airlines have not yet announced this new pricing structure, don't be surprised to hear that announcement soon. As with many other airline trends, such as fuel charges and baggage fees, when one airline leads the way, others tend to follow suit.