Just when you think airlines have figured out how to charge customers for every single thing, here's a new one: American Airlines now charges for sitting in the first few rows of the coach section.
“This is the opportunity, on the day of travel, to step up to the self-service machines: if those seats available, you have choice to purchase those seats,” said the airline’s Tim Smith.
The price for an "express seat" starts at $19 for short flights like Dallas-Fort Worth to Memphis, and goes up to $39 for longer flights like DFW to Honolulu.
Frequent flier Kris Diershaw was prompted to purchase an express seat for his trip to Tampa.
“I asked them, ‘Why am I paying for a seat I used to get for free?’” Diershaw said. “They just said, ‘That’s the way it is.” I said OK, and took a seat further back.”
American is following in the footsteps of several other airlines that already charge for special seats and priority boarding.
“We refer to it as the a la carte menu, or sushi menu model, where it seems you are almost paying for everything little thing you get on a plane at this point,” said Michael Federico with travel website FareCompare.
What you’re paying for with an express seat, Federico says, is convenience: a faster way on and off the plane.
“It's not like all of a sudden you’re paying $19 and sitting in a first-class seat and they are serving you champagne,” Federico said.
“We have found that customers have things they value and don’t value,” Smith said. “That’s why we call the overall program ‘Your Choice.’”
United Airlines, Continental Airlines, U.S. Airways and Frontier Airlines already charge extra for some seats.
Another fee to be aware of is for booking flights over the phone: every major airline charges one, some up to $25 per ticket. To avoid those fees, it is recommended that passengers book directly on an airline's website.