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Pillow talk, airline-style

8 Comments
By David Armstrong

It's getting almost comical the way revenue-hungry airlines are justifying all the new fees and surcharges they are laying on travelers in lieu of charging realistic fares.

The latest airborne folly is the $7 fee that JetBlue Airways has started charging passengers on flights of more than two hours for a pillow and blanket - items that the airline passed out free from its first flight back in 2000.

But this is a good thing, we're told. JetBlue isn't charging extra because it wants to make money - perish the thought. The airline is hawking pillows and blankets because the old-school, recycled pillows and blankets it gave out free for years could be dirty. However, the new, improved amenities are made with cool, 21st-century technology, to screen out disease-carrying microbes. It's a green, clean thing.

Passengers who fork over their seven bucks can keep what JetBlue has dubbed a "take-home travel kit" and use the items again. Announcing the change, the airline said it is partnering with a manufacturer "devoted to improving the health of the sleep environment."

Recycling - it's so 20th century.

To be fair to JetBlue, the New York discount carrier is a generally well-regarded airline that brought some style to the usually no-frills low-cost-carrier world by introducing leather seats, in-flight live television and other creature comforts. When a service meltdown during ice storms in 2006 resulted in horrendous delays on the tarmac, founder and CEO David Neeleman resigned and JetBlue introduced a passengers' bill of rights.

Nevertheless, candor is called for in this latest version of pillow talk: namely, acknowledgment that new fees are prompted not out of concern for the health of air travelers but the health of airlines.

JetBlue is charging for amenities because, like most airlines, it is losing money. A few dollars here, a few dollars there, the thinking goes, and new revenue streams will gush forth - and airlines awash in money will return to fiscal health.

The dilemma of the airlines is real, driven chiefly by the high price of fuel. Prices have swung in recent weeks from a high of nearly $150 for a barrel of crude oil to a low of about $120. All told, the price of jet fuel is up 71% from a year ago, according to the International Air Transport Association. If prices stay that high, IATA estimates that the world's carriers will lose some $6 billion this year.

Hence, the cascade of new charges, levied by a wide variety of carriers, for pillows, blankets, cups of coffee and tea, bottled water, extra leg room, checking a bag, checking a second bag and so on.

The fees - and the gamesmanship to make travelers believe it's all for their benefit - will continue until airlines charge realistic fares. Most industry analysts think fares need to rise 20% for the airlines to make money. Will we like it? No. But it's a bit less painful than being told fairy tales to put us to sleep on pillows we're suddenly paying extra for.

© Aviation.com

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

8 Comments
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JetBlue isn’t charging extra because it wants to make money - perish the thought.

Oh, come on.

If the basic goal of PR pisses you off that much, leave civilization. This has been going on since before any of us were born. It's not the height of integrity, no, but "perish the thought?"

Nevertheless, candor is called for in this latest version of pillow talk: namely, acknowledgment that new fees are prompted not out of concern for the health of air travelers but the health of airlines.

Why? Seriously? This is a business, not the government. It's advertising and business strategy, not therapy. I'm as irritated as anyone by goofy business spin, but is there ANYONE who isn't thoroughly aware of why this is happening? Pick your battles, dude...

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And by all means, raise fares the necessary 20% or whatever--rather than nickle and diming travelers from departure to destination. Air travel should either go back to the days of limited affordability, or travelers should be resigned to taking "something Greyhound in the air" the next time they fly.

Some luxuries are better off remaining just that; witness the environmental havoc wreaked by the appearance of bluefin tuna on every 100-yen plate of sushi, or the $60 cashmere sweaters at Costco.

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Why not just use a better airline? I don't have this problem with Lufthansa.

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"Prices have swung in recent weeks from a high of nearly $150 for a barrel of crude to a low of $120"

And just 5 years ago a barrel of crude was, what, $25?

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I fly a lot, but I've never been in economy class. What's it like?

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Kimigano, Economy isn't that bad. I normally pay for Economy and get bumped up to Business for free, or for miles. Why waste the money. O, you must not really care about money.

Domestic flights in Japan have 8 seats (1abcd 2abcd) for business class. They are nearly identical to the rest of the plane. Were talking cm differences. For a 2 hour flight, is it worth it?

I agree, just quote me 1 price. Don't need the breakdown, just advertise 1 price so I can understand. My goodness there are, airport taxes, fuel taxes, city taxes, take off taxes, breathing taxes, maintenance taxes, and so on and so on and so on. Just give me the price. (But this really isn't the airline problem, but Travel Agents who want to be seen as the cheapest when they are all about the same.

Anyway, enough complaining for a Monday morning.

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at least jetblue is up front about it and you can keep the pillow. how come JAL's "fuel surcharge" is so much more than NWA's? why is there no fuel surcharge on domestic fares?

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noborito,

O, you must not really care about money.

What's "money"?

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