MSNBC Host Charges Airlines with Nickel-and-Diming Travelers

     On “MSNBC Live” July 9 host Tamron Hall gave a report on the quality of commercial airline travel, calling price increases “nickel-and-dime fees.” But Hall forgot to mention the effect high jet fuel prices have had on the airline industry.


     “Are the airlines hurting themselves? When I run down some of the things: Charging for the extra ticket and all of these nickel-and-dime fees as some passengers interpret them to be. Is it just hurting an already fragile relationship?” Hall asked former Department of Transportation Inspector General Mary Schiavo.


     Hall asked Schiavo about figures from the Travel Industry Association that said 41 million travelers avoided air travel in 2007. According to those figures, the phenomenon cost the U.S. economy $26 billion that year.


     Schiavo added that “Congress is going to have to step in and do something” about the frustration and animosity passengers feel toward airlines.


     “If the airlines had credibility,” said Schiavo, “they wouldn’t have quite so many problems with the customers simply not believing a word that they say.”


     But Hall and Schiavo forgot to mention the major reason airline ticket prices and fees are increasing: the price of jet fuel.


     As the price for a barrel of oil has doubled over the last year to around $140, Northwest Airlines said it would be cutting back domestic and international flights as well 2,500 jobs, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.


     Northwest's move will push airline industry job cuts to about 20,000. Airlines had to take 400 jets out of the air after an 86-percent surge in the price of jet fuel in the last year, according to a business briefing from The Los Angeles Times.

     Airlines are getting so desperate to make a profit that they are trying to lose weight on planes to save on fuel.


     The Associated Press reported July 10 that US Airways would start removing in-flight movies on domestic flights in November 2008 “to save about $10 million annually in fuel and other costs.” A spokesman for the airline said that the movie systems weigh about 500 pounds each.


     The price of fuel is also forcing the industry to update itself.


     The airline industry is looking to purchase more fuel-efficient planes as it struggles with the high cost of jet fuel, according to The Wall Street Journal June 9.

     Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing's commercial airplanes unit, was quoted in the Journal saying older and less-fuel efficient planes like the MD80 and A320 are becoming unprofitable to operate because of these jet fuel prices. He said replacement airplanes rose from 36 percent of total orders last year to 43 percent this year.

     In an annual presentation Tinseth predicted airlines would begin switching to more fuel-efficient single-aisle planes like the newer versions of the A320s and 737s, as reported by Bloomberg.