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Now, it seems, the nation's largest airlines are giving it a whirl, too.United was the latest big-name carrier to take the plunge: On December 14, the company unveiling a new "Preferred" option that comprises a limited number of aisle and window seats toward the front of economy on every flight.The reality is the sign of a curious new travel trend that effectively charges passengers more money for tickets with confirmed seats.
S.-based airlines collected more than $4.5 billion in baggage fees alone in 2017—a record amount and a nearly 10 percent increase over the $4.1 billion reported in 2016.
Brett Snyder, a former airline employee who now writes the Cranky Flier blog, described the phenomenon as "effectively a money grab" on the part of the carriers.
"The same is true for families with young kids, though some airlines will attempt to seat you next to your child at no additional charge."Tickets with seat assignments eliminate this uncertainty.
A recent check of the three major airlines revealed economy fare classes with confirmed seats ranged from $9 to as much as $59 more than the most basic fares available.
Douglas Kidd, executive director of the National Association of Airline Passengers, said "unless it involves an upgrade to a better class of service, we do not believe that seat selection charges in economy are appropriate or justified."Then there's Caitlin Childs, a 34-year-old nonprofit executive from Northern California who experienced the new seat situation for the first time while booking a weekend trip from the Bay Area to New York.
After doing a preliminary search with online travel agencies such as Expedia and Kayak, Childs was excited to see round-trip fares for about 5 per person.
There is a base fare, and then you pay for what you want. If you want a seat assignment in advance, you pay for that too.
Alternatively, Spirit will offer you bundles with some of the more common combos to make things easier, but if you build your own, then it’s very straightforward.
And of course, you could opt to pay nothing and get a random seat for free at the time of check-in.
That’s a model that I understand, unlike the half-assed implementation offered by the legacies.