Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Overhead-Bin Wars

The Overhead-Bin Wars are coming as airlines intend to squeeze revenue out of this storage area for passengers' carry-on bags.

In The Middle Seat Terminal blog, Matt Phillips outlines how US Airways recently altered its boarding procedures to give priority boarding to travelers who purchased Choice Seats.

US Airways says that these passengers, who purchased aisle and window seats in the first few rows of coach, will get to board in Zone 2. Of course, Dividend Miles Preferred customers get first dibs on free access to Choice Seats and exit-rows seats.

So, this is what the new boarding roll-call looks like at US Airways, and aren't most airlines' boarding procedures beginning to look like a caste system?

The order, according to Phillips, is first-class passengers, pre-boarding for passengers with kiddies or who need assistance, elite-status passengers, travelers with US Airways-branded credit cards, and then Choice Seat buyers.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. The last group of passengers to board are the rabble -- you and me -- who just booked an ordinary coach seat.

Of course, with US Airways charging $15 for a first-checked bag and $25 for the second, the boarding priority that gives star treatment to what I'll refer to as the new elite, means they will get first crack at storing their luggage, laptops, strollers and jackets in the overhead bins.

And, that leaves Joe and Susie Traveler battling the new elite for any leftover space in overhead bins by the time their seat is finally called for boarding.

Oh, it's going to get ugly. There will be plenty of scrunched up jackets, crushed souvenir packages, and carry-on luggage bound for baggage check-in because of the overhead-bin squeeze.

And, with airlines, Amadeus and ITA Software testing optional services feeds , one of the things on some airlines' agenda is to charge for such premier access to overhead bins.

You know, pay $10 and reserve your overhead bin. That's coming, for sure.

If there is a revenue opportunity out there, count on the airlines to try to exploit it.

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