Monday, February 23, 2009

Drinks are on the house again at US Airways

After several months of charging passengers for drinks on it's fleet, US Airways has decided to yank their stingy policy and go back to giving flyers free water, soda, coffee, tea and juice again. Oh how nice of them.

US Airways actually said that their liquid levy was working and that they only are canceling it now due to the fact that they are the only large mainstream airline currently charging you for that Pepsi or sub par cup of Joe.

US Airways CEO Doug Parker wrote the following letter to employees:

"We know customers don't buy an airline ticket based on whether or not they will get a free soda onboard, but with US Airways being the only large network carrier to charge for drinks, we are at a disadvantage." they are only doing this in order to save face and not to look out for the customer? That is an odd press release. By the way how does Mr. Parker know that I do not choose an airline based solely on it's refreshments!? Trust me, if there was a Guinness Airline, I would be a frequent flyer. Back to Mr. Parker's letter:

"This difference in our service has been a focal point that detracts from all of the outstanding improvements in on-time performance and baggage handling that all of us have worked so hard to achieve over the past year."

Seriously? I mean was this letter really necessary? They are just giving us small plastic cups of soda filled with iced cubes, not an all you can drink open bar.

For those of you that were not lucky enough to fly US Airways in the last 7-8 months, let me explain what their policy was, as it pertained to drinks while flying with them. US Airways' "buy on board" menu included $2 for soda or bottled water and $1 for tea and coffee. Now while that may not sound like a lot of money, remember they implemented this new policy back on August 1st when airfares were at an all time recent high.

This change in policy came as a surprise to many in the industry, including many insiders that worked for the airline. US Airways' officials had been touting the success of charging for beverages in recent weeks, so it seemed odd that they would just stop the program abruptly. A major reason why executives at US Airways were stunned at the end of this policy had nothing to do with new cash flow, but more with how efficient their fleet had become since charging for drinks. In the past, every traveler had a drink at their table and many asked for seconds...or thirds. When they were being charged however, less people bothered the crew and more work could get done.

But according to Mike Flores, president of the US Airways chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants, who called the policy a "complete disaster", said that the main reason US Airways canceled the entire "buy on board" program was because passenger complaints have been flooding their call centers and e-mail inboxes since August and have yet to die down.

Now while 2008 saw a surge in airfare prices due to the high price of oil, as well as the introduction of "penny pinching policies" such as fees on luggage, food, drinks and even pillows, 2009 may be the year of the exact opposite. With oil trading for about $40 a barrel and the economy in the toilet, airlines have slashed prices. This US Airways "buy on board" policy cancellation might be the beginning of the return of "the friendly skies"...ok maybe not yet. But free soda is a start.


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  2. US Airways blows! It is all about JetBlue and Virgin now!