Ever get the feeling US Airways is a sinking ship that’s throwing off as much weight as it can to stay afloat? This week we’ve seen the airline drop inflight entertainment on domestic flights and ditch all the onboard equipment. They’re also getting rid of ovens in the coach galleys. Yep, that means they’re really, honestly, trying to get as much weight off the plane as they can to save gas. But it’s not just on the plane. They’re also getting rid of ticket jackets. I always thought that ads made those profitable, but I guess not.
You might think that I’d be flinging a Cranky Jackass award for this move, but actually, I’m not. Surprisingly, I have to give them credit here for actually following the strategy they’ve laid out, right or wrong. This is the strategy that was outlined for us at media day back in March. In their eyes, all that matters is price and schedule as long as the appearance is clean, the flights are on time, and it’s convenient. They’ve held their own when it comes to on-time performance, and I think they’ve been cleaning up their planes (though I haven’t flown them in quite some time).
In other words, though many people bemoan the direction the airline is taking, US Airways is actually delivering on its promises. With that in mind, I started thinking about what they’re going to spring on us next. No matter what it is, there’s a very good chance people will hate it, but at least it’s not false advertising.
Here is my list of the top 5 ways I’d expect to see US Airways increase revenues next, in no particular order. And no, this isn’t a joke or some snarky post about “gee, what could the airlines possibly charge us for next.” There have been far more than enough of those floating around.
- Overhead Bin Ads – Ah come on, they’ve already done tray table ads, so why not just go to the overhead bins as well? It’s worse, yes, because you can’t actually hide those from sight, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they could make some decent money off of it. And that means it could actually happen, even if it does somewhat degrade the “appearance.”
- Charge for Advanced Seat Assignments – I know, this is a little late to the game with Spirit already setting the bar, but why not jump on the bandwagon? If someone is really going to choose you because of price and schedule, then advanced seating assignment fees won’t really alter the decision, right?
- Remove Window Shades – This takes a page out of the Ryanair playbook. No window shades = less weight and fewer things that can break. Ryanair also doesn’t do seatback pockets, but there’s too much money in the magazine and Skymall to take that away. Would US Airways actually do this? I’m not sure what the savings would really be, but if they are real, then I don’t see why not.
- Sell Products Onboard – They already pimp their credit cards, so why not follow the Skybus model and start selling products, like duty free in the international world? True, that would technically add weight to the plane, so it would have to generate good revenue to make sense, but they might think it’s worth a shot.
- Charge for First Class Upgrades – I’ve saved the most controversial for last. If you think there have been objections to the latest round of changes, just wait until something like this happens. All hell will break loose. I’d argue that free First Class upgrades are by far the most important reason someone desires elite status with the airline. But, would people walk away if they had to pay $25 for the privilege on a domestic flight? It’s a risky move, and it would absolutely piss off the elites, but at some point they may consider it for the revenue it would raise.
Some of these are pretty risky moves, but with fuel where it is right now, I’m sure everything is in play. Would any of these moves stop me from flying the airline? Nah, not more than anything they’ve already done. (I haven’t flown them in almost 18 months, or at least that’s what my Dividend Miles expiration notice tells me.) The reality is that they’re right about a lot. Price and schedule do matter most in the domestic world, and they rarely if ever have a price or schedule advantage from my home in the LA area.
The airline has made it clear that it is racing to the bottom when it comes to amenities being included in the fare. At some point, passengers will revolt, that is, if they actually have a better option to choose. With all the legacy airlines following similar paths, there aren’t many options left for someone who wants to protest. But one of these moves will cross the line, and passengers will start to defect. Until that happens, you can expect to see airlines continuing to push the envelope on what they’re willing to try to reach profitability.