The financial crisis gripping airlines is changing travelers' routines, in ways large and small. Faced with sky-high fuel costs, traditional carriers have raised fares 15 times so far this year and slapped fees on formerly free services, such as checked luggage, coffee and bottled water. Travelers are finding different ways to get from Point A to Point B. Here are a few of the ways:
Carry-ons get more scrutiny
Planes are packed to the gills and so are those overhead bins. At Tampa International, security guards hired by airlines are on the lookout for oversized carry-ons. They're stopping passengers before security screening and sending them back to check bags that are too large. You could face an extra charge if it's your second bag ($25) or even your first checked bag ($15).
Skycaps get shorted
Four of the largest airline carriers at TIA are either charging for checked bags or have plans to do so. As a result, skycaps checking bags at the curb are bracing for cuts in their tips. And for some, it gets worse. On Wednesday, a group of curbside baggage handlers under contract with US Airways were replaced by customer service agents employed by the airline. Tips won't be encouraged, said spokeswoman Michelle Mohr, who said the change is due to the airline's union agreement.
Parking? Not so much
Maybe it's higher fares or the economy, but fewer travelers are parking at TIA. Vehicles parked overnight in airport garages last month were down 10 percent from June 2007, well above the 3-5 percent decline in passengers. "People are still going to make the trip, but they'll get someone to drop them off," says Ed Cooley, senior director of operations at TIA. Or they park in off-site lots.
Awards not so friendly
Even free tickets aren't free anymore. Desperate for revenue to offset sky-high fuel costs, traditional carriers are charging frequent fliers to redeem their miles for award tickets. American now charges $5 to book an award ticket online and $20 through a reservation agent. Delta and US Airways will start charging $25 to $50 next month, with Northwest imposing fees from $25 to $100 in September.
Snack … less?
With airlines starting to charge for drinks and cut back on munchies, flight attendants are noticing more passengers bringing food on board. "There are so many places at airports now — McDonald's, Burger King, Chili's," says Cheryl Mohn, an American Airlines attendant from Apollo Beach. "When we clean up, we see lots of salad in plastic containers, fast food bags."