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Technology: The New Normal?

You’ve got to ask yourself what the world is coming to when you’ve got to pony up $15 for your first checked bag.

You’ve got to ask yourself what the world is coming to when you’ve got to pony up $15 for your first checked bag.

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I wouldn’t call it “nickel and diming” by any stretch of the imagination because, let’s face it, those so-called nickels and dimes are now needed to put fuel in your plane’s gas tank. What started out as a strategy for differentiation (that is, offering consumers options and choice from a menu of pay-for-play amenities) and a way for airlines to earn some additional revenue has become a strategy — and necessity — for just plain survival.

So what is the world of aviation coming to? Well, I call it the “new normal.” Meaning get ready for more of the same.

Stark economic realities are reshaping what flyers will know as normal.

The baggage fee bombshell that American Airlines dropped about 10 days ago is surely not going to be the last such firecracker.

The new normal will likely involve higher ticket prices, fewer amenities, higher fuel surcharges, more baggage fees, and, who knows, maybe even pay toilets. Let’s hope it doesn’t go that far. I mean, you think flying is tough now, just wait.

In fact, that’s the theme of a new BusinessWeek article by Dean Foust and Justin Bachman. The upshot is that the airlines are seizing upon every possible tactic to adjust to $130-per-barrel oil.

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But some people, including Advertising Age, which is doing an online poll about it, are wondering if all American is creating is a PR nightmare for itself.

Personally I do not see this as a marketing opportunity for American’s rivals — at least not for most of them. That’s because most of the carriers are in the same boat (so to speak). They all need to make up for earnings gobbled up by spiking fuel costs. In fact, if the first-checked-bag fee flies at American, I can see the rest of the network carriers following suit.

The bigger picture — the new normal — may be that flying may once again become something only the wealthy can afford, just as it was in the dimly remembered days before deregulation. Americans just got into the habit of thinking that jet travel was normal: a right, not a privilege.

That all may be about to change.

What do you think the “new normal” is going to look like?

Airline Futurist • Miami • www.amadeus.com

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