US Airways in drinks retreat: buy a pillow, get a soda

fa_sales_guy.jpg‘Nah, it’s a really good idea. We just don’t want to do it anymore.’ That seems to be the thinking at US Airways, where chief executive Doug Parker’s pulled a 180 and reversed its policy of charging its coach flyers for a soft drink, a coffee or a bottle of water. The airline began the policy last summer as most carriers jumped on the unbundling bandwagon and began charging for pretty much everything that they could. Now though, US Airways has gone back to free water. Explains Parker, “we are firmly committed to the a la carte model. But it is also a work in progress – US Airways has was the only large network carrier to charge for drinks and that put us at a disadvantage.”

US Airways, based near Phoenix at Tempe, AZ, says it still expects to get some $400 million to $500 million this year from a la carte items like bag fees, seat choices and something new: a blanket-and-pillow offering it just announced the other week.

The airline had made it a point of defending its drinks policy as lessening onboard garbage, decluttering the aircraft aisles and generally making its coach customers happy by not charging them for what they didn’t want. Passengers are probably happy by so are US Airways flight attendants who had denounced the buy-on-board emphasis as turning them into airborne sales clerks.

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