As struggling airlines continue to look for new ways to strip the bare necessities of life from economy class, the disparity between the front and back of the cabin is getting greater. Carriers are now racing to see who can be the fastest - and cleverest - at unbundling products that have traditionally been part of the basic economy offering.
American Airlines got the ball rolling with first-checked-bag fees. And US Airways kept it moving with a $2 charge for water. Everybody is asking what might be next, with many speculating - some seriously - that the next logical downgrade will involve charging passengers to use the restroom. Perhaps they'll even go so far as to glean some ideas from the comedy motion picture Soul Plane, whereby a fictional airline outfits its aircraft with opulent first- and business-class cabins as well as a "low class" section that offers pay-to-use lockers in place of overhead bins.
As carriers redefine economy class, they continue to boost their front cabin offerings. During this week's Merrill Lynch global transportation conference in