Is US Airways smart to be cheap?

When US Airways recently emerged as one of most aggressive amongst its peers to implement in-flight food and beverage sales – notoriously charging passengers for life’s most basic necessity, water – the news media, including myself, skewered the Star Alliance member’s decision.


But support for the move is coming from a rather unlikely source – some of the carrier’s very own flight attendants. Below are the words of one veteran US Airways flight attendant, who insists that the airline isn’t being cheap, it’s being smart.

Tell me if this doesn’t give you pause. And then remember to bring those nickels and dimes with you on your next US Airways flight.

“At first I was very weary of charging for beverages, however the two weeks before the change, I took it upon myself to be objective and look at the ordering habits of passengers during the beverage service.

“What I found was that many people actually hesitated when asked if they wanted something as if they weren’t sure if they actually WANTED something. They would then respond with a “well, I guess I will have…” What I began to discover was that many passengers took something just because it was there.

“Might I just add that many times those same passengers would give back a half full glass of soda. Like many other service cutbacks, it has usually taken time to understand how wasteful past practices were.

“We saw the same thing with free food and serving entire cans of soda. The most excessive waste I saw was when we served a meal on redeye flights. A full 150 seat jet would find about 10 takers of the meal. That means 140 meals were thrown into the garbage upon arrival. I now feel differently about what we are doing.

“When I first started flying, we didn’t have malls in airports or the wide variety of food and beverage choices. Also, the cost of a simple snack in an airport was the same 20 years ago as it is today. The airplane was basically the only place you could get something to eat or drink without going broke. Today this simply is not the case.

“While many may argue that US Airways is being cheap, I see it as being smart. In our country we have too many airlines trying to survive. Most countries have either state owned airlines or airlines that dominate certain markets such that they can charge what they want and provide an array of amenities.

“Those NOT dominating have similar structures as what we are now seeing with US Airways. It doesn’t look like any of the US airlines are going to simply fold for the betterment of the industry, so the survivors will have to do what ever they can to survive.

“How many years with very small profit margins or losses does this industry have to report before the flying public gets it? My co-workers and I have supplemented and refuse to give a dime more. We have been penny, nickel, and dimed for too many years. Why NOT the passenger?”

(Photo from

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4 Responses to Is US Airways smart to be cheap?

  1. airmohan September 3, 2008 at 6:24 am #

    Pricing some in house products is justifiable but not at the cost of customers.

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  2. Mary Kirby September 4, 2008 at 10:11 am #

    Fair point. I’m still of the mindset that water should be free.

  3. Peter September 7, 2008 at 3:33 pm #

    I totally agree with charging for alcohol but you can go too far. OK at US airports there are always always water fountains after security but not at some airports you you can’t buy water after security. Airlines that sell products often misjudge demand and run out. We are always told not to get dehydrated – I should know I get terrible headaches whwn I do. What if (as can happen with Ryanair there is no water on board? To me its a health issue.

  4. Mary Kirby September 7, 2008 at 5:52 pm #

    It is indeed. Charge for coke if you must but for the love of God, give us a glass of water.