Fear of flying

Denise Wright

Additional airline fees have travelers looking for alternative options

Illustration by Daniel Doherty | Summer Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

y travelers experiencing “gas woes” this summer. With fuel prices on the rise, airline passengers are forking over more money than in past years.

“In the last few years we have seen the cost of travel nearly double, amenities decline and more miscellaneous surcharges,” senior economics major Mike Morandell said. “Due to high cost of crude oil, the airlines have no choice but to charge more for amenities, airfare and baggage.”

In June, both American Airlines and United Airlines added baggage fees, citing the increasing costs of transporting baggage as the reason behind their decisions. Other airlines aren’t far behind.

Michael Ellis, interim chairman for the Department of Economics, said this is just the beginning of airlines’ short-term efforts to recover fuel costs. He said other recent approaches include overbooking as well as canceling unprofitable flights.

“Students are probably going to notice, especially if they live in smaller towns, that they can’t find a flight,” Ellis said. “(Airlines) are covering the cost any way they can.”

However, junior economics major Vance Stewart II said threats of terrorism, high oil prices and strict regulations have led many Americans to look for alternative ways to travel.

“The willingness to pay for tickets to travel has drastically decreased, which has resulted in less revenue for the airlines,” Stewart said.

Ellis said if this persists, airlines will probably look for more long-term solutions. He said these solutions could include changing plane configurations – giving more priority to passengers rather than luxury seating.

Ellis said the increasing costs of air travel have caused a “ripple effect,” which will become more noticeable if the increase stays consistent. He said travelers are starting to vacation closer to home. This will affect the revenue of local destinations, as well as industries such as hotel chains in larger, more popular destinations.

Ellis also said if travel remains in its current state, those driving far distances to work or school may begin moving to bridge the costs of commuting. He said costs will probably affect how students travel, especially if they plan on going far away for spring break.

Morandell disagreed.

“Unless students pair up into threes or fours, I don’t see students swaying away from air travel,” he said.

Ellis, who plans on attending a wedding next month in Chicago, is opting to drive rather than fly because of the current state of air travel.

He said he is not sure how persistent the airline situation will be, especially because a similar trend happened about 30 years ago. He is certain about another thing, though.

“(The flight) industry has never been profitable,” Ellis said. “It’s always been on the brink, and this is pushing them over the edge.”

Contact general assignment reporter Denise Wright at [email protected].