Airlines offer no reason to fly

By Emily Rodriguez-Vargas

With Fall Break around the corner and Thanksgiving coming up next month, you might want to ask yourself if air travel is affordable transportation.

There are discount flights available to college students and faculty through Web sites such as studentuniverse.com, but the overall condition of the travel industry is in free fall with fewer flights and higher prices.

“The situation remains bleak,” said Giovanni Bisignani, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association. “The toxic combination of high oil prices and falling demand continues to poison the industry’s profitability. We expect losses of U.S. $5.2 billion this year.”

Bisignani also said that more airlines have gone bankrupt in 2008 than in the aftermath of 9/11.

Airlines are compelled to end service in some of their current locations, as is occurring with Jetblue. Its discontinuation in Ontario, Calif., was effective Sept. 3.

“The dramatic rise in fuel prices has forced us to make the difficult decision to discontinue operations in Ontario,” said Jetblue CEO Dave Barger, in reports for July 22, the second quarter of the 2008 fiscal year.

For popular cities, the competition with other airlines somewhat assists in keeping customer prices from skyrocketing, but in smaller airports and more remote locations, the prices will increase due to the price of jet gas and the impact of our economic crisis. But as prices go up, services go down, leaving customers little reason to patronize airlines except in instances of absolute necessity.

One method airlines use to maximize profits is by limiting the baggage allowance and adding fees for extra luggage. American Airlines has made a recent change in their baggage policy. If you purchase an economy-class ticket, you pay $15 for your first checked bag, and $25 for your second checked bag8212;each way. This can’t possibly help flagging ridership.

If you want to watch a movie during the flight, you often have to purchase headphones so that you can listen in. On shorter flights, you sometimes can’t even have snacks to eat without having to get out your wallet.

Joel Grus, an analyst for the airfare-pricing Web site Live Search Farecast said on a blog, “The combination of high fuel prices, airline capacity and route cuts means holiday travelers may easily spend upward of $100 more per ticket than last year.”

Grus recommended that those needing to fly buy as soon as they find a reasonable fare, or monitor fare prices and look for drops.

Farecast predicts Thanksgiving’s travel prices are up 35 percent since 2007, with Christmas and New Year’s fares 31 percent higher.

The airlines are suffering. For now, the air travel industry isn’t soaring in the clouds, but slowly descending from the sky. We should find alternative ways of transportation as the prices rise and the service decreases. Or maybe just take a break from air travel until it becomes more affordable.

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Emily Rodriguez-Vargas