The airline will eliminate 600 additional reservation-agent jobs, which Continental blamed on a 15 percent drop in call volume. More passengers are arranging their own travel by computer, but there might be an additional explanation: Continental charges $20 to make a reservation by phone. The whole fee thing is truly getting out of hand, as seen in a Sunday NYT piece.
David Stewart, a commodities trader in New York, was stunned to learn last week that he would have to pay $80 for an aisle seat he wanted on a Virgin Atlantic flight to London. Mr. Stewart, who is 6 foot 5, says he managed to cajole a gate agent into seating him there anyway. But ahead of and behind him, an entire section of aisle seats sat empty, apparently because other passengers declined to pay for them. "It's bad customer service," says Mr. Stewart. "It would be in their interests to do this better." A spokeswoman for Virgin called the fee "common practice within the industry."
Consumer advocates say that eventually there will be a backlash, though that would seem unlikely if all the airlines do it. Even Southwest, which doesn't charge for the first two pieces of luggage, does charge for guaranteeing a slot in the first boarding group.