That cross-country flight just got a bit less comfortable, or more expensive. Amid rising fuel costs and decreasing profits, airlines have begun charging extra fees for food, drinks and even to check bags. And now JetBlue is charging for pillows.
Yes, that's right: those looking to catch a few hours of sleep on that red-eye flight home will first have to shell out $7 for a pillow and blanket kit from JetBlue, the first American carrier to charge for pillows.
The fee is the latest in a long series as the airlines struggle to find ways to offset rising costs. Some airlines have already removed all the pillows and blankets from their flights to save weight. But JetBlue -- known best for its free live satellite TV -- will now actually charge for the once-free amenity. (The TV remains free.)
The airline is pitching this though as not-your-father's pillow. JetBlue calls it a new, high-quality pillow and blanket kit, customized for the airline by CleanBrands. JetBlue is calling it the World's Cleanest pillow and blanket travel kit.
The move comes days after Delta announced that it would double its checked bag fee to $50 for a second bag. Just a few months ago, Delta instituted a fee of $25 to check that second bag. The first checked back will remain free … for now.
As fuel costs soar, airlines have been looking to squeeze every extra dollar they can out of travelers. Fares are up dramatically, and so are fuel surcharges. And now the carriers are adding all sorts of new fees for services that were once free.
Travelers can expect to pay a whole host of new fees beginning the second they arrive at the airport.
Want to check your bags? How about a nice cold soda in mid-flight? Maybe a little extra leg room or even a seat assignment?
Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching. Cha-ching.
"These fees will be annoying at first," said Ray Niedl, an airline analyst for Calyon Securities. "But passengers will adjust because of the need for air travel."
Despite the frustration passengers feel over the increasing air travel costs, the prices do not meet the actual cost of airline operations.
"The consumer has been on a multi-year party here with airfares, because they have been well below airline cost," said airline analyst Robert Mann. "Prices are lower than they need to be. They need to be [raised] by about 20 percent."
The latest moves came this week, when United and US Airways announced they would match a $15 fee charged by American Airlines to check your first bag. That fee comes in addition to the $25 that airlines recently started charging to check a second bag.
US Airways also announced it would charge coach passengers $2 for sodas and fruit juices on domestic flights, and raise the $5 charge for alcoholic drinks to $7.
OK, so those are "extra services," but what about charging for the seat?
On May 30, discount airline Spirit started charging passengers just to reserve a seat assignment in advance. It now costs passengers $15 for an exit row seat on Spirit, $10 for an aisle or a window and $5 for that dreaded middle seat. And that is one-way.