Is a $9 Flight Too Good to Be True?

I mean it's one thing for the discounters to do this -- after all, it's a matter of expectations -- which is not a bad thing. As Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told me not so long ago, "Our customers don't have low expectations, they have the right expectations." Though I should point out that this airline that advertises "Fees Don't Fly with Us" has some new chinks in its armor -- it added a new fee last week and raised another.

But we have different expectations when it comes to the legacy carriers like American, United, Delta and more -- so it's a little unsettling when they squeeze us over with bag fees and "premium seating" and the like -- things that used to be built into your ticket price.

Here's where I think the legacy carriers are playing with fire: they haven't re-branded themselves as "discount airlines" and yet they're moving closer and closer to that model -- but without the discount ticket prices (except for the occasional airfare wars). So let me ask you: what's the point in flying the legacy carriers?

I don't think loyalty to a mileage program is going to be enough to keep a lot of fliers from eventually jumping ship if this fee madness continues. Which begs the question: are we moving to a one-class airline system, composed entirely of discount airlines? It's starting to feel that way. Case in point -- the bag fees were introduced by legacy carriers when the price of oil started going crazy -- well, the crazy is over (for now) but we're still paying.

Maybe I'm just a not-so-old but still cranky flier when I ask, are we all going to be scrambling for those $9 airfares? Maybe a better question is: does anyone care about amenities at all anymore?

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations, including ABC News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Associated Press and Bloomberg. His Web site FareCompare.com offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deal.

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