-- In an effort to beat out the competition, airlines have been making radical moves lately – some going as far as taking a page right from their rivals’ playbooks.
5 Changing Airlines
American and Delta: Both are huge carriers, both have been around more than 80 years, both are justifiably proud of their business and first class options, but both are now embracing the cheapskate traveler. Delta got the ball rolling a few years back with Basic Economy fares, a pay-less-get-less option while American's CEO has signaled American too will likely embrace a bare-bones fare option in 2016. These legacy carriers are trying to mimic the Spartan experience and rock bottom prices that have proved so popular with fans of discounters like Spirit.
Alaska: The Seattle-based carrier says it will roll out a first class section in the latter part of 2016. The down-home airline, known for its heart-warming touches (like presenting passengers with vouchers when bags are slow to arrive at the carousel) now wants to play with the big boys. Alaska's bean-counters figure a premium cabin will help in its battle with Delta for passenger traffic in Seattle. Only time and the economic headwinds will tell if that theory maintains cruising speed.
Southwest: The Texas-based carrier hasn't been one of the 'little guys' for years yet some will be surprised to learn Southwest now flies to almost 100 cities in eight countries (many in the Caribbean). Late last year, the airline was freed from the last restrictions of the old Wright Amendment that limited its ability to fly non-stops from Dallas and hasn't looked back; after Wright's repeal last year, it immediately launched more than a dozen new routes out of Dallas Love Field and recently inaugurated a bunch of international non-stops from Houston.
3 Airlines Happy As-Is
Are any airlines happy the way they are? Sure. Here are my picks for U.S. carriers most secure in their own skin.
Southwest: They may be flying farther but Southwest still holds on to the consumer-friendly core values that made them beloved by many. Best example is Southwest's being the lone holdout on the air travel industry's most annoying fees: It still gives passengers two checked-bags for free and still does not make you pay a fee to change a ticket.
Spirit: It is what it is and proud of it. Spirit is cheap, has no frills whatsoever but does have a seemingly never-ending smorgasbord of fees. Love it or hate it (and millions love it), the little-carrier-that-could keeps right on chugging along.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of ABC News.