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NorthWorst Again?

March 15th, 2006

Northwest Airlines is looking to shake you down, or so it seems. There’s a plan to charge you an additional fee if you want an aisle seat, or a seat in an exit row, on domestic flights. They’re calling it “Coach Choice,” which effectively means that if you don’t cough up an extra fifteen bucks, then you get crappy seating. All I can say is, if they ever implement that plan on international flights, I am never going to fly them again. That’ll be on principle–depending on the circumstances, either United or Northwest tends to have the cheapest fare from Tokyo to San Francisco non-stop. So it may wind up costing me more to fly sometimes–but I’ll be damned if I’m going to be nickel-and-dimed like that, and I’m certainly not going to encourage it.

Fortunately, international flights tend not to fall prey to that kind of cheapskating. I hear about having to pay for alcoholic beverages, headphone sets, and other frills on domestic flights; these are never an issue on international routes, at least not the ones I take.

Of course, Northwest is already doing this to a certain degree, just in a different fashion. They have something called “Economy Plus,” which is about what economy used to be in terms of leg room. Then they scrunched all the other sets together some more, and relabeled that as regular economy. Then they charge people more for the “plus.” From what they told me, a hefty annual payment will make you eligible–but will not guarantee such a seat for any flight. “Coach Choice” seems to be a similar ploy–take what was usually for free and charge a premium for it, else you risk getting stuck in a crappy seat and suffering.

So I’m not totally confident that they’ll keep this away from the international flights. If they wind up implementing it there, then they’re going to lose customers, and I’ll be first out the door.

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  1. ykw
    March 15th, 2006 at 04:38 | #1

    I don’t see a problem w/ more money for more space, since we already have that. I was offered 5″ more leg room on a Boston to LA, CA flight several months ago for $50. I turned it down, yet did not mind the offer. I’m 5″ 7′ and the 5″ of extra space was not too important, especially it if means the tray in front of me is further forward, which is a problem w/ a laptop on it. I like to be able to get to the bathroom easily, and don’t like someone w/ a cold next to me. If I was claustraphobic, I would hate airplanes, since they do pack people in quite tight. I wish they would pass the air through UV lights in the vents that kill bacteria and virus. That would be Very helpful !

  2. Luis
    March 15th, 2006 at 19:29 | #2

    YKW: I think that’s the “Economy Plus,” what they charge for a single use, as opposed to a lump sum for an annual place on wait lists. But that’s the thing–you were not offered $50 for more leg room, you were offered $50 for what used to be normal leg room. In essence, they ask you to pay to avoid getting worse seating. I’m glad you can fit in their new “economy” seating, but a lot of people can’t.

  3. Big Horn County, WY
    January 28th, 2007 at 14:45 | #3

    About 3 weeks ago NW accorded my friend and I the great opportunity to sit together on a flight–in return for an extra charge of $15 apiece. I paid (while holding my nose) and, yes, NW gave us two side-by-side exit row seats in return.

    Normally, I wouldn’t even be writing this. The trip was from Minneapolis to Billing, an approximately 2 hour and 15 minute non-stop flight. However, the “wrinkle” in this case is the fare I paid. Because of a combination of changes to my original reservation, and booking close to the flight date, the ticket, as lifted by the gate agent, spiraled to in excess of $1,100 for both of us. I’m not happy about having paid around $1,100 for a trip of roughly 925 miles, each way. However, I know airlines, worldwide, do business this way. What I DO have a problem with is the determination (obviously, by NW’s computerized reservation system) that, $1,100 is not enough money when I want to sit, in coach class, with my friend. For what it’s worth, both of us were ticketed on the same reservation record.

    Again, if I was holding two deep-discount round-trip fares of say, $300 apiece, for the same itinerary (MSP – BIL), I would expect NW to install a pay toilet lock on the aircraft lavitory!

    NW, and their industry representative in Washington, the Air Transport Association, devote significant resouces to fighting any legislation which suggests re-regulation. On the other hand, NW, and the other members of the “Big 6” domestic carriers, seem to do everything than can to cause their customers, through bad service, attitudes, etc., to demand some form of airline re-regulation.

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