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September 21, 2005

US Airways Pulls the Plug on Electrical Outlets


I don't know how come this didn't merit mention anywhere but in yesterday's Wall Street Journal story by Avery Johnson, itself buried on page D3: maybe it's just too painful to watch yet another indicator of the airline industry's death spiral heave into view.

Let's see: fresh air, clean water, meals, movies, magazines, pillows, blankets, pretzels and now electricity.

Why not just cut to the chase, remove the seats and put in benches like in military transports?

Here's the article.

    Airline Pulls the Plug on Outlets

    In the latest rub for fliers who have watched everything from meals to pillows disappear onboard, US Airways has started pulling the plug on electrical outlets on many flights.

    The airline, which has been in bankruptcy protection since September 2004 and is to complete a merger with America West as soon as a week from today, quietly began deactivating the power strips on many Airbus planes last week.

    A US Airways spokeswoman says the system has become too expensive to maintain, but declined to say how much cost savings the airline expects to gain from cutting it.

    The power bars will be removed completely when the aircraft go into the shop for heavy maintenance.

    The plugs, used by travelers to charge laptop computers and other devices, were never installed on any of the carrier's Boeing planes.

    The plugs will remain on the A330 aircraft that are mostly used on the trans-Atlantic route.

    As the airline industry's financial situation has worsened this year because of low fares, labor tensions and record oil prices, in-flight stinginess has reached new levels.

    In March, Northwest Airlines started to eliminate free pretzels and in June cut complimentary magazines, while Delta Air Lines this spring jettisoned pillows.

    UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, also operating under bankruptcy-court protection, plans to finish rolling out a $2 fee for curbside check-in by the end of this year.

    And all the so-called legacy carriers, except for Continental Airlines, have traded free food for some form of paid service on most domestic flights.

    Travelers may see even more cutbacks ahead.

    Delta and Northwest both filed for bankruptcy-court protection last week and will likely be looking for ways to slash costs.

    Some airline experts say, however, that there is so little left onboard that the carriers will have to look elsewhere, such as to route cuts, to really make a dent.

    Northwest and Delta representatives both said that no amenity cuts have been announced due to the Chapter 11 bankruptcy-court filings.

    Delta even has said it is returning free magazines to flights starting Nov. 1.

    As service has eroded on the legacy airlines, the newer low-cost carriers have generally been held up by the industry as shining examples of customer service.

    However, some of them also have been scaling back the freebies.

    Spirit Airlines, for instance, now has blankets only on overnight flights, having taken them out of routine service in May.

September 21, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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