American Airlines to charge for front-row seats
American Airlines to start charging $19-$39 for seats in the first few rows of coach cabin
Samantha Bomkamp, AP Airlines Writer, On Wednesday August 18, 2010, 3:56 pm EDT
NEW YORK (AP) -- American Airlines has found another fee.
The Fort Worth, Texas, airline said Wednesday it's now charging between $19 and $39 for "Express Seats" -- those spots in the first few rows of coach that include bulkhead seats.
American said the price of the seats includes getting on the plane in the first "general boarding" group of passengers. The seats that will cost extra are in the first two or three rows of the coach cabin, depending on the size of the plane.
Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com, thinks passengers will see more packaged fees like this in the future -- where benefits like free standby or boarding perks are included.
The carrier, which is operated by parent AMR Corp., is following in the footsteps of several other airlines who already charge for special seats. UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, Continental Airlines, US Airways, JetBlue, Frontier, Spirit and AirTran all have some seats that cost extra.
The American seats don't give passengers much extra for their money, said Steven Hall of CompareAirlineFees.com. Most of the other airlines' premium seats offer more legroom. But it is a benefit for passengers to be among the first to board the plane, he added.
The seats on American can only be bought at airport kiosks between 24 hours to 50 minutes before the flight for travel within the U.S.
American, the country's second-largest airline behind Delta Air Lines, still provides its elite frequent fliers those seats for no extra charge. American also charges fees for checked bags, priority boarding, booking on the phone or in person, "sleep sets," unaccompanied minors and pets.
On Tuesday, AirTran raised its fee for the first checked bag by $5 to $20 for travel starting in September. The cost is now on par with bigger airlines.
U.S. airlines collected about $1.9 billion from fees in the first quarter, the most recent period for which data is available from the Transportation Department. American's share of that was $261.1 million.
AP Airlines Writer David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.