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When you book a flight this year you'll have one more thing to check: a preboarding seat assignment. That's because assigned seats are no longer included with every purchase, which is a change from how the booking process has generally worked for most airlines.

New Price Trend

The top airline companies have begun following a recent trend within the industry, a trend that charges passengers more money for tickets with confirmed seats. United Airlines was the latest big-name carrier to follow the herd: In December, the company unveiled their new "Preferred" option that comprises a limited number of window and aisle seats toward the front of economy on every flight. Delta, American, and Alaska are among other major carriers that have started doing the same, but these airlines do offer some form of upgraded fare class that includes seat assignments for a small premium. This approach to pricing has been common among low-cost carriers such as Spirit and Allegiant for years. Now, it seems the nation's largest airlines are giving it a try too. (For travelers looking to avoid extra fees for seating, Southwest Airlines still has their system of no assigned seats at no additional cost.)

The Reason

Airline leaders say the recent moves are part of a concerted effort to give customers more options, in which customers who are willing to spend more receive the peace of mind that comes with confirmed seat assignments and the comfort of larger seats with more legroom. Critics are saying the move is yet another push for higher profits at a time when other perks such as bag allowances and on-board food have also been monetized. Supporters of the new fees say this is no different than concert venues charging more for better seats.

Positive side of this approach: Lower prices. The downsides: No guarantee as to what part of economy cabin you'll sit, and significant baggage restrictions (in some cases, no carry-ons). When flying during peak travel times or international flights, the price differences can be even more significant.

Increasing Record High Profits

According to the most recent statistics from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, U.S.-based airlines collected more than $4.5 billion in baggage fees alone in 2017. A record amount and a nearly 10 percent increase over the $4.1 billion reported in 2016. To put that into perspective, U.S. airlines profited $15.5 billion in 2017, up from $14 billion in 2016. This leaves many to wonder, with an already record high revenue is there really a need for additional fees?

 

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Benjamin is a writer at GoldenGOAT Articles that specializes in business, travel, lifestyle, innovation and the environment. Aside from his time spent as a reporter, he is an active stock trader and current owner of four successful companies.