Imagine two scales at the airline ticket counter, one for your bags and one for you. The price of a ticket depends upon the weight of both.One of my most enlightening discussions in recent memory involved an airline industry person. His simple statement was that airlines were not equipped to provide mass air travel at oil prices above $175 to $200 per barrel. At those prices, they must raise fares so much that it would price out most of the market.
That may not be so far-fetched.
``You listen to the airline CEOs, and nothing is beyond their imagination,'' said David Castelveter, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group. ``They have already begun to think exotically. Nothing is not under the microscope.'' He declined to discuss what any individual airline might be contemplating, including charging passengers based on weight.
With fuel costs almost tripling since 2000, now accounting for as much as 40 percent of operating expenses at some carriers, according to the ATA, airlines are cutting costs and raising revenue in ways that once were unthinkable. U.S. Airways Group Inc. has eliminated snacks. Delta Air Lines Inc. is charging $25 for telephone reservations. AMR Corp.'s American Airlines last month became the first U.S. company to charge $15 for one checked bag.
In other words, "does commercial aviation have a long-term future?", used to be the question I asked. Now, its "does commercial aviation even have a short-term future?" My research is starting to reveal that the answer is a stronger and swifter "No" than any of us ever expected.