Travel industry officials say the major airlines are starting to cut the number of flights they’re offering by up to 15-percent, in addition to trading out large jets for smaller ones. Shannon Mullen, regional travel manager for Triple-A-Iowa, says air carriers are trying desperately to turn a profit while being squeezed by the rising cost of fuel.
Mullen says, "We are going to see these smaller planes being more full and you’re going to see fewer flights depart between some of our major hubs and some vacation destinations that are very popular for the Midwestern travelers." She says the airlines’ actions mean Iowans will need to start planning their vacations sooner, perhaps squaring away Christmas travel during October and Thanksgiving travel now.
"You’re going to need to go ahead and plan those flights much earlier in advance," Mullen says. "People are going to have to start purchasing their tickets a little further out as the seats decline and the list is a little bit lower than what we’ve been seeing in the past." Airlines are also tacking fees on a variety of services that used to be free. You can be charged for things like drinks, snacks, headsets and even pillows. Mullen says it’s common now to charge 40-dollars each way for a piece of luggage.
Mullen says, "Virtually all airlines are. There is an exception, Southwest Airlines, but all of the other carriers have implemented some sort of a fee for checking in a bag." Winter weather delays could become a nightmare. Historically, airlines filled 70-percent of the seats on a flight and when a storm caused a delay, flights could be consolidated and travelers accommodated, but that may no longer be an option.