Blaming Bad Publicity, US Airways Finally Drops Beverage Fees

US Airways planeSick of being nickel-and-dimed when you travel?

Well, one airline finally listened to its disgruntled customers and decided to drop the fee for at least one onboard item.

US Airways announced Monday that as of March 1, it will stop charging for non-alcoholic beverages such as soda and juice, which have cost economy-class passengers $1-$2 since last summer.

The airline instituted the charge during the gas price hike last August. Around that time dozens of airlines scrambled to beef up their revenue streams by charging (or raising) fees for à la carte items like checking bags, redeeming frequent-flier miles and changing a ticket.

Most customers reluctantly paid the additional fees, but the airlines took a hit in the goodwill department. US Airways said today that the negative publicity was the main reason they dropped the drinks fee.

Andrew Nocella, the airline’s senior vice president for marketing and planning, said that the limited amount of revenue they derived from the fee was not enough to compensate for the bad reaction it garnered.

“It’s such a minor issue in the grand scheme of things but was having a large impact on the perception of our brand,” he said. “We just came to the conclusion that it was distracting our passengers from all the other things we were accomplishing.”

Furthermore, US Airways was the only major U.S. carrier to charge for non-alcoholic drinks. While other companies such as United and American charge for beer and wine, traditionally, only very low-budget carriers Spirit and Ryanair charge for soda and water.

However, the airline is among only a handful to rescind fees after gas prices returned to more normal levels. Most notably, Delta reduced its second checked bag fee and fuel surcharge when it merged with Northwest last October.

US Airways says that today’s fee change will not affect its commitment to the à la carte pricing model. CEO Doug Parker maintains that the industry needs to continue to move in that direction in order to shore itself up against future economic uncertainty.

Related links: New York Times, Sacramento Business Journal, Arizona Republic

By Karen Elowitt for

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