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American Airlines is bundling extras

Travelers who search for flights at AA.com will get several choices, including a basic fare and a package that includes a free checked bag and an onboard drink.

December 18, 2012|By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times
  • The Virgin America Loft at Los Angeles International Airport includes upholstered, wheel-shaped seats and flat-screen TVs. In addition to high-end snacks, the lounge offers aviation-themed drinks.
The Virgin America Loft at Los Angeles International Airport includes… (Virgin America )

Over the last four years, airlines have been charging for extras that were previously included in the price of a plane ticket, such as checked bags, food, drinks and pillows.

The trend may be reversing, with airlines starting to bundle those extras back together again.

American Airlines announced last week that passengers who search for flights at AA.com will get several choices, ranging from a basic fare to a package that includes a ticket plus a free checked bag, early boarding, an onboard drink and the option to change flights without paying a penalty.

It's an idea that has been seized on by a few other airlines, including Air Canada and Frontier Airlines of Denver.

On Air Canada, the package deals carry names such as Tango, Latitude and Executive Class Flexible.

Frontier calls its deals Economy, "Classic and Classic Plus.

American Airlines says the new bundle deals are in response to requests from passengers for more flexibility and convenience. The Forth Worth carrier's deals also address passenger complaints that they are often caught off guard by the extra charges they face at the airport or on the plane, airline officials said.

"This is the right thing to do," said Rick Elieson, American's managing director of digital marketing.

Still, the reviews on American Airlines' Facebook page were mixed.

Some passengers said the new ticketing system makes it difficult to sort by price, departure time and arrival time.

"The old way was better — this seems confusing," wrote a Facebook member from Miami.

But others liked the new offerings.

"Love this new website," said a Facebook user from Cambridge. "It's so easy!"

Elieson acknowledged that the changes may upset some passengers but said American probably will tweak the Web page in the near future to address those concerns.

Cathay flight attendants may refuse to serve food and drinks

Labor strife is common among airline workers, but flight attendants for Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific voted last week to try unusual tactics to push stalled salary negotiations.

The flight attendants, who demanded a 5% pay increase but instead were offered a 2% raise, were considering performing only their basic, safety-first responsibilities.

That means they could refrain from serving food and drinks, according to the union's general secretary, Tsang Kwok-fung. Not only that, he said, but they may also abstain from smiling at work.

"We will be selective in providing our services," Tsang told the Sydney Morning Herald, adding that the dates and the types of job action have yet to be decided.

"This could include not smiling at passengers, not providing certain types of beverages — such as alcohol — or stop serving meals," he said.

Virgin America opens lounge at LAX

Los Angeles is home to many stylish, exclusive nightclubs that draw some of the hippest crowds.

But the city's airport does not have such a cool reputation. In fact, a survey of 1,500 fliers last month ranked Los Angeles International Airport as one of the nation's three most stressful airports.

That may be changing.

Virgin America, which is based in San Francisco, last week opened at LAX a new passenger lounge, dubbed the Virgin America Loft. It is bathed in purple and red mood lighting and furnished with upholstered, wheel-shaped seats and flat-screen televisions.

In addition to high-end snacks, the lounge offers guests a menu of aviation-themed drinks, including Lofty Lemonade, Jet Stream Spritzer, Runway Ruddy Mary and the Mile-High Margarita.

Meanwhile, Petrossian, the high-end eatery with restaurants in New York and West Hollywood, announced plans to open a caviar and champagne bar at the airport. The new restaurant is part of a $4.1-billion modernization effort at LAX.

Gina Marie Lindsey, the executive director of the agency that runs the airport, said the upgrades are meant to "offer a sense of place, reflecting the culture, cuisine and trends of Los Angeles."

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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