US Airways reverses beverage charges

By Mary Kirby

US Airways has reversed its decision to charge domestic coach passengers for beverages, saying it is at a competitive disadvantage because no other large network carrier has followed its lead.

The Star Alliance member launched the beverage purchase programme in 2008 to generate additional revenue. "From this perspective the programme was very successful. What we didn't know at the time, but later experienced, was that the cabin atmosphere would also improve with fewer carts in the aisles and shorter lines to the lavatories," says US Airways CEO Doug Parker in a message to employees.

While US Airways remains "firmly committed to the a la carte strategy", he says, the carrier also knows it is a work in progress.

"We know customers don't buy an airline ticket based on whether or not they will get a free soda onboard, but with US Airways being the only large network carrier to charge for drinks, we are at a disadvantage."

From 1 March, the carrier's free beverage service will resume. Economy-class passengers will again be offered complimentary sodas, juices, tea, coffee and water.

US Airways received a lot of negative press for being the only carrier to charge for drinks, especially water.

This difference in service "has become a focal point that detracts from all of the outstanding improvements in on-time performance and baggage handling that all of us have worked so hard to achieve over the past year", says Parker.

US Airways still expects to generate $400 to $500 million in 2009 from a la carte items like checked baggage fees, Choice Seats, and its new blanket and pillow offering.

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