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US Airways to charge for aisle and window seats

You have got to be kidding me! I know the people over at US Airways can’t hear me when I talk to them from in front of my computer screen, but I just uttered that exclamation aloud. Charging for window seats? Seriously?

I got the news from this Arizona Republic article that starts out: “US Airways said it will begin offering passengers the option of buying an aisle or window seat in the front of the plane for between $5 and $30 per flight.”

The “Choice Seats” program will begin on May 7. Passengers have to wait until they check in online, which can be done up to 24 hours before a flight, to try and buy their way out of the dreaded middle seat. About 8 percent of the seats on flights will be for sale this way, which means that aisle and window seats farther back in the cabin will still be available without an extra charge. But it makes competition for the remaining aisle and window seats even tougher than normal.

The program won’t be in effect on East Coast US Airways shuttle flights. Elite frequent flyers will be able to reserve “Choice Seats” for free, but for everyone else, the fee will depend on the length of the flight. You can find more information about the program on the airline’s website. US Airways isn’t first to this particular racket. The article notes Air Canada, AirTran, and Northwest also charge for “premium” coach seats, or for the chance to choose your seat ahead of time.

First or business class is one thing, but paying for the “best” seats in coach is downright depressing. It’s still coach. With fuel prices at record levels and airlines declaring bankruptcy right and left, all this nickel-and-diming ceases to seem just greedy and takes on an air of serious desperation. I’m almost afraid to make a snarky comment about what they’ll charge for next (seat belts, use of the toilets, Skymall catalogues?) lest some airline announce that very fee next week.

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