One day all airlines will be like... Ryanair

It's been like going back to school these last few months - and haven't classes been interesting? In English, we've learned new phrases like 'credit crunch' and 'economic downturn'. In maths, we've learned the numbers don't add up in the Treasury, the US Fed and pretty much any bank you care to mention. Art, we've discovered not just Monday, but Tuesday, Wednesday ... in fact any day of the week can be black. And as for history ... well that's rewriting itself as we speak.

So get ready to learn yet another phrase de jour ... 'unbundling'. Unbundling is the term used to describe how airlines tempt us with low fares, whilst stinging us senseless with exorbitant fees for sevices previously included.

It started with fuel surcharges (£150 for an 8 hour flight on BA). Then there was the £25 charge to check a second bag. Well now American Airlines is charging £15 to check the FIRST bag. And - brrrr - that Jetblue aircon seems pretty chilly - need a blanket? Here you go - that will be £4 please. Thirsty and need a drink of water on a USAirways flight? Hand over a quid or stay thirsty till you land.

Airlines plan to make 'unbundling' their new revenue stream - United expects to make $700 million this year unbundling its services and selling them back to us. This has always been the Ryanair business model - all sale, no service. Basically you rent the seat - you want anything else, expect to pay and pay dear. But we've always had a choice - between 'take it or leave it' no frills and paying a little more for the nice 'decent' service' airlines. Are we entering an era where all air travel is no frills? And will our love affair with flying be over, the day all airlines treat us like Ryanair?

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