American joins Delta-United no-bin-space plan

Standing-room-only tickets may be next

In the strange world of U.S. commercial air travel, the latest "innovation" is denying overhead bin space and assigned seating to customers looking for a cheap seat.

Economizing travelers are apparently supposed to wear all of their clothing and stuff other essentials into their pockets. Actually, this is not much different from the current policy under which passengers -- even those who have paid full fare -- are ordered not to even think of putting their coats in the overhead bins. 

As one who recently sweated through a six-hour flight from frosty New York to balmy California while wearing a fleece-lined coat despite having purchased a "premium" seat on JetBlue, this does not impress me as a consumer-friendly initiative.

Me-too marketing

Delta originally dreamed up this variation on the "No soup for you" school of customer service. United quickly said it would follow suit and now American has done the same.

Besides being denied bin space, those taking advantage of the ultra-low fares will have to board the plane last and take whatever seat they can find. This could actually be seen as a benefit, since the less time one can spend on a legacy carrier the better, but that's not how the airline marketers see it.

In fact, Delta says its no-bin-space program is so effective that many passengers reject it when they learn more about it. About half of those who start out shopping for the lowest-fare seats on Delta's site trade up a notch or two when they view all the restrictions that come with the cheapest seats, the airline said.

Only in commercial air travel would a program that customers reject be hyped as proof of its success, but sit back and relax. Something even more bizarre will no doubt be along soon.

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