Sunday, August 17, 2008

No Free Coffee on US Air Flights...Unless of Course You Insist

The US Airways Group will become the first major American airline to charge for coffee and sodas on Friday, though many passengers may still get free beverages.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA is objecting to collecting the $1 and $2 fees for nonalcoholic drinks, which US Airways is imposing to counter record fuel costs. Should travelers balk, they probably will not have to pay, the union said.

“We’re trained to keep order on an airplane and defuse confrontation,” Mike Flores, president of US Airways’ A.F.A. chapter, said in an interview Thursday. “If it takes giving a free beverage to somebody to do that, so be it. I expect there will be flight attendants who just give everything away.”

The union’s complaints mean the airline will set a new industry standard while relying on employees upset at having to enforce it. The soft-drink policy is among a package of new fees that US Airways says will produce $500 million in new annual revenue.

US Airways has told its 6,700 attendants to “err on the side of the customer” in deciding whether they need to end a confrontation by providing a free beverage, an airline spokesman, Morgan Durrant, said.

“This is one tactic we’ve just had to put in place to cope with fuel prices,” Mr. Durrant said. The carrier posted a second-quarter net loss of $567 million.

US Airways announced plans for the fee on June 12. It is also cutting 2,000 jobs to reduce expenses.

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