As I was getting on my flight from FLL to ORD (Fort Lauderdale to Chicago) a woman a bit ahead of me asked a man to get up so she could get into the row he was sitting in. He said in response, "That will be $20." He was making a funny that, sad to say, actually had some (gallows) humor to it.
I haven't flown out of Champaign in some time. The above gives a sample about American Airlines new approach to pricing. Boarding order, for example, is no longer done by where you sit on the plane. You get put into the default group, group 4 in this case, and then when you check in you go through a little dialog with the computer screen about whether you want to upgrade your group...., for a fee of course.
Looks like it is the same deal with seat selection. I have a distinct preference for aisle seating. But apparently the airline wouldn't give out seat assignments ahead of check in. When I got there, mine was a window seat. So I clicked the link to change my seat selection. You guessed it, that too required a fee.
On the way down to Florida I got to Chicago several hours before my next flight. There was actually another flight to Fort Lauderdale before mine. I went to the counter for it and asked if I could get on that flight. They told me that it was crowded but not completely full. But since I had a ticket for the next flight I'd have to pay a $75 change fee to take that one.
Coming back, I actually witnessed some sensibility at the gate at Fort Lauderdale. The gate agent said that she'd allow people to check their bags, waiving the normal fee, because the flight was full and the overhead bins would be very crowded (and it would take longer to complete the boarding unless some people checked their bags). Makes you wonder why they have the fee to check the bags to begin with.
The airfare for this trip was $540. To me, that's a decent chunk of change. To, in addition, be nickel and dimed when getting to the airport is infuriating.
If they really are going to stick with the ridiculous policy for much longer, then they should let you know about it when buying the ticket in the first place. Of course people shop for flights by looking for low fares as well as convenient times to travel. Flying is such a hassle anyway - why make the passengers feel like they are being mugged in the process, with this stupid approach to a la carte pricing?