Newest Airline Fee: Pay to Board Early

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Already this year, we’ve seen airlines announce fees on seats with more legroom, carry-on luggage and even for the privilege of using the toilet. In fact, my one consolation recently has been the thought that airlines must have run out of ideas for new fees. But if there’s one thing you can be sure of airlines doing these days, it’s finding new ways to charge you money.

American Airlines (Stock Quote: AMR) announced this week that they had discovered a wonderful new opportunity to squeeze a few extra bucks from passengers. The airline will now offer passengers the option to pay between $9 and $19 for the luxury of boarding a flight a little earlier. The service will be available for purchase anytime up to an hour before the flight boards. The pricing varies based on where you’re flying to and from, so if you plan to fly from New York City to Los Angeles and want this service, you will have to pay $38 extra roundtrip, but if you want to go from Dallas to Kansas City, it will cost you $18 roundtrip.

The hope seems to be that customers are so fed up with standing in the aisles of an airplane waiting for the person in front of you to squeeze bags into the overhead compartment that they will fork over the extra money. But what exactly do you get by paying this fee?

Customers who choose to buy into the Boarding and Flexibility Package, as it’s called, will be placed in the “Group 1 of General Boarding,” which according to the airline’s site, “allows you to be one of the first groups to board the plane for your flight.” In other words, you will beat out much of the crowd boarding the plane, but you’ll still have to deal with the unknown number of other passengers who pay for this service, plus any disabled or pregnant passengers who always have priority to board early.

Still, to be fair, this fee does offer a few other interesting perks, including a $75 discount should you decide to change flights and the option to be put on a standby list for flights leaving earlier in the day free of charge. Yet, it’s hard not to view this as just another desperate money-making venture, especially coming from the airline that announced plans to charge extra for blankets just a few months ago. American Airlines is clearly trying to dispel the stigma around new airline fees by packaging this option under the heading “Your Choice.”

Would you be willing to pay to skip ahead in line when boarding a plane, or do you think this is a waste of money? Let us know in the comments section!

Check out MainStreet's roundup of the most absurd airline fees.

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