As summer ends, flyers brace for airline changes

The grip U.S. airlines have on travelers' wallets is about to get tighter.

That's as carriers proceed with plans to trim their domestic schedules to save on the high cost of fuel.

Executives acknowledge that despite the economic downturn, fares will rise, discounts currently available will be scarce, and routes and frequencies of flights will be reduced. That's as domestic capacity is cut through the end of the year.

The changes starting in September come atop a litany of new charges for luggage, drinks, pillows and other amenities. Those charges were announced by some airlines earlier this year.

But American Airlines frequent flier Chris Bardasian says "airline travel is airline travel - it's been bad for a long time." Interviewed at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Bardasian suspects "prices will go up, fewer people will travel, and if you're willing to pay the price it will be fine."

There were sharp capacity cuts during prior weak economic periods in the early 1990s and between 2001 and 2003. But fares fell as discount carriers moved in and filled the void, offering more competition. But the high price of oil, airlines' limited ability to further cut certain costs and the fact that many of the discount carriers are facing the same difficulties as the big carriers make things different this time.

On a recent day at DFW Airport, Wichita Falls disc jockey Vicki Schweiss said she might not be visiting her parents in Los Angeles quite so often this fall.

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