Airlines listened. They understood. And, over the last nine years, they have acted.
In 1990, tickets included checked and carry-on baggage. Curbside baggage checks were for the airlines' convenience as much as their passengers, and these were free (tips aside). Virtually every flight included at least a sandwich; mealtimes called for hot meals.
Fast-forward to 2009.
Meals? Free only on Continental; otherwise, plan for $6-8. U.S. Airways desperately wanted you to pay $2 for that soft drink, but thankfully, their competitors held the line. For now.
Checking bags will cost you $15-20 for the first bag, and as much as $50 for the second. Add $2-3 to check those bags at the curb. Oh, and if you didn't pay those fees online, United and U.S. Airways plan to charge you an extra $5 for the privilege of paying the fees in person at the airport.
Want to choose a specific seat? You'll pay as much as $20 for an exit row or aisle seat on most airlines; some charge for choosing any seat.And RyanAir, the Irish carrier at the vanguard of fee creation, has added a fee for checking in online; the airline plans to outright eliminate its airport check-in desks.
Socialized air travel is dead. Today, you will pay for everything you want a la carte. And if that means paying a higher bottom line price, well... learn to want less. Welcome to the ownership society.