Everyone knows that it costs more to fly during the holidays. For as long as there have been airfares, those fares have been priced higher whenever there was peak demand: Thanksgiving, New Year's Eve, and the Fourth of July weekend all come to mind.
Not content with fares, though, airlines have started a new tradition: in addition to charging more for the ticket, you'll now have to pay a special $10 "holiday fee" for the privilege of doing so.
The holiday fee was announced last week by American and United. A few days later, U.S. Airways and Delta came out in support of it. Today, Continental jumped on the bandwagon. At least among the legacy carriers(1), it's a done deal.
No one can say whether the low-cost airlines like Southwest, JetBlue, and AirTran will join this insanity. I doubt it; Southwest didn't even adopt baggage fees, and the others are likely to benefit more from increased holiday bookings by passengers protesting their usual carriers than they would by adding this sort of junk fee.
I know that many of the airlines have struggled with reduced business bookings and excess capacity during the recession. I sympathize, and I have defended them on more than one occasion. But the "holiday fee" is nothing more than a fare hike by another name, added onto what are already higher-than-other-days holiday fares.
There's just no excuse, and I hope that this comes back to bite them in a big way.
1 Excluding Alaska Airlines, which is also technically a legacy carrier but often behaves as a special case since it retains near-monopoly status within its home territory.