If you like talking to an agent when you book your plane tickets, it's gonna cost you. Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, http://alaskaair.com, annouced today they'll change you an extra $10 to book your ticket with an agent at the airport, over the phone on their reservation line, with a travel agent, or on any other website but their own. It's the first time an airline's been this committed to charging you for customer service.
The move has special impact in Portland, because, combined, Alaska and Horizon operate more flights than any other airline at PDX, http://flypdx.com. They operate Alaska Air Group's second largest hub here (only the SeaTac hub is bigger), with non-stop flights to more than 30 cities, and more than 150 daily departures. Alaska Air Group carries more passengers in Oregon than any other airline... which means Oregonians will be paying more in customer service fees than residents of most other states.
So far, none of the other airlines have annouced plans to match the fees. But some analysts say it's just a matter of time.
To their credit, the airlines' on-line booking sites are much better than they used to be. And in most cases, they're much easier to use than calling on the phone or going to the airport to talk to an agent. But there are always those moments when you just can't figure it out on your own, and you need some help. Many say it's a shame they'll have to pay $10 extra for help that has always been a common courtesy.