BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- If airline passengers want comfort, perks and entertainment during their trip, they'll need to treat their trip like a restaurant without a liquor license and bring their own.
It's been a banner month for the beleaguered U.S. flier, as rising fuel prices prompted American Airlines (AMR) to raise round-trip fares by $10 -- a figure fellow network airline lemmings United (UAL), U.S. Airways (LCC), Delta (DAL) and Continental will almost certainly match -- for the major airlines' seventh fare hike of the year. For those counting at home, that's a fare increase every $10 days.
Meanwhile, while American was adding $5 to its $25 fee for phone orders and JetBlue (JBLU - Get Report) was tacking on $5 to its $30 second-bag fee, Continental was taking away free pretzels and cookies and pocketing the $2.8 million it pays annually for the perk. The frugality reached its cruising altitude when Delta announced that it is creating a segment of its economy class for international flights called Economy Comfort, which includes a $80 to $160 fee for seats that recline 50% more than their standard counterparts. Forget that those fees also cover extra leg room, early boarding, "free" alcohol and 50% more of the lap of some poor six-foot schlub in standard economy who has to sit behind this section: Delta just monetized reclining.
Perhaps this shouldn't be a surprise in a marketplace where the fee for the first checked bag tops out at Allegiant Air's (ALGT - Get Report) $35 and where Spirit Airlines is instituting a $20- to $45-fee for carry-ons in April, but it's easy for passengers to complain about disappearing amenities when Greyhound offers customers free Wi-Fi, outlets and baggage storage and the network airlines don't.It gets worse when you consider that the elimination of the horrific three-hour-plus waits inside an airplane before taking off have turned into a surge of pre-emptive flight cancellations. Nearly 900 more flights a month are being canceled since April by carriers who don't want to risk fines of $27,500 per passenger for violating the three-hour rule, according to an analysis this month by The Star-Ledger of New Jersey. For people with nowhere to go but on airplane that's not going anywhere, it could be a long wait in an unfriendly, expensive airport terminal. Before fliers head there, TheStreet suggests packing an entertainment and travel survival kit full of the following six items that neither security can't take and fees can't touch: