US Airways plans pillow, blanket fee

Comfort will come at a cost on US Airways flights next year, as Charlotte's dominant carrier plans to start charging for pillows and blankets.

Instead of what it offers now, US Airways will sell new, higher-quality pillows and blankets that customers can keep. The price likely will be $7 for a set, the airline said.

The new fee is a move toward “a la carte pricing”: charging for services and amenities once covered by the ticket cost. The Tempe, Ariz.-based airline, which operates more than 80 percent of flights in Charlotte, began aggressively pursuing that model early this year, as oil prices sent fuel costs into the stratosphere.

Yet oil prices have tumbled this fall, falling from more than $147 a barrel in July to less than $65 this month. US Airways also has cut flights and expects to raise fares.

So why bill passengers for blankets?

US Airways spokeswoman Michelle Mohr said, “It's a natural extension of our a la carte model,” and said there's no guarantee the price of oil will remain at today's lower level.

The biggest savings will come in cleaning costs for the pillows and blankets used now, Mohr said, although she didn't know Monday how much money the new fee would raise. The new pillows and blankets are expected to go on sale early next year, she said.