This isn’t surprising – in consulting, we always referred to the exit rows as "poor man’s first class." So now that Northwest is charging for the seats, the phrase is justified. This obviously has potential to get quite out of hand – as Jackie Huba states, "…but really, what’s next? Inserting quarters to keep the overhead light on?"
The management consultants are hard at work again at the legacy carriers, first removing blankets and pillows to speed boarding and free up space – then introducing fees for crappy headsets and 7-11 quality snacks – moving into "zone boarding" that’s thwarted by all of the frequent flyers who get on early anyway – disallowing families with infants to pre-board – and eliminating stand-bys.
Why can’t airlines try to improve profitability by improving customer experience? Rather than taking things away, figure out how to make things better! Last time I flew somewhere (Delta, ATL/BOS) – I was definitely an optimized revenue mile…as a thin profit margin hurtling through the atmosphere in a metal tube. Contrast that with JetBlue, where I’ve almost always had a great experience – even when a flight was delayed for mechanical for 3 hours. B6 makes it worth your while. And they always smile.