Journal reporter Stephanie Chen on changes coming to US Air’s domestic flights today.

Charging for checked luggage and legroom isn’t enough for some carriers — starting today, coach passengers flying aboard US Airways Inc. must pay for a drink of water.

This morning, US Airways began charging fliers $2 for bottled water and sodas and $1 for teas and coffees. First class members, trans-Atlantic passengers and a select group of others are exempt from the extra fees.

“This is another clever way to masquerade airfare increases without increasing airfares,” says Randy Petersen, editor of Inside Flyer Magazine. “Everything has been passed along to the consumer.”

The Tempe, Ariz.-based airline is among many other carriers scrambling to cut costs and boost revenues amid skyrocketing fuel prices. For now, other major airlines including AMR Corp.’s American Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc., and Northwest Airlines Corp. say they won’t resort to the a la carte beverage system yet but will continue researching all possible ways to save money. Discount carriers AirTran Holdings Inc., JetBlue Airways Corp. and Southwest Airlines Co say they will also continue serving complimentary beverages.

Continental Airlines Inc. — one of the few airlines left that serves free meals on certain domestic flights — says it is unlikely to abandon its free beverage service. Continental says charging for a soda would detract from passenger comfort. “That’s always been our philosophy, and it’s one that works well with us,” says spokeswoman Julie King.

Several other low-cost carriers like Spirit Airlines Inc and Allegiant Air, LLC began charging for beverages a few years ago. These low-budget airlines say their business model offers “unbundled” deals, which strip away extra costs and charge only for the flight. Spirit and Allegiant officials say customers like this plan, which allows flyers to add on extra drinks and snacks only if they desire.

US Airways says it will provide water and drinks for passengers in cases of medical emergency and during extensive delays. If a desperately thirsty passenger does forget a few extra dollars, US Airways spokesman Morgan Durrant says flight attendants will likely “err on the side of the customer” and give him or her water. After all, the airline wouldn’t want its customers drinking tap water from the aircraft bathroom. That water is safe to drink, just not very palatable, according to Durrant.

“Frankly, that’s just not classy,” he says.