Monday, December 3, 2012

More Fees? Or Just Different Ones?

Source: LA Times
Airline fees have become commonplace in the world of travel, it is difficult to remember a time when they did not exist. Ever since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the air travel culture has dramatically changed. Now, we are so accustomed to long security lines, taking shoes off, and standing in an ominous revolving scanner, it is second nature to perform all these tasks. We are unphased by all the security protocols. But one area people still have trouble accepting is the growing number of a la carte fees that airlines serve up.

According to a recent article in The Los Angeles Times, the world's largest airlines are expected to make $36.1 billion from fees. This includes food, drinks, wireless internet, priority seating, more leg room and checked bags. Some airlines even charge for checking in online, carry-on bags and expedited service through security check points. But it does not end there. At the Airline Information conference in San Diego, representatives from various airlines discussed ways to maximize the fees they charge passengers.

There was some talk of different travel insurance offers or letting passengers pre-order on-board meals and snacks, a move to reduce uneccessary spending and waste from leftover meals. One of the biggest trends, though, is basing fees on data collected from past bookings. Basically, airlines will offer package deals based on a travelers preferences, such as bundling tickets with onboard food, drinks and entertainment, at a discount.

Mining and analyzing passenger data could be seen as a bit invasive, but the reward is a specialized deal that fits you. Plus, if you can nab a discount on fees and charges that you would have paid anyway, why not? So while this trend could result in some new and different fees, the good news is that there does not seem to be any plans to add more to the menu. In fact, it looks like airlines are finally starting to get smart about looking after customers and making them happy.

Personally, I never buy on-board snacks (I tend to bring my own)or entertainment (when else do I have time to read a book), so I would like to see some other changes. I was actually reminiscing with my dad about what air travel used to be like before 9/11, and it occurred to me that the thing I miss the most is the ability to meet people at the gate, to greet them right after they've had a long flight. I think I would keep the fees if I could get that back.

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