What travelers really think about airline fees

What travelers really think about airline fees

Ancillary fees are big business for airlines. A recent industry report suggests that North American carriers collected $17.2 billion in ancillary revenue during 2013.  But what are these fees really costing airlines in terms of customer satisfaction? As airlines gear up to add yet more fees in 2014, new research from Fly.com reveals a discrepancy between the services that fliers are willing to pay for and the services and amenities currently being offered to them.

It comes as no surprise that baggage fees top the list as the biggest objection for today’s airline passengers.  Of the travelers surveyed by Fly.com, 89 percent said it was important that airlines stop charging for checked baggage.  In contrast, 42 percent would pay to have dedicated overhead bin space for their hand luggage, and 35 percent would pay to have their checked luggage come out first at baggage claim.

Travelers are also willing to shell out for things that improve comfort and efficiency – both on board and at the airport.  At a time when airlines are shrinking the size of seats and moving them closer together, 89 percent of survey respondents felt that comfortable seats were an important requirement of air travel.  Moreover, 45 percent would pay for extra legroom, 26 percent would pay to have an empty middle seat next to them, and another 34 percent would pay to prevent the seat in front of them from reclining.  At the airport, 36 percent of fliers said they would purchase a fast pass to speed through security.

“U.S. airlines collected more than $2.5 billion from baggage fees during the first 9 months of 2013 alone,” said Warren Chang, vice president and general manager, Fly.com.  “While lucrative, it is important that airlines balance profit against the needs and interests of their passengers.  Our latest survey reveals the type of ancillary opportunities that can bolster passenger satisfaction, while also delivering new revenue streams to the airline industry.”

Other Survey Findings:
-  The most popular bundled fare packages include waived baggage fees (88%), confirmed seat selection (45%), and a security fast pass (35%)
-  46% of travelers have not chosen the cheapest flight because of flight times
-  40% of travelers would like complimentary meals during their flight
-  Half of Fly.com respondents list price as the most important factor when purchasing airfare
-  10% of travelers choose flights based on brand loyalty.  However nearly all of these would switch to a different airline if the ticket was at least $51 cheaper
-  26% of travelers have not chosen the cheapest flight because of too many stops

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The Fly.com survey questioned 613 U.S. travelers between Jan. 5 and Jan. 9, 2014.  All respondents were Travelzoo.com and Fly.com users.