What are today's modern-day fliers willing to pay for? A new survey finds out.
Research conducted by Fly.com suggests that we are willing to pay more for services that we really want, but some standard charges -- such as baggage fees -- may be costing airlines in customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Add-on fees are big business in today's aviation industry. Some airlines, such as Ryanair, offer bargain-bucket seat prices before layering on extras to make a profit, including charges to check-in online (or at the airport), baggage fees, or for a little more legroom -- while blasting announcements of "amazing deals" on perfume and alcohol onboard. Other carriers keep to standard charges for baggage, and then offer travelers different classes for flying and costs for different bag weights.
Airlines must make money, and you -- generally -- pay for what you get, if you compare Ryanair to Virgin Atlantic, for example. But as fuel costs rise and more fees are being introduced, is there a discrepancy between the services that fliers are willing to pay for and the services and amenities currently being offered to them?
After surveying 613 U.S. travelers between Jan. 5 and Jan. 9, 2014, Fly.com and Travelzoo.com discovered that baggage fees top the list of complaints in terms of charges, with 89 percent saying that companies should 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 pay to improve their comfort when flying -- both onboard and while waiting at the airport. In total, 89 percent of survey respondents felt that comfortable seats were an important requirement of air travel, and almost half (45 percent) are happy to 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 said they would happily pay a little extra to zoom 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."