Have Airlines Run Out Of Annoying Fees?

So, it’s not exactly good news, but between the toilet tax and priority boarding fees, Reuters thinks that airlines may have run out of “perks” worth excluding from a ticket’s base price. The bad news? All those new airline fees aren’t going anywhere. American Airlines, which last year pocketed an extra billion in “ancillary revenue,” calls them “a pretty big success story.”

Experts generally agree that airlines are running out of ways to charge for items that customers currently take for granted. But that won’t stop carriers from introducing new items and services to sell on flights, said Andrew Watterson, an airline consultant and at Oliver Wyman, a management consulting company.

“Unbundling was the trend, and that did create lots of value in the airlines. The future is in rebundling,” said Watterson.

He noted the influx into coach cabins of superior-quality meals, day passes to airport lounges and the option to purchase frequent flyer miles. All these can be purchased on some airlines for additional fees.

BTC’s Mitchell agreed. He said that airlines are beefing up their merchandising and soon will sell many more perks in cabins that previously did not have access to them.

“They’re going to use the cabin for all manner of merchandising,” Mitchell said.

“There’s all kinds of opportunities,” he said. “You have a captive audience.”

Oh boy, merchandising, just we wanted on our next flight!

We’re sure the airlines will eventually find a way to keep the fee spigot from stopping up; like, oh, charging more for existing fees, maybe?

U.S. airlines may have reached limit on new fees [Reuters via Rick Seaney]
(Photo: ragekagekaren)


Edit Your Comment

  1. 6a says:

    I’m seriously amazed they haven’t sold advertising space on the body of the plane itself. Come to think of it, the back of the headrests would have a fairly captive audience. And why not “Would you like a Wells Fargo pillow, sir?”

  2. WOPDingo says:

    Pretty soon, they’ll charge you a charge-cessation fee. But hey, if we have to look on the bright side, at least we don’t have jets plastered with adverts like easyJet. Yet…

  3. Shadowfire says:

    When my wife and I flew to Illinois in December for my grandmother’s funeral, the plane was stuck on the ground for an hour because they didn’t put water on board. Basically, to keep it from freezing at night, they drain all the water, then add it in before takeoff. They forgot that second part, and god forbid we not be able to wash our damn hands.

    We missed our connecting flight in Detroit because of this, and we almost missed the funeral if Continental had their way.

    Seeing this, maybe it was the start of a new fee… an “in time for your connecting flight” fee.

  4. Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

    Buying frequent flier miles? Wouldn’t you just buy a ticket ….?

  5. WOPDingo says:

    @ Eyebrows McGee: Sometimes you need to buy a couple hundred miles just to get to the point where you can by an upgrade or get a completely free flight. It’s easier/cheaper than buying and using a whole other ticket and accompanying flight. So I can’t really fault the airlines too much for that.

  6. mxjohnson says:

    “Have Airlines Run Out Of Annoying Fees?”


    We’re flying to Australia this summer — fares are cheeeeep right now — with our six year old. Delta offers a $100 child fare discount, which is nice. Then again, you can’t book a child’s fare online. And there’s a $20 fee per ticket if you book over the phone. Ha ha ha!

    Still, I’ll take the discount. And roundtrip to Australia for under $1000, even with fuel surcharges and taxes and baggage fees? I’m in.

  7. MFfan310 says:

    A while back, there was an airline called Skybus that tried selling perfume, wristwatches, wallets, and other assorted stuff while in the air in addition to charging fees for everything.

    Next thing you know, United, Delta, American, and the ilk will be selling Acqua di Gio, Jean Paul Gaultier Ma Dame, Fossil watches, Dooney & Bourke handbags, concert tickets from Ticketmaster, mortgage-backed securities… it’s “SkyMall” at a whole new altitude! (pun intended)

    • johnfrombrooklyn says:

      @MFfan310: That happens all the time already on many overseas airlines and on long overseas flights.

    • Dafrety says:

      @MFfan310: Oh god I hope they made people not put perfume on until they get off the plane. Last time I was on a plane this old woman had it on so heavy I could barely breathe.

    • t325 says:

      @MFfan310: On recent international flights I’ve been on, United, Lufthansa and British Airways all came around with the duty free cart to sell stuff. I don’t know about the perfume and booze prices, but the prices for electronic goods were way overpriced

    • deliciouscake says:

      @MFfan310: now for sale at skymall, novelty pocket knives!

    • B* says:

      Yep, I remember that! I was a big fan of Skybus despite the annoying “hey wanna buy a bookbag or hat” spiel they made the flight attendants repeat over and over. For a somewhat-poor young adult fresh out of college, I would put up with a lot for a cheap flight! Well, I still would. Oh, how I miss Skybus. :(

  8. R3PUBLIC0N says:

    United Airlines the lunchbox! United Airlines the breakfast cereal! UNITED AIRLINES THE FLAMETHROWER!

  9. Plates says:

    No doubt they’ll come up with a flight survival fee if nothing happens.

  10. madame_underpants says:

    United Airlines the lunchbox! United Airlines the breakfast cereal! UNITED AIRLINES THE FLAMETHROWER!

    Love the spaceballs referrence !

    No really there is probably going to be a a$$hole tax or annoying mouth breather tax for any flight that has more than 3 people booked on it pretty soon.

  11. nospacesinmyname says:

    seat fees
    in-cabin travel fee
    seat belt fee
    barf bag fee
    life raft fee
    emergency exit fee

    hey maybe I can get a job :D

  12. usa_gatekeeper says:

    USAir threw in the towel on charging for drinks. Says USair now, “Enjoy complimentary sodas, juice, tea, coffee and water on your next flight.”

    What made them give in? Lack of paying customers, maybe.

    • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

      @usa_gatekeeper: probably too much negative PR, and/or they get tons of positive PR by reversing the fee- “oh look, we’re not 100% fee-crazy! here, have a drink at no extra charge*!”

      *cost of drink included in ticket price

    • Papercutninja says:

      @usa_gatekeeper: Yeah, it’s definitely a negative perception issue. While soft drinks are VERY high in terms of profit margins, the amount of profit they would make is minimal even if a lot of people were willing to pay for drinks. I got really pissed off when they announced on my flights that the drinks were not free.

  13. Ouze says:

    The really fascinating thing here is that there is no way for them to fail. If they can’t generate enough revenue to be profitable, even with these onerous fees, now they know they can cry to the government for a bailout, rather then, you know, [i]fix their business[/i].

    United – whether you fly with us, or we take your tax dollars, we’re getting your money.

  14. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    @Ouze: Sadly, I thought I was going to get away with the one fee I thought they couldn’t charge.

    The “You chose to drive and not fly with us” fee.

    Your government bailout statement pretty much shattered my dream to tell the airline industry as a whole to go to hell.

  15. Tsubasa says:

    Of course it’s successful… raising prices equals more income. I just don’t understand why they don’t just raise fares though, instead of trying to trick people. They’re not fooling anyone, they’re just making their customers angry. And don’t say it’s because people pick the airline based on just the ticket fare… they do, but all the airlines are charging the same fees.

    Eventually Orbitz is going to show all the tickets as $5 – $10, and when you get to the airport there’ll be a $600 “using the boarding walkway” fee.

  16. MitchEvious says:

    I’m going to add the obligatory “Or we could all follow Southwest’s example” response.

  17. Employees Must Wash Hands says:

    Oh boy, merchandising, just we wanted on our next flight!

    I hate it when they force flight attendants to walk up and down the aisle peddling duty free crap or credit card applications. But there’s plenty of opportunities for them to sell things people actually might want to buy.

    Selling things like in-flight wifi, etc., are much more acceptable than walking down the aisles with cheap perfume for sale.

  18. Baccus83 says:

    I was on a US Air flight once where the tray tables were covered in Verizon Ads. Every time you wanted to set your drink down, you had to stare at the Verizon guy.

    But that’s nothing.

    Every fifteen minutes they would turn on the intercom and go on about their special credit card deals. This was a LATE flight and most people wanted to get some sleep. Needless to say it’s hard to get some shut-eye with that annoying intercom sound piercing the cabin every fifteen minutes. I think maybe ONE person signed an application. And the flight attendants were so excited they got on the intercom again and encouraged us to congratulate the new card-holders. Huzzah!

    Can’t WAIT for more merchandising.

  19. cowboyesfan says:

    Don’t worry about the FA’s being forced to sell duty free, they get a commission.

  20. chris_d says:

    Check out these Allegiant fees I paid:
    FEDERAL TAXES: $57.06
    SEGMENT FEES: $14.40
    PFC: $18.00
    911 SECURITY: $10.00
    PREPAID BAGS: $30.00

    Added $200. There was only one segment and you have to choose seats. WTF is a convenience fee? What is PFC?

  21. DH405 says:

    Some day in the year 3030, people will be looking at their ticket costs for their vacation to Mars and wonder “What the fuck is a 9/11 security fee?”

  22. John Israel says:


  23. Islandkiwi says:

    Picture this. You’re on a flight, when all of a sudden a mariachi band steps up to your seat and won’t stop playing over you until you give them a buck or two. Now that’s considering the possibilities of having a captive audience!

  24. HogwartsAlum says:

    If I have to fly, they better leave me the hell alone. Or else.

  25. johnsakalauskas says:

    I’m still waiting for the bulk of the airlines to reverse all of the ‘temporary’ fees on baggage (and on niceties like headphones) that were imposed when oil was $140/bbl.

  26. veg-o-matic says:

    I just want to be duct-taped to a wing and dropped from the craft when we pass my destination – if I want the luxury of seats, engines, soft landings, or Snack Boxes, I’ll pony up the fees.

    .. and this is why I take Amtrak.

  27. burnedout says:

    I’m just waiting for the airlines to realize that if they *actually* want to profit easily they need to build a loyal customer base. How about planes that get you their on time, seats that don’t feel like they were SPECIFICALLY designed by a sadist to break your back, luggage that shows up where/when it should and in tact with your stuff in it, and employees who don’t treat you like dirt for showing up?

    The last time I bought a new cell phone the guy at Sprint was pushing me towards all sorts of bells and whistles – TV, internet, email, etc. I just asked him for the one that won’t drop my calls, gets reception in my house and office and actually connects calls so I don’t get the phantom voicemails. He just laughed and said, “good luck with that…but this one will let you watch CNN!”

    It’s the same thing with the airlines…”good luck getting there on time and we sent your suitcase to Djibouti where our ‘lost and found’ already has your stuff on eBay, but look, your Coke is FREE now!”

  28. savdavid says:

    And that is why I haven’t flown in 4 years and will never again except for an emergency.

  29. blash says:

    Oh god.

    This is why I fly Virgin America everywhere, they appear to be one of the few airlines left that actually treats its customers like PEOPLE and not money cows.

  30. TorrentFreak says:

    Peanuts and Soda fee $10

    Bathroom fee $10

    Seat belt fee$10

    Napkin fee $5

    Vomit bag fee $10

    Window seat fee $20

    Aisle seat fee $20

    Air breather seat fee $25

    Overhead compartment fee $20 (whether you use it or not)

    Seat adjustment fee $20

    Waiting to be boarding fee $20