When booking a flight there are a number of factors to consider – convenience, price, on-time statistics, loyalty programs, layovers, distance traveled, and total time traveling. Not only do all of these factors play a part in our decisions, but each one of us weighs each of these options differently and may even weigh them differently on a trip by trip basis. I know I have been guilty of deciding that a layover in Texas around lunchtime (BBQ!) is superior to a layover in Salt Lake City at 10am and lunch on the plane (protein bar or one of those pre-packaged lunch boxes) even if the former gets me home a bit later.
In the past few years as airlines have added amenities and unbundled their products, they have created a new class of factors for travelers to consider. Recently FlightView surveyed over 3,000 travelers about what amenities they would be will to pay a slightly higher price for a flight. The top choice – free in-flight WiFi. 53% of the respondents claimed that they would pay more for a flight if they knew the flight had free in-flight WiFi.
In the age of Online Travel Agencies (e.g. Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity), Meta-Search Web sites (e.g. Kayak, Hipmunk), and vicious price wars on routes, it’s no surprise that the airlines prefer to unbundle their services. However, the willingness to pay for a premium product does exist in the market. Our traveler survey revealed that travelers are willing to pay more for a number of other amenities too. That is, 50% of travelers would pay a higher price for extra leg room, and 45% would pay a higher price for one free checked bag. Airlines in the US have all but done away with the in-flight meal in coach, yet 33% of our respondents would still be willing to pay more in order to have a “complimentary” meal served during their flight. Likewise, 30% of travelers claimed they would pay more for free television service in-flight. For those who travel enough, a great or even good in-air experience may be worth a few extra dollars compared to the bare minimum offered to by another carrier.
Today, the trend is to unbundle services and airlines claim that by doing so, they are enabling people who could otherwise not afford to fly, the ability to do so. By charging separately for additional services, airlines are allowing everyone to fly how they choose – either with amenities or not. Having said that, it’s annoying to have to pay separately for every service and this may turn off loyal travelers. Therefore, to maximize profits, airlines may want to balance package amenities vs those paid for separately.
Are there amenities that you can’t live without when in flight? Are you the traveler who prefers the lowest price possible and will accept bare minimum services? We want to hear what you think.