How Consumers View Airline Fees and Bag Policies

A significant majority of flyers dislike ‘a la carte’ fees, but more than half understand why airlines have introduced them and see value in paying only for what they want, a new survey by Amadeus North America reveals. “Flying ‘A La Carte’: Consumers Dislike Fees, But Are Willing to Pay for Choice” shows the results of a groundbreaking survey aimed at capturing how airline passengers feel about new fees.

"Over the past year we have really seen the emergence of an 'a la carte' approach in air travel. So we wanted to hear from consumers because they ultimately determine what flies and what doesn't in the marketplace," said Robert Buckman, director of airline distribution strategies for Amadeus.

According to survey results, the majority of air travelers (85 percent) dislike paying fees for services they received free as recently as a year ago. But it is telling that many consumers (52 percent) not only understand why airlines have embraced the ‘a la carte’ approach, but they also see value in the choices it brings to the flying experience.

Of the air travelers surveyed, 53 percent agree with the statement “I prefer the cheapest base ticket fare available so I can then pick and pay for extra services I want.” One in 10 say they do not mind paying for optional amenities individually. Only 18 percent prefer an all-inclusive ticket with its higher price. Less than one-third of respondents think airlines have gone too far with new fees.

“’A la carte’ is reinventing the airline retail experience for the first time in decades and creating an opportunity for airlines to deliver real differentiation among their competition and value for consumers,” said Buckman.  "And consumers won't feel nickel-and-dimed if they are getting something they value, whether it is choice, convenience or simplification.”

There is strong sentiment that some items, especially checked bags, should remain free, the survey said. Half of the respondents indicate that ticket fares should include first or second checked bags. Seventeen percent indicate blankets and pillows should be free, while 15 percent want free seat selection.

Fifty-seven percent have or would pay for food and beverages on a flight and 37 percent have or would pay extra for checked bags. Additionally, willingness to pay extends outside the fuselage, especially when it means greater flexibility and convenience. Fifty-seven percent report that they would pay extra for the ability to make ticket changes without penalty. Nearly 40 percent indicate that they would pay for less hassle and more time savings in the form of priority check-in and boarding, priority baggage handling, and the ability to fly with an additional carry-on.

Amadeus reports that travelers’ priority is getting to their destination. By a 10:1 margin, passengers agree that schedules and routes trump available amenities and services. And when it comes to holiday travel and the overall impact of economics, consumer reaction is mixed. Of those consumers who intended to fly, some are still moving forward with their holiday air travel plans (20 percent), while others are not (15 percent). Still others remain undecided about whether to stay or go (9 percent). But consumers remain optimistic for 2009 and expect to fly as much or more (63 percent) than they did this year.


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