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New ideas for airline fees discussed at local conference

December 02, 2012|By Hugo Martin
  • A United flight attendant swipes a credit card for a passenger's purchase.
A United flight attendant swipes a credit card for a passenger's purchase. (United Airlines )

Anyone who has flown on a commercial airline recently might assume that air carriers have run out of ideas for new passenger fees.

After all, the world’s biggest airlines are expected this year to collect $36.1 billion in revenue for food, drinks, wireless Internet service, roomier seats and checked bags.

But the airline industry is not resting on its money-making laurels.

At a three-day “Airline Information” conference in San Diego last week, airline representatives met with technology firms, marketing companies and others to discuss ways to maximize airline passenger fees.

For example, an insurance executive speaking during a meeting on fee innovations said passengers will be offered new forms of travel insurance, including policies to pay you if rain ruins your vacation or if an injury keeps you from running an endurance race.

The aim is to “send the right offers to the right customers,” said Sheila Birchall, business development director at Allianz Global Assistance.

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Giving passengers the option to pre-order an onboard premium meal is an idea that KLM Royal Dutch Airlines launched last year. That reduces how much the airline spends on free special meals, such as vegetarian dishes.

“The idea was to give people more choices but also to limit our special meal costs,” said Bas ‘t Hooft, ancillary revenue director for the airline.

But perhaps the hottest topic was how to wring the most out of passenger data collected every time you book a flight.

In the future, you can expect more airlines to offer special package deals based on your past preferences. The offers might include airline tickets bundled with onboard food, drinks and entertainment, all at a discount price.

“How do you look after your customer?” asked Rajiv Aggarwal, vice president of sales and business development for Farelogix, a Miami-based technology company. “You mine the data.”

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Follow Hugo Martin on Twitter at @hugomartin

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