In the future, you can expect more airlines to offer special package deals… (Joe Raedle, Getty Images )
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 rake in $36.1 billion from fees for such things as 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 out-of-town endurance race.
The aim is to "send the right offers to the right customers," said Sheila Birchall, business development director at Allianz Global Assistance.
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 Inc., a Miami technology company. "You mine the data."
TSA urged to improve complaint collection
The Transportation Security Administration screens about 1.8 million passengers a day at more than 450 airports across the country.
But when passengers gripe about the security process, the TSA doesn't have a consistent way to collect and act on those complaints.
That was the assessment of the Government Accountability Office, which released a report last week after studying the way the TSA gathers and analyzes passenger complaints.
For example, passengers can register complaints through the TSA website, on comment cards at airport checkpoints, in conversations with TSA supervisors, through letters and phone calls to agency offices, and other ways.
But the GAO said the TSA doesn't analyze all that data because its too hard to consolidate.
"A process to systematically collect information from all mechanisms, including standard complaint categories, would better enable TSA to improve operations and customer service," the report said.
The TSA's response? The agency agreed with nearly every fix recommended by the GAO.
Obama stand on airline emissions irks EU official
Considering that President Obama has long championed the environment, it might have been a surprise that he signed a bill last week to protect U.S. airlines from complying with a European emissions-cutting effort.
The European Union plan calls for fines on international airlines that exceed emission limits when flying in and out of Europe. The U.S. airline industry, which has loudly opposed the plan, cheered Obama's support for legislation to protect it from paying the fines.
Environmentalists were not so happy.
"So far the reelected President Obama climate policies look exactly as those in the first term," read a Twitter message from Connie Hedegaard, the European Union's commissioner for climate action. "Wonder when we will see the announced change?."
But Obama's support may be moot. Under pressure from other countries, including China, the European Union last month temporarily suspended the emissions-cutting plan for airlines.