Travelers naturally get agitated when they’re asked to pay for services that used to be provided at no extra charge—airline baggage fees being the most obvious example. While price hikes and new fees are rampant in the travel industry, airlines and hotels are also trying to boost revenues by tempting customers into pulling out their wallets for extras that actually seem like something special.
Here are four of the latest examples:
Putting Seat Reservations on Sale
To some travelers, it’s ludicrous that airlines are charging fees simply guaranteeing flight passengers a specific seat on board the plane. It is also beyond annoying to have to pay for a seat reservation just to guarantee that your family isn’t split up on a flight. American Airlines is trying to make the idea of paying for a reserved seat more palatable by discounting its usual fees this week. Through August 5, the airline’s “Preferred Seats” are discounted by 25%, with sale prices starting as low as $3 per flight segment.
Auctioning Off Upgrades
The technology of a company called Plusgrade allows airlines to auction off business and first-class upgrades to coach-ticket passengers booked on long flights. International carriers such as Air New Zealand, Virgin Atlantic, El Al, and TAP Portugal are now using the service to sell off upgrades to the highest bidder, as CNBC explained:
Several days before your flight is set to depart, the airline contacts you and asks if you’d like to bid for a seat in the next class of service. The airline sets either a minimum bid, or a bidding range. You put in your offer, wait a couple of days, and if yours was the winning bid, the airline notifies you to complete the transaction. If not, you’re not any poorer.
The system, airlines are discovering, can be more profitable than simply offering upgrades for a flat amount of cash or miles. It’s certainly more profitable than flying while seats in business class and first class are empty.
Serving “Premium” In-flight Meals
Complimentary food disappeared as a mainstay on flights long ago, and frequent fliers are now well acquainted with the availability of sandwiches and meals sold on board in the range of $10 and under. US Airways just announced it is upping the ante in terms of airplane cuisine with $20 “premium meal experience.” Dubbed “DineFresh,” the option comes in two choices:
“Either a vegetarian meal consisting of a Caprese salad with balsamic dressing, Portobello mushroom tortellini, Mediterranean-style appetizer and turtle cheesecake for dessert or a protein meal consisting of citrus-marinated chicken skewers, seasonal grilled vegetables, classic shrimp cocktail and creme brulee cheesecake for dessert.”
The meal is paired with “complimentary” wine, though in this case the free wine is only available when you pay $19.99 for the meal. All premium meals must be reserved and paid for 24 hours in advance too.
Offering Faster Wi-Fi (For a Price)
As a recent traveler survey makes perfectly clear, guests get crabby when hotels charge for Wi-Fi. But establishing and maintaining a Wi-Fi network is an expense for a hotel, and it’s one that many hotels would like to pass along to guests—especially guests who require plenty of bandwidth. USA Today recently reported that large hotel companies such as Marriott and Carlson are testing out models in which properties offer two different levels of Wi-Fi: a slow connection (for free), and a fast one (for a fee).