Add-On Airline Fees: Good or Bad?

I fondly remember the days when purchasing an economy class airline ticket included free checked bags, a meal and a full seat map from which to pick a seat. Today, however, many airlines are charging for those features and one report claims it's a good thing.

Getty Images

Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorks Company and author of the report entitled "Shocking News: A la Carte Shopping is Good for Consumers," says these add-on fees — known as ancillary fees — are good for both consumers and airlines. They give consumers the right to choose those services they want and airlines need the money the fees generate to help cover rising fuel costs.

"Gone forever are the days when a single price described the all-inclusive fare between two cities. Consumers now begin the booking experience with a shopping cart into which they add services and products to the base product of an airline seat," Sorensen says in the report.

While it may be hard for my generation of traveler to now pay for what used to be free, it's the new reality and a change that will last.

Veteran industry analyst and co-founder of Atmosphere Research Group Henry Harteveldt agrees. In a keynote speech to the OpenTravel Alliance Advisory forum Harteveldt said, "More travelers are willing to consider trading up to save time and reduce hassle" for a customized travel experience. Ancillary fees allow today's traveler to pick and choose if they want to pay for priority boarding, better seats or an onboard snack.

Nawal Taneja, aviation professor emeritus at Ohio State University, says charging for a seat near the front of the plane is a good thing. He says it "is providing greater value to someone who's willing to pay for it," according to an article in Cleveland's The Plain Dealer.

But another study found that the most common ancillary fee for checking a bag has caused overall passenger satisfaction to drop. A J.D. Power study released last week says baggage fees continue to be "a customer sore point." Passengers who paid to check bags had an average satisfaction score 85 points lower than other passengers.

Could the lower satisfaction scores from the bag fee simply be a reaction like mine where paying for what once was free is now just hard to swallow? I believe the new generation of traveler who never experienced these fees might not think twice about them as they're nothing new.

As an elite frequent flyer on multiple airlines, I enjoy many of the ancillary services for free. But I, too, might be in the camp that a fee for priority boarding and a better seat is a good thing if I found myself flying an airline on which I didn't have status.

Tell us what you think. Are these fees a good thing or bad thing as a traveler?