Paying for Airline Amenities is What the People Want (Really!)

The real reason why airlines are charging passengers for everything.

Whenever I tell someone that I am an employee of an airline, I more often than not hear, “Why don't the airlines give us anything for free anymore? Why don’t they give us blankets? Why do we have to buy our food?…”

I am going to tell you something you are probably not going to like: It’s the customers’ fault.

Yup. I said it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I certainly don’t love the changes that have happened on planes over the past 11 years or so. As a flight attendant, I really don’t like having to tell passengers, “No, we don’t have any free peanuts,” or, “Sorry, I don’t have a pillow to give you.”

But, the truth is that these “nickel and dime” fees have come about for a simple reason: the passengers’ willingness to accept them in order to get a lower price. 

Let’s face it: most people who are traveling on their own dime (as opposed to a company’s) are going on to websites like Orbitz, Expedia and Kayak to search for flights.

Let’s say you are looking for a flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco. One airline has a flight for $450, another for $525. As long as the time schedule works, most people will choose to save the $75.

You’ve flown on the $450 airline before. And even though you were mad because you had to buy a sandwich on board, pay a couple of bucks for headphones to watch the movie, and were chilly because you didn’t and you weren't given a blanket, you are going to fly that airline again anyway.

Because $75 is a pretty good chunk of change. And this time you’ll pack some crackers and cheese, bring your ear buds, and remember to grab your cardigan sweater.

So, why wouldn’t airlines charge? When low-budget airlines came on the scene and people started snatching up those cheap tickets and were happy with a half a can of Coke, the days of the free meal and other amenities on a domestic flight were out the window exit and down the slide.

Airlines are businesses. They need to make a profit in order to exist. Supply and demand. The demand is there for cheaper airfare, not free amenities, so that is what becomes available.

Happy flying! 

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Emily Fleck June 25, 2012 at 03:01 PM
This is why Porter Airlines is my new favorite (favorite?) airline. I pay a smidge more and get a free checked bag, free espresso and other drinks in their YTZ lounge, free booze on the flight....all totally worth it.
Susan Koomar June 25, 2012 at 10:54 PM
I don't mind paying for a cocktail on a flight and I've tried to get a lot better at making due with just a carry on rather than checked luggage. But I'll never forget my first flight to Europe on British Airways in the 1980s. Had a savory piece of salmon, which I thought was dinner - but it was only the first course! Luxury. And it wasn't even first class.
Mary Genao June 26, 2012 at 07:27 AM
European and Asian airlines continue to offer a lot of amenities for free, including meals and premium drinks. But there is also an easy explanation for that. Airlines like British Airways, Alitalia, Air France, etc. are their country's flag carrying airline, which means they are subsidized by that country's government. The US does not have a flagship carrier so everything comes down to the bottom line.
PennState June 26, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Great article and so true. Country of babies and whiners anymore.
Kusuma September 29, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Hi, Should anybody need to have that good and expensive amenity kits,please get it cheaper without flying at : http://amenityairlines.blogspot.com


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