By Jim Donovan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Extra legroom, priority boarding, checked baggage. When it comes to air travel these days, it seems like airlines are charging extra for everything.
Now, as 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan finds, packaging the perks is a trend that’s taking off. From bundles to subscription services, there are a number of offers out there.
Author Joy Preble is a frequent flier. One of her airplane pet peeves?
“People who like to lean back all the way and suddenly, you can’t even put an iPad on the little tray,” she says.
So for a recent trip, she decided to pay extra for a seat with more legroom. According to Preble, “It was a very roomy situation, and it was much more pleasant.”
Much like cable companies, cell phone providers and internet companies, airlines are now bundling extras on individual flights. Different packages offer combinations of services such as free checked bags, priority boarding, no change fees, free Wi-Fi or extra frequent flyer miles. Frequent flyer expert Gary Leff, with ViewFromTheWing.com, says, “You’re able to take multiple things, package them together, charge a lower price for each, the airline makes more and you get more things that you want.”
Some airlines are also experimenting with subscription services, allowing you to pay a flat fee for benefits on any flights you take within a set time period. But Leff believes it’s important to examine each package or subscription.
“A subscription really locks you into a single airline, and over time you may wind up paying more in airfare if you pick the same airline over and over than you would if you were going to go around and shop for the lowest price each time,” he explains.
In addition, keep in mind the routes you regularly travel. Regional jets may not have extra legroom seats, and smaller airports may not have a priority security line. Leff says, “You’re not going to get a refund, a pro-rated portion back, because on a given flight the benefit isn’t available.”
I’ve posted links to bundled offers available at Delta, Southwest, American and United below.
By the way, some airline branded credit card companies offer similar bundled benefits to their customers, such as free checked bags and priority boarding. The yearly fee may be less than you’d pay for a year’s worth of packages or subscriptions from the airline, so that too is something to think about.