When it comes to airlines' business models, there's no question that the last decade has been filled with turbulence – just pick your poison: rising fuel costs, political unrest, and a sluggish global economy. Fortunately ancillary revenues have done much to re-write that gloomy narrative.
But as much as ancillary revenues –both fee and serviced based – have aided airlines’ bottom lines, they’ve done so in a way that has benefitted travellers too by giving them choice: whether it’s the option to purchase weather protection insurance, seat preference, concierge services, or products designed to enhance their trip. Thanks, however, to increasing smartphone adoption rates averaging about 40% adoption in France, 42% in the US (with some demographics and income brackets at 60%) and more than 50% in both the UK and Spain, the technologies’ “always on” benefits means that travellers are reluctant to be disconnected from their mobile devices – even for the relatively short duration of a several-hour flight.
Partly due to this smartphone technological advance, there has been renewed focus on serviced-based ancillary revenue streams, as they are perceived to provide greater value versus other ancillaries that have been viewed as “nickel and diming” schemes, certainly within the United States.
Faced with this challenge, airlines have had to adapt, mining news ways to offer new services – well beyond traditional serviced-based ancillaries like travel insurance, car hire, or hotel booking. One revenue development comes from the clouds – literally. While airlines still can’t control the weather, they can help protect against a rainy day. Taking out weather protection cover gives travellers a pay out if bad weather disrupts their trip. Unlike traditional insurance though, weather protection is based on the cost mitigation formulas of large corporations and agribusinesses. For instance, if rainfall at a given location exceeds averages for the time in question or if the sun fails to show (again, at least less than what would be expected based on meteorological averages) a predetermined amount of money is automatically paid to them.
More than simply charging for a pillow or blanket, the above examples demonstrate that the airlines industry really is thinking outside the traditional ancillary revenue box. For passengers, the expression “getting there is half the fun,” was never more accurate. The other half, of course, comes down to the wealth of exciting new and sustainable ancillary revenue sources throughout the entire booking process. Travellers are eager to embrace these new offerings. Airlines must continue delivering on their needs, ensuring smooth skies for all.