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Feb
14

New and Improved Travel Bundles

the add-ons

the add-ons

Do you remember a few years back, around 2010 when most of the US Airlines unbundled their service, charging separately for baggage, food, even reserved seating? So basically you were wowed by the cheap cost of the ticket but reality soon came crashing down on you that by the time you paid for your bag, your seat reservation and your meal, well, you were getting dangerously close to what a ticket used to cost before they unbundled.

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Well, now they are rebundling. And they’re doing it in pretty complicated ways that left me seriously wondering what the hell I was paying for. Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote about the new premium economy seats in Virgin? Well, check this out— they don’t call it that. They call it Main Cabin Extra. Say what?

this is gonna cost you

this is gonna cost you

I know. And it gets worse.

There’s “Ascend” or “Lift” “Choice Seats” or “Choice Plus?” “Main Cabin Select,” “Main Cabin Extra” or even “Main Cabin Express.”

Based on past purchases and profiles, airlines have finally figured out who wants what and now they’re learning how to bundle options in packages designed to get customers to spend more. They also are increasingly tailoring and targeting bundles to specific customers.

“A coach seat is not a coach seat anymore,” said Tim Mapes, from Delta which started offering two packages called “Ascend” and “Lift” aimed at business travelers and plans many more packages targeted to different kinds of travelers

Just look at Delta’s website. They completely rebuilt it so customers can target specific bundles to particular travelers and trips. For example, a business traveler who occasionally buys Wi-Fi service, for example, may get an offer that includes town-car or even helicopter service to downtown. And a family heading to the beach may get offered a package with meals, drinks, baggage fees, lounge access or in-flight movies.

And sometimes, it totally makes sense to buy a bundle.

early boarding, is it worth it?

early boarding, is it worth it?

Like the change-fee waivers—always a great idea when you don’t know what might happen. But some are a waste of most travelers’ dollars: Spending $177 for early boarding and a regular seat near the front of the coach cabin for a round-trip, cross-country itinerary on US seems like a rip-off when you can get extra-legroom seats for about the same price on other airlines.

So how does it look? Well if you go on an airline website like American, the first thing that’s shown is the basic low fare, plus a Choice Essential fare that is $68 more round-trip and a Choice Plus fare that is $88 more than the lowest price. Choice Essential gets you Group 1 boarding, a checked bag and a waiver of the airline’s $150 domestic-change fee. Choice Plus adds a cocktail and 50% mileage bonus.

See how it works?

Putting the bundle into the first fare screen rather than throwing add-on fees at customers after they select a price is a great idea because it allows for full transparency.

yes, yes, yes!

yes, yes, yes!

Which airline bundles are worth the price?

1. American. Change fee waiver. Avoiding the airline penalty to change a nonrefundable ticket, typically $150 plus the fare difference, is a big one. The $68 Choice Essential package reasonable insurance against the change fee. For travelers who pay to check bags, the $68 covers $50 in bag fees and American’s early-boarding option, which it sells separately for $18 round-trip. People who pay to check bags and like early boarding essentially get the change-fee waiver free.

2. When United Airlines switched to the Continental Airlines computer system, it lost most of its bundles but United hopes to reintroduce its Premier Travel bundle by early 2014. The bundle combined the priority-boarding package it currently sells with its Economy Plus extra-legroom seating, two checked bags and additional frequent-flier miles.

Sw, baby

Sw, baby

3. Southwest bundles priority boarding, extra frequent-flier points and an alcoholic drink into a $28 per flight Business Select up-sell of its unrestricted Anytime fare.  For $40 you can board early and get your pick of the seat—remember Southwest has open seating. The Early Boarding upgrade is available only if there are unsold Business Select spots in Southwest’s first boarding group. It’s a dog eat dog world out there. And guess what, you’re a dog.

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If you enjoy always getting the best tips, deals and insider news before everyone else then make sure to visit www.fareboom.com and follow us on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

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