American (not the American) airlines are slowly realizing that its better to be loved than feared. Ridiculous fees are slowly giving way to more luxurious travel options. Extra legroom, early boarding and access to quiet lounges will now be joined with airlines renting iPads and other tablets preloaded with films.


Airlines travel experience

I can’t for the life of me imagine paying $40 to board a plane quicker. Getting on a hot, cramped aluminum can where the air swirls with the germs of hundreds of passengers is not high on my list of things to do. I’d sooner spend the money at the closest bar and wait “in line” that way.

“We’ve moved from takeaways to enhancements,” says John F. Thomas of L.E.K. Consulting. “It’s all about personalizing the travel experience.”

These enhancements come down to one thing. The fees that airlines can charge have plateaued.

Technological upgrades

Technological upgrades allow airlines to sell products directly to passengers at booking, in follow-up emails as trips approach, at check-in and on mobile phones minutes before boarding. Delta Air Lines recently gave its flight attendants wireless devices, allowing them to sell passengers last-second upgrades to seats with more legroom.

And not unlike Amazon, the airlines have plenty of information about you.

“We have massive amounts of data,” says Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) CEO Richard Anderson. “We know who you are. We know what your history has been on the airline. We can customize our offerings.”

While that could benefit travelers, Mr. Anderson needs to work on not sounding so creepy.

Other airlines are working on tracking you through the airport and offering last minute deals delivered to your smartphone.

Bob Kupbens on traveling

“We want to get back to a point where people feel like travel isn’t something to endure, but something they can enjoy,” says Bob Kupbens, a former Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT) executive and Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL)’s current vice president of marketing and digital commerce.

Most fares today don’t cover the cost of flying. While the average domestic U.S. roundtrip base fare has climbed 3 percent over the past decade to $361.95, when adjusted for inflation, the price of jet fuel has nearly tripled. This has forced airlines to look at other options to get your hard earned money.

“You’re either going to go out of business or find a way to cover” your costs, says Robert E. Jordan, Southwest Airlines’ executive vice president and chief commercial officer.