Airline Add-Ons: A Solution

Recently I was on a flight (Continental) where a meal service was offered. For free. It was such a surprise, and it immediately improved my opinion of the airline.

I was talking to Nancy about how rare it is to have such a service included with flights nowadays. Everything seems to be a bonus that you can add on for $5. A snack pack, a meal, an alcoholic drink, headsets, pillows, a blanket, etc. Once I step on the plane, all of these things become unnecessary perks that I can do without since I don’t want to spend another penny on the flight.

However, I still want those things. I still want the pillow, the snack pack, the gin and tonic (drinking at 20,000 feet is the best). How can an airline get me to pull out my wallet? Here’s how:

Simple psychology: If someone is spending $300 on something, it’s easy to get them to add another $10 to the total at the point of purchase. That’s a 3% increase–that’s nothing. However, if you wait a few days after they’ve paid the $300, their willingness to add that $10 goes way down because it feels like a brand new expense.

Based on that premise, airlines should sell perks at the point of purchase–when people buy the tickets. Of course, you’d have to offer the add-ons at a slight discount from their price on the plane, because otherwise people will convince themselves to wait until that point and probably not buy them. Offer a prepurchased rum and Coke for $4, the in-flight version for $6. Same for the snack pack.

The information could be printed on your boarding pass. The additional genius of this is that if you decide on the flight that you don’t want your run and Coke, the airline just gained $4 without spending anything. That risk is incurred by the consumer. I know that I would be willing to incur that risk if it were presented up front when I’m charging a large sum of money to my credit card.

Thoughts? Would you pre-pay for airline perks and add-ons?