Packaging airline perks is a trend that's taking off


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Packaging airline perks is a trend that's taking off

By Stephanie Graham, Tom Murray. CREATED Apr 8, 2014

MILWAUKEE - Author Joy Preble flies around the country to sign books and meet fans, but all that travel comes with its own annoyances.  One of her pet peeves?  

"People who like to lean back all the way, and suddenly you can't even put an iPad on the little tray," Joy says.

So for a recent trip, she decided to pay extra for a seat with more legroom.  Joy recalls, "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 WiFi or extra frequent flyer miles. 

Airlines for America, the commercial airline trade association, says these packages and subscriptions allow consumers to get a better prices on the extras they want while airlines make the revenue they need.  Jean Medina is Senior Vice President for Airlines For America.  "Last year the airlines made 37 cents per enplaned passenger. Had they not offered additional services that customers were willing to pay for, they would have lost 8 dollars per passenger."

Frequent Flyer expert Gary Leff says it's important to examine each package or subscription, to make sure it's really going to be worth it for you.

"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," Leff warns.

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. 

As for Joy, she says she's now 'on board' with buying a subscription if it means a more comfortable ride.  "Not having somebody, you know, literally make me incapable of putting a glass on the tray, um I've decided that that's, that's worth it for me."

Leff says subscriptions are most worth it to travelers who fly 10 to 15,000 miles a year on a single airline.  That's enough to get your money's worth out of the deal--but not so much that you gain elite status - which could provide you with the same perks for free.

Remember 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.