This week British Airways joined a small but growing band of carriers that have found another way of extracting additional revenue from passengers when it launched a pre-paid menu option.
For an additional fee economy class passengers will be able to choose from a menu of five better meals for flights from London to 10 North American destinations. This will be available from 12 May.
The idea is not new. It is already being practised by a clutch of other carriers including Aer Lingus, Finnair and Qantas.
The premise is simple. The carriers have learned that price drives booking decision-making. Consumers trawl screens for the lowest fare. Travel procurement is focused on the lowest price when it chooses suppliers for its company's travel needs. Carriers have responded by cutting their products and service to the bone in order to win the business.
But there is more money to gain from a flight than the base fare.
However much buyers – leisure or business – look at every penny when sitting at the desk, the same is not true once a traveller is en route as many airport retailers' cash tills can testify. Not surprisingly the carriers want some of that revenue.
One of the British Airways options
This is part of a trend among carriers to look at revenue per available passenger rather than revenue per available seat as the important metric. And the trend is not just airlines. More and more hoteliers now look at TRevPAR (total revenue per available room) rather than the traditional RevPAR (revenue per available room), the former taking account of a guest's spend on additional items such as the bar and parking.
The more that suppliers disaggregate their offerings, the more important it becomes to drive additional revenue from the time in which the traveller is their customer.
This can make buying what's appropriate for the traveller's journey more complex for travel managers. It also makes identifying the total cost more challenging.
There is no doubt that the number of business people travelling at the back of the plane on long-haul journeys has increased substantially since the credit crunch. Many travel managers try to ease the pain by doing things such as negotiating lounge access.
The quality of British Airways' new menu has yet to be seen and tasted but at £15 - £18 it is very competitively priced and less than what most would see on an expenses return for a meal in a London restaurant, so the argument to book these for business travellers is strong.
Once booked, however, the airline has not only more revenue but more data on travellers. After all, those who choose the "Taste of Britain" menu are likely to be profiled differently for marketing purposes than those who choose the "Vegetarian Kitchen".