So far airlines have taken the commercial approach to personalisation by unbundling fares. But while travellers like the freedom of choice they can feel overwhelmed by the options and even though prices are more transparent it's a pain to see what can feel like a never-ending list of 'add this to your booking'.
For travel managers, ancillaries form part of the challenge around obtaining the total cost of trip but not many are aware of the amount spent on extras. During a roundtable discussion I sat in on at the London Business Travel Summit not one buyer knew what was being spent on amenities although others are being savvier.
At the ACTE/CAPA summit Karen Hutchings, global head of travel meetings and events at EY commented that she negotiates rates using the frequent flyer status of her travellers which drives some inclusions. Airlines usually suggest signing up to loyalty programmes, whether individual or corporate, to bundle ancillaries back into the fare. However, Manon Luiting, travel manager at Damen Shipyards says many buyers need help knowing where and how they can use points to get the most benefit.
Earlier in the day Lori O'Connell, senior director, travel and meetings at PwC said she's discussing the total value with airlines incorporating items such as lounge access and baggage fees rather than focusing on squeezing the percentage.
Whatever approach buyers take, it unfortunately appears that ancillaries are only going to get more complex. Ian Heywood, global head of product and marketing at Travelport believes the skillset in airlines to merchandise is currently not great, so when they do get out of the silo mentality airlines could get even shrewd. He also believes airlines "are not working well together to maximise more ancillary sales out of agencies and TMCs".
The low-cost carriers are currently winning when it comes to ancillaries. Full service carriers are upping their game but when they have up to four cabin classes and the product can differ by aircraft, it becomes a confusing marketplace.
AirAsia's CEO Tony Fernandes thinks airlines in the future will have a good quality economy product and others that people are willing to pay extra for — probably not too dissimilar from how it used to be. "Airlines are trying to be everything to everyone and those days are numbered; they need to be a full service carrier or low-cost-carrier," he said.