Ancillary services have become integral to the airline industry and have been a prominent feature in travel trends for many years. Whether you’re doing leisure travel or just a normal business trip, you will notice that ancillaries are everywhere. They’ve become a huge factor in airline sales, corporate travel, and are a prominent feature of air merchandising. People who look up travel bookings will notice that ancillaries are one of the foremost options available. But what are ancillary services and how have they affected travel bookings and travel trends over time in the airline industry?
What are the ancillary services?
The travel industry used to originally operate in a simple set of rules in which originally you would buy a ticket and most or all of the services that that airline offers would be included as a part of your ticket price. This was very normal for the travel industry since its inception, although even in the early days there were some ancillary services.
Ancillary services are just the ability to unbundle particular services from your ticket price. This gives you an incredible amount of freedom when it comes to creating a personalized trip of your choosing. Ancillary services can be thought of like an a la carte kind of air service. Instead of getting a single ticket price that includes a meal, the seat of your choice, your bags, and everything else, the rise of ancillary services unbundled these things from the base price meaning that your ticket price became far cheaper whether it was for corporate travel or leisure travel. Now you have an option about whether you wanted to include a checked bag or seat preference – by unbundling these services, it allowed individuals who didn’t care about these to save money on every flight they took.
How have they changed over time?
As mentioned earlier, ancillary services have changed over time. Originally, they were not a major part of the travel industry at all as travel bookings were done as part of a package. You would then buy an entire package which included everything that you would need as a part of your travel with the airline industry. However, as costs started to become more expensive, the concept of budget airlines arose.
Budget airlines are particularly notable for their use of ancillaries. Ancillary services allow an airline to have the lowest ticket prices by successfully unbundling every single part of what used to be a larger whole. Now if you want to be able to choose your seat it will cost you an extra amount; if you want a pillow, headphones, a meal, or anything else, these are all services that will cost more money instead of being included in the original ticket price.
The benefit for corporate travel and airline sales has been massive. It allows corporations to have a significantly cheaper fare if they choose to not use additional services. Corporate booking tools like TTS Corporate allow their clients to add or remove ancillaries according to their needs and to the travel policies of the company, giving travelers the flexibility to add services that they find essential to have a comfortable business trip. This unbundling has also been a huge travel trend among many of the budget airlines, some of whom make almost half of all their income from these ancillary services.
This has been an important part of air merchandising as budget airlines are now capable of competing with more established veteran airlines due to the fact that their tickets prices, often the single most important factor for those engaging in leisure travel or corporate travel, are often lower than that of older airlines that use the original combination method. This has created a huge impact in travelers over the last few decades although the pendulum has begun to swing the other way.
Originally the huge amount of air merchandising was a great way of offsetting costs but now that airline travel has become cheaper overall, this unbundling has just started to feel cheap and not in the positive sense of the word. Nobody likes to feel like they’re being nickel-and-dimed by their airline for every single little thing from getting water on your flights to being able to take a carry-on bag. Some of the ancillary services have become so egregious and their charging methods so outrageous that individuals are starting to desire the bundle days back when certain things could be expected to be a part of their ticket. This is especially true if one of the ancillary services is a carry-on bag.
Most individuals who have never flown a budget airline do not realize that most budget airlines do not allow for carry-on bags unless you have paid an additional fee for them. So if you were just assuming that your carry-on bag would be covered because every other airline you flew with allowed it don’t be surprised if you are charged a significant fee at the check-in or if you are unluckier still a massive gate fee. These kinds of practices have led to a backlash against ancillary services in general and have created a new travel trend of individuals wanting to have combinations of things and the group price for items they feel should be complimentary. By simply including the original package back in the ticket price, clients are able to get a reliable, regular, and repeatable travel experience without all the air merchandising.
Are they a better deal?
One of the big questions in the travel industry is to wonder if ancillary services are better than a full package. The answer is: it depends. Some travelers have found ways to make ancillary services work for them very well and can travel with budget airlines almost anywhere in the world as long as they are okay with either having limited baggage allowances, limited services, or a lesser quality travel experience. In essence, ancillary services trade quality for the price. If you are willing to have fewer airline services available for getting a less expensive ticket, then ancillary services are great. If, however, you have a higher expectation of customer service, a higher expectation of your travel experience, and a sense of what should be complementary, then ancillaries may be a bit of a problem for your travel booking.
Regardless of what you decide to do, ancillary services, although they are not as popular as they have been previously, are likely to continue to be an important part of the airline industry and travel bookings for many years to come and so deciding whether these are the kinds of services you would like to receive or simply have included in your ticket price will determine how you enjoy and experience the airline industry now and into the future.