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Delta Air Lines has rolled out a pay-for-space policy. The new platform is called SkyMiles Select. Passengers who pay $59 annually will have access to Delta’s Group 1 boarding, allowing them earlier chance at bin space. Customers will also receive eight free drink vouchers— worth about $70 — along with a free luggage tag.
People who board in Group 1 typically have one of the airline’s co-branded credit cards or hold lower-level frequent-flyer status on Delta or one of its partners.
This product is geared toward frequent travelers who neither have one of the airline’s American Express credit cards, which come with priority boarding, nor hold Elite frequent-flyer status.
Many airline customers covet priority boarding, but it is an odd perk. The fact is that there is not much reason to board an airplane early, unless a customer has a big bag for the overhead bin or a lot of childcare gear to stow. Many frequent flyers, especially business travelers, prefer to board last, packing light so they can spend more time relaxing in the airline’s lounge.
According to Skift, insiders believe airlines made the wrong decision more than a decade ago when they rushed to add bag fees amid soaring fuel prices. If American Airlines instituted fees for overhead bins space in 2008, rather than checked luggage, the cases of passengers fighting each other over the remaining space in current years would have been avoided.
With this enhancement, Delta may also be seeking to test the market for subscription-related services. Airlines historically have offered few of them because passengers who fly a lot can receive outsized value. The most successful long-running subscription product is United’s Economy Plus offering, which gives customers access to extra-legroom seats. Annually, customers can buy it for $599.
Many airlines also offer subscriptions for checked baggage and inflight Wi-Fi. But there are indications that more offerings are on the horizon as airlines notice the same trends in other industries. They are working to include food kit companies like Blue Apron, content services like Netflix, and retailers like Amazon. All of these efforts may contribute to making subscription packages more appealing to travelers in the future.
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