Fees charged by airlines are the reason the industry is profitable: They bring in more than $15 billion per year. Fliers are likely familiar with baggage and reservation fees, but revenue from these sources declined 7% from April to June compared to last year in this same time period. Now, airlines are exploring other means to collect fees, and fliers may find these alternatives more appealing. For instance, airlines are allowing passengers to pay for an empty seat next to them. They are also renting iPads with movies and selling first-class meals to economy passengers. By paying a fee, fliers can also bypass baggage claim and their luggage can be sent straight to their office or residence. In the future, airlines will make use of fliers’ purchase history to better target what they offer.
The percentage of seats filled in aircraft on worldwide flights hit a record-high 83.4% in August this year. The International Air Transport Association reported that demand growth surpassing capacity has caused the spike. The same report also states that the government shutdown is not expected to affect the operation of commercial flights, although it could have an impact on demand.
Thinner backrests are in the future for United Airlines aircraft, as a means to fit more seats into each cabin. This modification will not, however, increase legroom, and the width of the seats will remain the same. The airlines retort that thinner seats are ergonomically better.