Some fliers would pay if it could get them off the plane faster.
That’s according to a survey by Airfarewatchdog.com, a fare-tracking site that found 16% of respondents were willing to pay to be at the front of the line when their flight lands. Of that group, 10% would pay $10 and 3% would pay as much as $20.
Many fliers in coach class already pay airlines from $9 to $39 extra to get on flights ahead of others in the boarding process.
“They’re willing to pay to board early and sit in those uncomfortable seats, so why wouldn’t they pay for the reverse, to get out of those uncomfortable seats?’ says George Hobica, Airfarewatchdog’s founder. “That would make the whole experience less torturous.”
An early exit can also give fliers more time to make their connections. Airlines have gotten better at getting passengers to their destinations on time. In the first four months of this year, major U.S. carriers had an on-time arrival rate of 84.54%, their best performance for that period in 18 years, according to the Transportation Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
But even if their flight’s not delayed, passengers often have little cushion to make a connecting flight. Paying a few more dollars to be first off the plane could be an advantage, Hobica says.
No U.S. carrier currently charges such a fee. But that doesn’t mean it’s not coming, Hobica says.
“I never thought they would start charging for carry-on bags, or even for pets, so you never know,” Hobica says.
Charging extra for services that were once part of the basic airfare has proved to be a profit booster for the airline industry.
In the first three months of 2012, U.S. carriers reaped $816 million in baggage fees and $631 million in fees for changes to reservations, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
“I think it means the difference between profitability and financial disaster for some airlines,” Hobica says.
New fees keep popping up. As of Oct. 31, ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines will be charging passengers $2 for printing out a boarding pass at an airport kiosk, spokeswoman Misty Pinson says.
“We are encouraging customers to print their boarding passes before arriving to the airport,” she says. “This allows us to keep costs lower and we, in turn, pass this savings along to our customers.”