Photo (cc) by Richard Moross
A swipe of your credit card and you too can enjoy VIP status the next time you fly.
Perks like curbside-to-plane personal escorts and planeside limousine service are now offered by airlines in pampering packages once reserved for travelers having platinum status.
A new report, “VIP for a Fee: Airport Services Designed for High Value Customers,” explains that an increasing number of airlines are selling travel perks to passengers for a profit.
“VIP treatment, such as early boarding, bonus miles, fast-track screening, and first-class upgrades, has proven to produce the revenue payback eagerly desired by airline management,” said Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorksCompany, which compiled the report.
These VIP perks could mean big bucks for airlines, as the revenue generated from a little pampering is immediately seen on airline income statements. “Airlines are realizing that they can actually sell this. And we’re going to see more and more of that, because it works,” Sorensen told The New York Times.
Pricing on the VIP à la carte services varies, depending on the airline, services provided and airport location.
Reactions to the travel pampering packages are mixed. “We are seeing a democratization of travel as airlines see the possibility of additional revenue,” Henry H. Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Hudson Crossing, told Fox News.
To me, this highlights a disconcerting trend toward imposing almost-medieval degrees of social stratification on air travel. This trend can be most easily witnessed in that absurd routine you see at airport boarding gates, where the agent invites premium and elite passengers to board along a blue or red carpet and then quickly closes that lane off with a rope and directs the nonprivileged to walk on a gray-carpeted lane next to it.
But that’s only the stuff most of us see. For the right price, there’s a whole new level of privileged service at the airport — not to be confused with the spectacular levels of in-flight service (private compartments, bathrooms with showers, sumptuous beds, haute cuisine) being marketed by international airlines in first-class and business-class cabins, all unseen by coach passengers shoehorned in the back into 10-across rows.
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