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Buying in-flight meals, the necessity in any flight across U.S., is the fastest growing in-flight fee for the airlines, according to data from PhoCusWright. Over the last three years, the rate of growth has only increased, from 22 percent for people buying at airport or in-flight, to 30 percent in 2012.
But the new frontier for airlines is to charge for priority boarding and extra legroom in seats, and that is the fastest growing for passengers buying these before departure, online.
And as these extra fees are the new normal, for consumers, the biggest decision is: buy before departure or at the airport/in-flight. The smarter strategy to save money, it is obvious, would be the former, as airlines — especially the low cost carries — drop the fee for buying prior to departure/online.
Also, the airlines are getting better at selling these extra packages online, so expect the pre-departure fees to be on the rise for the next few years. And if the third-party online booking sites get in the action at some point (which they will, politics of it notwithstanding), then the growth rate will only increase.