Skift Take

Deplaning early is a silly, impractical idea. But are we getting to the point that airlines are going to add a fee to have a charging station at your seat? Affirmative.

Some people wish they could fly like a bird but, as the song goes, you can’t always get what you want.


But how is this for a frequent flyer fantasy? In a recent OAG and FlightView survey of 2,339 users of the FlightView mobile app some 22 percent of respondents indicated they would be willing to pay a premium for “early deplaning privileges.”

The survey, which was completed in June and saw the results published in late July, included a 63 percent and 37 percent mix of leisure and business travelers, respectively.

Passengers who purchase first class, business class and extra-legroom seats already already find themselves toward the front of the plane and therefore deplane in the first group — way ahead of fellow travelers, maneuvering their luggage out of overhead bins, toward the back of the plane.

Could you imagine an airline charging a coach passenger in row 43 an extra $25 to get off the plane before the often-elite flyers up front? It is a fantastic idea — with the emphasis on fantasy.

“From a practical perspective, this is already done by airlines,” says Jay Sorensen of IdeaWorks Co. “When airlines charge for seat assignments, the first rows in the cabin are sold for a higher price. This is based upon analysis of seat-assignment behavior. The seats in the front of the cabin are the first to be assigned so airlines have learned a premium can be attached to these seats.

“If you sit in the front of the cabin, you are the first to get off. And Southwest practices this too by charging for early boarding. Passengers take the seats in the front for the same reason.”

Katherine Wellman, vice president of marketing and product management at FlightView, talked about how the issue of deplaning early got into the survey.

“Mostly we solicited ideas from a number of people and this was one of them,” Wellman says. “We have assumed it might be difficult for an airline to make happen, but no harm in including it in a survey and relaying the results to airlines. As far as I know, no airlines are doing this at this time.”

Airlines globally took in more than $38 billion in revenue in 2014 charging for checked bags, seats with extra legroom, Wi-Fi, frequent flyer miles, food and beverage, and early boarding.

The formula is working for the airlines but there hasn’t been a lot of creativity about it in the last couple of years. Deplaning early, as a service separate from early boarding or premium seats, sure would be a creative idea if it weren’t so impractical.

Other items on the wish list as far as travelers being amenable to paying premium fees? Streaming video (64 percent), in-seat charging stations (50 percent), and texting (31 percent).

Millennials, it turns out, are really high rollers. Some 60 percent of millennials in the survey expressed the willingness to pay for these premium services compared with only 50 percent of the general population, the survey found.

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Tags: airlines, fees

Photo credit: Getting off the plane is just another stress point in the passenger experience, and some people would be willing to pay extra to get to the head of the line. Pictured are passengers deplaning at Geneva International Airport on June 25, 2015. Doug /

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