The aviation industry consultancy Ideaworks has released a new report rating the airlines which most effectively use their websites to up-sell customers on a la carte ancillary extras.

Ancillaries are sales of amenities including onboard sales of food and beverages, baggage fees, assigned seats or seat upgrades (including extra legroom seats on exit rows), billing for call center support for reservations, credit card fees, sales of priority check-in and screening, sales of early boarding privileges, sales of in-flight entertainment, fees for onboard Wi-Fi.

The consultancy judges Aer Lingus, Pegasus, Spirit, Swiss, and WestJet have designed websites which excel at creating a path to purchase for consumers.

This path to purchase is an analogy to well-established retail practices at grocers, which route shoppers through their stores in a way that is efficient but also builds desire to buy products which aren’t on the shopping list. The consultancy argues that airline websites should emulate this shop-flow to encourage travelers to add products and services to their virtual shopping carts.

Each in their own way, the airlines Ideaworks selected encourage visitors to spend more on a la carte products and services by making them unmissable, without creating confusion.

The consultancy credits Aer Lingus for its “clean and concise presentation” encouraging booking of extra baggage allowance with simple graphics and transparent pricing.

Pegasus, Ideaworks says, has presented its pre-order menus and onboard catering sales with “compelling visuals”.

Spirit is credited for its shop-shelf price labeling of individual seats on its aircraft. The consultancy reports that Spirit’s customers paid $76 million for seat assignments sold this way in 2014.

Swiss got Ideaworks’ seal of approval for its presenting of branded fares which the consultancy believes might be the reason more than 40% of the airline’s customers buy-up to its premium Classic and Flex fares.

WestJet is commended for the retail positioning of multiple brand car rental options with transparent pricing and added retail incentives with bonus frequent flier points.

We asked Jay Sorensen, President of Ideaworks, why other carriers which have well designed websites, presenting added services in their booking pages were left out, and why Delta, which from the consultancy’s own reporting leads the market in ancillary sales was not included.

“Legacy airlines, are not nearly as aggressive regarding a la carte,” Sorensen tells us. “Low-cost carriers, which comprise the majority of airlines in the report, live and breathe a la carte every day.”

Sorensen says the retail strategy of legacy airlines is more dependent on Global Distribution Systems. These airlines want to avoid conflicts between how products are packaged and sold on their websites and how they are presented at travel agencies.

“The low-cost carriers have always been quicker to market with website changes because their business model is simpler and less constrained by offering the buffet of distribution options that legacy airlines do,” Sorensen says.

“For the legacy airlines, the area of intense interest is New Distribution Capability (NDC). They want to be able to create pricing for individual travelers, based upon a wide range of characteristics. This will be very powerful when developed, but it’s going to take a lot of intense work. NDC is very visible within the group of global legacy airlines,” he adds.

While Delta ranked high for overall ancillary sales, Sorensen explains, most of that revenue was from branded credit cards. “On a per passenger basis, they would fall from first and the top ten, for strictly a la carte [sales],” Sorensen says.

But these successful website a la carte path to purchase strategies, Sorensen explains, would not work on mobile platforms.

“What works online doesn’t translate well to mobile,” he says. “For that, simplicity of presentation is key. Mobile is probably working well for business travelers who make a quick booking with little concern about a la carte elements.”

Photo Credit: Swiss' new 777 Economy Class cabin. Swiss