News and notes from Hartsfield-Jackson, the world's busiest airport

Are extra airline fees worth the price for a better travel experience?

A travel technology firm says airline passengers are willing to pay $99 in extra fees for services to "personalize" their travel experience.

Baggage fees are one of the most irksome aspects of the air travel experience to some travelers.

But travel technology company Sabre Corp. said this week that a survey it conducted showed that 80 percent of travelers bought extras on their last trip and spent an average of $62 on those extras. Those survey respondents also said they would spend more to improve their travel experience -- up to $99, according to Sabre. Sabre makes software for airlines to manage flight reservations, revenue and other activities, processing billions of dollars of travel spending annually.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, the second-largest carrier at Hartsfield-Jackson, is known for allowing two free checked bags and not charging change fees -- but it is still keen to bring in more revenue from other add-ons, known in the industry as ancillary services.

Southwest already charges extra fees such as $15 for EarlyBird check-in. CEO Gary Kelly also said during a conference call on quarterly financial results that "driving growth in the ancillaries per passenger is absolutely an objective that we have."

"But I'm not talking about charging for bags, I'm not talking about change fees or some of those basics, but we do have opportunities to invest in tools and techniques," Kelly said. He declined to give specifics on what type of extra fees the airline is considering, but said putting in a new reservation system is a priority before rolling out such additions.

Sabre's survey showed that the services travelers are willing to pay extra for varies depending on the region of the world.

North Americans and Europeans like preferred seating and extra leg room, for example.

Latin Americans prefer on-board wi-fi. Asia Pacific travelers are most interested in extra checked baggage.

Those in Africa are willing to pay extra for on-board food and beverage, and travelers in the Middle East like fast-track security.

Overall, the most desired extras were upgrades, on-board food and beverage, preferred seating and extra leg room. The next most popular extras were in-flight wi-fi and extra checked baggage.

The Sabre survey was an online survey of 1,500 travelers from 20 countries in six regions conducted in September and October 2016.

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About the Author

Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.