Should Airlines Follow the Pricing Model of Printers for Computers?

When one purchases a new printer for one’s computer, there is a good chance that one can procure that printer for little money or — better yet — free of charge altogether. This is possible because the company which manufactures the printer — usually an ink-jet printer — can then repeatedly charge high prices for consumables such as ink and paper for as long as the consumer owns the printer and as long as it operates as designed.

Spirit Airlines and Ryanair follow this pricing model rather closely: charge as little as nine dollars for flights, but then tack on ancillary fees — some of which can be significant — for virtually every product and service possible that is offered by the airline. The theory behind this is that the passenger has the “option” to order a service or product in exchange for a fee but — more often than not — the airline actually benefits. How many thirsty passengers are going to resist purchasing a drink on-board an aircraft while in flight, for example?

Should airlines charge little to no money for its flights, hoping to gain revenue from the ancillary fees that it charges its passengers, or should airlines adhere to the legacy model of charging for a flight and include products and services as part of the airfare? While many airlines actually combine both models of pricing, is there actually a happy medium?

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