Delta Air Lines passengers now have the option to purchase an upgrade that includes a free checked bag, among other perks.
Delta Air Lines passengers now have the option to purchase an upgrade that includes a free checked bag, among other perks. (Associated Press)

NEW YORK (AP) -- Airlines are introducing a new bevy of fees, but this time passengers might actually like them.

Unlike the first generation of charges which dinged fliers for once-free services like checking a bag, these new fees promise a taste of the good life, or at least a more civil flight.

Extra legroom, early boarding and access to quiet lounges were just the beginning. Airlines are now renting Apple iPads preloaded with movies, selling hot first class meals in coach and letting passengers pay to have an empty seat next to them. Once on the ground, they can skip baggage claim, having their luggage delivered directly to their home or office.

In the near future, airlines plan to go one step further, using massive amounts of personal data to customize new offers for each flier.

"We've moved from takeaways to enhancements," says John F. Thomas of L.E.K. Consulting.

Carriers have struggled to raise airfares enough to cover costs. Fees bring in more than $15 billion a year and are the reason the airlines are profitable. But the amount of money coming in from older charges like baggage and reservation change fees has tapered off. Revenue from bag fees in April, May and June fell 7 percent compared to the same period last year, according to figures released by the government Monday.

So now the airlines are selling new extras and copying marketing methods honed by retailers.

Technological upgrades allow airlines to sell products directly to passengers at booking, in follow-up emails as trips approach, at check-in and on mobile phones minutes. Delta Air Lines gave flight attendants wireless devices, allowing them to sell last-second upgrades to seats with more legroom.

We want to get back to a point where people feel like travel isn't something to endure, but something they can enjoy," says Bob Kupbens, a former Target executive and Delta's current vice president of marketing and digital commerce.