Take your seat, buckle your safety belt and get ready to shop! Shop? Yes, onboard shopping is about to take off in a big way.
In their search for new ways to make money, airlines are planning to use technology to its fullest, offering everything they can for sale to the captivated—and captive—traveler. New technology in the form of hand-held credit card readers is what’s making this all possible.
Making ancillary sales seems to be the airlines’ deepest desire, as they continue to raise fares and add-on fees. So will the addition of all sorts of shopping opportunities be viewed as another convenient service or another way to squeeze money out of already beleaguered travelers already weary from the number of added fees they have to pay to fly in the manner they’ve grown accustomed to? I think the airlines do indeed have consumers at their fingertips, including the business traveler. They board, they get bored and then they find ways to amuse themselves. Shopping can be a fantastic diversion, let’s face it.
But in order to make this work won’t they really need to bite the bullet and slow down the relentless march of unbundled airfares and add-on fees?
Either way, they will essentially be wringing every spare dollar out of their passengers. It is going to ultimately be their decision whether they want to do it by charging extra dollars for things like meals or baggage checks, or if they want to be a little less obvious and make their extra bucks by partnering with retailers and raking in the bucks as passengers shop for items en route to their next destination. As a business traveler, I can tell you there have been many, many times I have wished that I had packed something, or owned a device that would make my business trip or accommodations (including corporate housing) more pleasant, and wanted to purchase it sooner than after landing, disembarking and traveling the countryside for it.
Between the SkyMall catalog and countless other retailers, the options are certainly expanding. The hitch seems to be whether travelers already feel too tapped out with all the added fees to even pick up and flip through the selections that grace in-flight catalogs everywhere. Better, more secure credit card readers or not, the real concern shouldn’t be the technology but whether or not passengers have the desire to buy after paying for their mediocre meal—or not.