Air travelers can expect more onboard sales pitches, report says

Bad news for airline passengers who are tired of getting their wallets squeezed when boarding a plane: The future of air travel will include a lot more onboard sales pitches.

That is the conclusion of a new report by GuestLogix, a technology company that helps airlines and train operators sell to travelers.

With airlines investing heavily to upgrade their often spotty and too-slow onboard wireless Internet, the study concluded that carriers will be better equipped to sell fliers entertainment, food and even tickets to theaters and theme parks in the cities they’re visiting.

“For airlines, the basic framework is already in place for upsell opportunities, and airlines’ desire to sell to passengers from their own websites will push them to offer products and services beyond airline tickets,” according to the GuestLogix report.

U.S. airlines offer at least “some chance” of Wi-Fi service on 66% of their flights system-wide, according to a 2015 study by the travel rating site Routehappy.com. And airlines executives say they are investing heavily in faster satellite-based Internet service, onboard servers and seat-back entertainment screens.

Among other predictions, the GuestLogix report says airlines will rely on past sales data and loyalty reward information to identify and target the big spenders on each plane.

For example, the report said airlines can tell if you are a loyalty reward member or a good candidate to sign up for the program. The data can also let airlines know whether to offer you wine or more expensive champagne with your meal as well as a drama or a comedy for your in-flight movie.

Chris Gardner, an executive vice president at GuestLogix, said the key to pitching passengers to spend on such extras without annoying them is to offer them goods and services they can use.

“The airlines are going to need to do it with a little service and added value,” he said. “You have to do it to make people’s lives a little easier, not to nickel-and-dime them.”

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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