Airline fees: What's next?

Would you be willing to pay extra for a better meal on an international flight, a ride to the plane in an electric cart, or a seat in a designated child-free area?

These are the questions airlines are pondering as they look for new ways to boost ancillary revenue — industry-speak for money earned from credit cards, vacation packages, premium seating — anything above and beyond the charge for basic fares.

Passengers might not like the idea of paying $25 to $30 to check a first bag, but they're going along with it, one reason 50 airlines worldwide reported ancillary revenue of $22.6 billion in 2011, up from $13.5 billion in just two years, according to a new report by Wisconsin-based IdeaWorks and its technology partner, Amadeus.

"Checked baggage has been a huge economic windfall for airlines in the U.S.," says IdeaWorks CEO Jay Sorensen, whose company advises airlines on new ways to boost profits and offset rising fuel costs.

So what's next? Find out in this week's Travel Wise column in The Seattle Times. 

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