Money & Business

Are Airline Subscription Add-Ons Worth Your Time?

By / May 1, 2019 (Maxiphoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Whether for wireless or an annual discount on baggage, air travelers these days are faced with an array of add-ons. Are they worth paying for, or should you stick to paying as you go?

You may only be on the plane for a few hours, but that repetitive on-and-off that frequent business travelers do might have them thinking of paying for some extra perks.

And since this is the airline industry, the perks can be purchased with frequent flyer miles.

The types of subscriptions vary—perhaps the most common that travelers might run into is for in-air Wi-Fi, but there are also subscription programs for baggage and even lower fares, according to Consumer Reports. And while these services might sound appealing to someone on the go, they come with an additional price tag—and that price might not be worth the slightly lower hassle.

Part of the problem is inconsistency among airlines—as Condé Nast Traveler notes, many airlines have different Wi-Fi policies, making it hard to figure out which one supports a given subscription service or if it needs one at all. (For example, JetBlue offers free Wi-Fi access, while a post-merger Alaska Airlines has multiple wireless networks on different aircraft that don’t talk to one another, making the call more confusing.)

However, Consumer Reports notes that, if your airline supports a service like Gogo and you travel enough on the same airline, it could be worth your while.

“If you are taking at least two round trips on one airline during a one-month period, a monthly pass might save you some money, although the annual subscription doesn’t offer any benefit over the monthly plan,” the magazine says.

Wi-Fi is one thing, but what about baggage? United Airlines, for example, now offers a subscription plan for frequent travelers to pay off their checked luggage with a single yearly fee. The plan could be beneficial if you’re a frequent traveler, but you are committing yourself to primarily using that airline.

It’s worth noting that, with prices for checked bags increasing in recent years, it might be good to get a better lay of the land for the market in general. The Points Guy has a variety of suggestions for domestic flights, including booking in first class to get the free checked baggage at a comparable price to paying in a lower-class seat.

In comments to Consumer Reports, The Points Guy Executive Editorial Director Scott Mayerowitz says you might also want to consider other options to account for frequently checked bags.

“If you are traveling so much that you think you need a subscription plan, you either need to focus more on flying one airline or get a better credit card,” Mayerowitz says. “Most of the airline credit cards that allow one free bag have an annual fee of around $95. If you take two trips, you come out ahead.”

The consumer magazine also notes that low-cost airlines, like Frontier, have been offering membership programs, too, but basically to account for niceties that don’t come with the standard ticket.

Long story short: Subscriptions might be worth the perk sometimes, but know what you’re getting into first.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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