Pay less for air travel extras

(WFLX) - When it comes to air travel, if you like your extras a la carte, the fees can quickly add up.

From extra leg room to priority boarding to checked baggage charges, there are all sorts of ways to customize your travel. Now, packaging the perks is a trend that's taking off from bundles to subscription services!

Author Joy Preble flies around the country to sign books and meet fans, but all that travel comes with its own annoyances.

One of her pet peeves? "People who like to lean back all the way. And suddenly you can't even put an iPad on the little tray."

So for a recent trip, she decided to pay extra for a seat with more legroom. "It was a very roomy situation, and it was much more pleasant."

Much like cable companies, cell phone providers and Internet companies, airlines are now bundling extras on individual flights. Different packages offer combinations of services such as free checked bags, priority boarding, no change fees, free Wi-Fi or extra frequent flyer miles. "You're able to take multiple things, package them together, charge a lower price for each. The airline makes more and you get more things that you want."

Some airlines are also experimenting with subscription services – allowing you to pay a flat fee for benefits on any flights you take within a set time period. "A subscription service enables them to guarantee that they're going to have that seat available to them, guarantee that they're going to have that free checked bag."

Airlines For America, the Commercial Airline Trade Association, says these packages and subscriptions allow consumers to get a better prices on the extras they want while airlines make the revenue they need. "Last year, the airlines made 37 cents per enplaned passenger. Had they not offered additional services that customers were willing to pay for, they would have lost $8 per passenger."

But frequent flyer expert Gary Leff says it's important to examine each package or subscription - to make sure it's really going to be worth it for you. "A subscription really locks you into a single airline, and over time, you may wind up paying more in airfare if you pick the same airline over and over than you would if you were going to go around and shop for the lowest price each time."

In addition, keep in mind the routes you regularly travel. Regional jets may not have extra legroom seats. And smaller airports may not have a priority security line. "You're not going to get a refund, a pro-rated portion back, because a given flight the benefit isn't available."

As for Joy, she says, she's now "on board" with buying a subscription if it means a more comfortable ride. "Not having somebody, you know, literally make me incapable of putting a glass on the tray. I've decided that that's, that's worth it for me."

Air travel expert Gary Leff says subscriptions are most worth it to travelers who fly 10 to 15 thousand miles a year on a single airline. That's enough to get your money's worth out of the deal, but not so much that you gain elite status – which could provide you with the same perks for free  and remember some airline branded credit card companies offer similar bundled benefits to their customers such as free checked bags and priority boarding. The yearly fee may be less than you'd pay for a year's worth of packages or subscriptions from the airline.

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