The airlines with the most ancillary revenue collected $48.4 billion in such fees in 2021, a 54.2 percent increase year over year with growth among all categories of airlines, according to a new report from airline ancillary strategy firm IdeaWorksCompany.
To produce the 2022 CarTrawler Yearbook of Ancillary Revenue, released Tuesday, the company scoured financial reports and data from 75 airlines that report ancillary revenue. That revenue includes fees for such extras as checked bags, amenities like upgraded seats and early boarding, as well as frequent-flyer program sales and commissions from sales of non-airline travel services. It also includes advertising initiatives linked to passenger travel, such as in-flight ads or those on aircraft, in gate areas or in airport lounges.
The 2021 ancillary revenue figure is $18.5 billion lower than the pre-pandemic total posted in 2019, though the roster of disclosing airlines changes from year to year.
The average ancillary revenue per passenger was $29.96, up $8.42 from the $21.54 reported in 2019. The share of total revenue that is ancillary also increased in 2021 to 22.2 percent for major U.S. carriers from 16.1 percent in 2019, and to 36.3 percent for high-performing low-cost carriers versus 27 percent two years prior.
The four largest U.S. carriers brought in the highest amounts of 2021 ancillary revenue globally, led by American Airlines with $5.90 billion, Delta Air Lines at $5.83 billion, United Airlines at $5.47 billion and Southwest Airlines at $4.13 billion, though at least 80 percent of Southwest’s total was produced by its frequent-flyer program.
Five U.S.-based airlines made the top 10 list of carriers with the highest ancillary revenue per passenger, including Allegiant Air at fifth, followed by Hawaiian Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines. United was 10th on the list with $52.54 in ancillary revenue per passenger. Cathay Pacific low-cost carrier HK Express topped that list at $88.21 per passenger, but its 2021 passenger traffic was just 8,000 passengers, according to the report.