Airline ‘fare clubs’ offer regular travellers a standard discount

As ancillary fees for checked baggage, priority boarding, extra legroom seats, etcetera, become more commonplace in the airline industry, several airlines have been introducing branded/bundled fares and annual ancillary subscriptions as a next step. United Airlines, for example, offers unlimited checked baggage for USD349 a year, while airBaltic recently introduced a similar fee in partnership with luggage brand Samsonite. Another category are ‘fare clubs’, which for an annual fee, provide regular travellers with a standard discount or access to member-only fares.

Wizz Air ‘Xclusive Club’
Wizz Air, a low-cost airline from Poland that offers flights from several bases in Central and Eastern Europe, has recently launched a new membership program called Wizz Xclusive Club. For an annual fee of EUR 29.99, Wizz Xclusive Club members get exclusive access to a pool of tickets that can be cheaper by up to 10 EUR per one-way flight than regular prices. Up to 9 passengers can be booked together with the Xclusive Club member on the same reservation and benefit from the discounted fares. Wizz Air is the first airline in Europe to offer a ‘fare club’ and says that in the first two weeks following the rollout, almost 50 thousand customers signed up.

Spirit Airlines ‘$9 Fare Club’
Wizz Air seems to have been inspired by Florida-based low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines, which in 2008 launched its ‘$9 Fare Club’. Spirit guarantees a member-only sale, with ticket prices as low as a few dollars, at least once every six weeks, but usually offers at least one sale per week. The special fares are offered on a first come, first serve basis and travellers flying on the same ticket will receive the members-only fare as well. Annual membership of the $9 Fare Club costs USD59.95, but those who sign up for a Spirit-branded MasterCard also obtain a free membership to the $9 Fare Club.
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Next in radical unbundling: Spirit to charge for carry-on luggage

Ultra low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines has become the first airline in the USA – perhaps in the world – to charge passengers with carry-on luggage as much as USD45 each way for stowing a bag in the overhead bin. Spirit said it will add measuring devices at the gates to determine which carry-ons are free and which ones will incur the charge. Personal items that fit under the seat will still be free, as long as they aren’t bigger than 16 x 14 x12 inches (40 x 30 x 20cm). Other exceptions to the fee are umbrellas, coats, strollers or car seats, reading material for the flight, or food passengers bring to eat on board. The new charge is USD30 if paid in advance online, USD45 if paid at the airport, and USD20 for frequent-flyer members. Passengers that pay the carry-on luggage fee will get priority when boarding. 

Spirit, which likes to compare itself to budget carrier Ryanair, was the first US carrier to impose checked baggage fees in 2008 and at the moment all major airlines except Southwest and JetBlue charge to check a bag on domestic flights. However, many passengers have been bringing large and heavy bags into the aircraft instead to avoid checked luggage fees. The U.S Association of Flight Attendants has even launched an ‘End Carry-on Crunch’ campaign to protest against the number of people who bring overstuffed bags on board and clog the overhead space.
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