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Airlines are raking in cash from in-flight sales

"Just how far will an airline go these days to earn a few extra bucks?" asks Andrew Compart of Travel Weekly (registration required). "When in-flight sales of blankets aren't going well [on one Asian airline], the flight attendants, who get a commission on sales, ask the pilots to crank up the air conditioning."

So begins a long and damning explanation of how far some airlines are going to line their coffers with "ancillary revenue," or money generated from anything not directly related to ticket sales. It reads like a laundry list of revenue streams: travel insurance sales; charging for meals, snacks, and beverages; mobile phone usage; advertising on tray tables and overhead bins; airport lounges; even in-flight gambling (possibly coming soon from Ryanair).

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It's generally accepted that the airline industry has, by and large, recovered from its post-9/11 collapse. Flights are full, business models have been tweaked, and many airlines are making money again. So why nickel-and-dime us to death?

In a day and age in which we can't even bring our own bottled water onboard, the answer isn't so much that they do it because we let them. They do it because we can't stop them.

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