U.S. Airlines Eye Foreign Carriers' Success at Selling

Ryanair's $326 million from non-traditional sources in the last fiscal year represented 16% of its revenue, and nearly matched its annual profit.

"Ryanair might be able to do it, but the legacy carriers have tried it before and failed miserably," says Barbara Beyer, CEO of Avmark, an aviation consulting firm. "There's nothing that tells me they won't fail miserably again."

Aviation consultant Michael Boyd, who is president of The Boyd Group, says, "This isn't Europe," and the U.S. airline industry isn't positioned to generate substantial revenue outside its core business. Airlines should not sell such things as parking spaces, car rentals, insurance and hotel rooms, he says.

"To generate revenue from outside sources, there must be a market need -- a market gap in providing that service," says Boyd. "There isn't any."

American's Garton says he doesn't foresee ads on planes and overhead luggage bins, because they "wouldn't be consistent" with the airline's brand. "It doesn't feel right for us today," he says.

But "that could change," he acknowledges, recognizing the importance of ancillary revenue. "We're not Ryanair, but we're not ignoring this opportunity," Some items Ryanair sells in-flight

*Cheese or salami pizza, $5

*Chicken soup, $4.50

*Champagne, $18

*Lotto card, $2.50

*Digital camera, $124

*iPocket video-audio player, $149

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