If you travel a lot and have traveled a lot for more than a decade, you understand the pain of declining service, rules, rules, rules, limitations on what you can carry, increased airline fees and more fees…..how about fees for anything the airlines thinks they can get away with?
Why make a journey pleasant and seamless for their customers? Milk ’em for whatever you can and that’s exactly how it feels to regular travelers. The New York Times published a great piece on the sad silliness of fee after fee, yet what really needs to happen is for travelers to stand up and say NO. You want our business, treat us like a CUSTOMER.
As the article pointed out, even the government is concerned about the fee frenzy, which generated nearly $8 billion for American carriers last year. $8 billion in FEES for American airlines alone – what part of that number seems grossly ridiculous?
They also reference a recent House Subcommittee on Aviation hearing to investigate whether airline fees should be more clearly disclosed to passengers, and that the Department of Transportation is considering rules that would force carriers to do just that, in advertisements and during the ticketing process.
Even if its disclosed, so what? Bottom line – do we have to even ask whether these fees are fundamentally fair? $8 billion was the number wasn’t it?
Let’s take a look (and if you’re not exhausted from just reading about them, imagine dealing with them as an exhausted traveler):
Baggage Fees: in 3 months alone, U.S. airlines collected $769 million in baggage fees (did I mention that was only 3 months?)
Ticket Change Fees: Over the same duration, U.S. airlines made $554 million from reservation change fees, which have risen as high as $150 for a domestic ticket on American, Continental, Delta, United and US Airways. Those airlines all charge up to $250 to change an international flight, and if you book your ticket through Orbitz or Travelocity, you have to pay the agency an additional $30 change fee.
Boarding & Flexibility Fee: $75 buys you a DISCOUNT on your flight charges. Is this for real? You have to pay to get a discount on a charge that is already ridiculous. Reading this you think, ‘this must be a joke’ but it’s not. It’s real and no one has really stood up and said “enough already.”
Difference Between Original Fare and Ticket Price: Over and above the $250 + $30 +++, you have t pay the fare difference, yet they can cancel whenever they want with no penalty. But we’re not done yet.
Early Boarding Fee: $9-$19 range.
Standby Fee: Instead of what was once a ‘given’ to customers, you now have to pay $50 for a confirmed seat on an earlier flight even if there’s plenty of space and the flight you’re not on is now open for them to sell another ticket. Hmmm.
Phone Reservation Fee: You have to pay a fee of $15 to $35 to book a flight online (exception: Southwest). A fee for the privilege of spending money with them. Hmmm. Oh, but we’re not done yet.
Peak Travel Surcharge: It was once a fee just for major holidays, now there’s a new fee – $10 to $30 almost every day this summer. What about a fee for every season Airlines? It’s as if the marketing team at these airlines either have no compassion, don’t care at all about their customers or are under the gun from management just to milk, milk, milk and forget about how the experience people have with their service.
In my experience as a marketer for companies of any industry, we have always looked for ways to make the experience for our customers BETTER, so that they’ll naturally spread the ‘greatness’ through word-of-mouth. (Enter Southwest and Richard Branson). You’d think that the airlines would pay attention to how much angst the additional fees and decline in service has created for their customers. I can’t travel anywhere now without hearing about how much someone HATES United or HATES America or HATES Delta — and they’re vocal about it. Interestingly enough, that doesn’t happen with Virgin and Southwest.