The Latest Airline News
Every few months I like to check-in with the airlines to find
out how they
are planning to gouge the consumer. The airlines continually
dream-up ways to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers.
Most of what Im about to write about are thinly veiled
attempts by the airlines to drive up their own profits under
the guise of providing better customer service.
Lets start with one of my favorite topics, electronic tickets
or e-tickets. As readers of this column know by now, I hate
e-tickets. I hate them because if you ever have a need to
change flights due to missed connections or cancellations,
the only way to get booked on the next available flight of
another carrier is to stand in line at the ticket counter
of the offending airline, have them print you a paper ticket
and walk to another airline to book a new flight. Had you
been issued a paper ticket in the first place you could have
avoid the line at the ticket counter and used a phone to switch
Last year several of the major carriers including Northwest
and American started charging $10 to passengers who want a
paper ticket. Well, last month a new carrier started to impose
a printed ticket fee, America West Airlines. And in a game
of follow the leader several Canadian carriers will soon impose
the same fee. These charges are almost as bad as going to
the bank and paying the teller a service fee to deposit or
withdraw your own money.
One way the airlines are trying to combat this problem is
alliances where one carrier will honor another carriers
ticket. Just last
week, American and Continental formed just such an alliance
e-ticketed passengers to switch flights to the others airline
if their flight
is cancelled. American and United have a similar deal in place,
but Continental and United do not. Confused? How do you find
out if the carrier youre flying has a deal in place
with a competitor, pick up the phone and call, its a
good piece of information to have at your disposal when dealing
with cancelled or late flights.
Also, be on the lookout for e-tickets on international flights.
that was all but prohibited in the past may become reality
sooner than you think as several European carriers are planning
to switch to e-tickets before the end of this year.
If you are a fan of online booking, Travelocity now imposes
a $10 fee on all tickets booked through their site on United
Airlines. Dont blame
Travelocity, just last month several of the major carriers
announced they would no longer pay per-ticket commissions
to travel agents.
It doesnt matter whether its an online agent or
an agent right down the street from your house. The airlines
sold it as a way for consumers to save money, but in fact
most travel agents, like Travelocity will be passing that
$10 fee on to you. Estimates are the airline industry will
save $1 Billion a year by not paying commissions.
But all is not lost for those of you who book airlines tickets
service of a conventional travel agent. Large travel agencies
for commissions based on volume sales. Its an incentive-based
system known as override commissions. Large travel
agencies book most if not all their customers on flights operated
by one or two carriers in exchange for commission payments.
This system only works for the larger agencies, those that
sell in bulk. The mom and pop travel agent down the street
from your house probably doesnt qualify for the override
commissions which means the cost of an airline ticket
will be higher as they pass on their overhead to you.
The bottom line in all of this, you need to shop and compare.
youre finished shop and compare some more. Airline ticket
change thousands of times per day. Book early for the cheapest
airfares. Online fares arent necessarily the cheapest,
especially if you use a large agency with override commissions.