Almost every day I come across something in the travel industry that makes me wonder “why?” Some are good, some are bad, and some are just downright strange, so I figured I’d share a few of my favorites (again, some of these are good policies, which are actually more surprising than the bad policies, given the direction the airline industry in general is heading).
Why doesn’t Delta have close-in ticketing fees on award tickets?
Delta has done everything they possibly can to monetize on their mileage program and make SkyMiles as difficult as humanly possible to use. They charge $150 for any change (even just date or time changes, which American and United don’t charge for), they don’t let you make any changes to an award ticket within 72 hours of departure, they impose fuel surcharges for award tickets originating in Europe and on many of their partner airlines, etc. Yet they don’t have any close-in ticketing fees on award tickets, like American, United, and US Airways. They’ve leaving $75 on the table!
Why does Asiana make seat selections so damn difficult?
Have you ever tried selecting seats with Asiana? I can understand an airline holding back some of their seats, though they block a majority of their first and business class seats for pre-assignment. For example, on the 777 they’ll block at least four of the eight first class seats, meaning you can’t actually assign seats to sit together in the center section in advance. Why, and how exactly does this benefit anyone? It causes more of a shuffle aboard than if they just let people assign seats to begin with.
Why does Korean Air make it so damn tough to redeem awards?
While we’re talking about the airlines of Korea, have you ever tried to redeem an award ticket with Korean Air? Not only can they not be booked online, but you have to fax in your birth certificate, rights to your firstborn, and a blood sample… or something like that. In all honesty they make you fax in a copy of your ID and an authorization form. What the…? Fine, do that to me if I’m redeeming an award ticket for someone else, but if the member is traveling, what’s the point of all this authorization garbage?
Why does US Airways have a rates desk if they can’t calculate taxes for the life of them?
Airlines have rates desks, to, ya know, calculates rates and taxes. When an award ticket is complicated they often have to go to the rates desk to have the taxes calculated. I swear the rates agents are just throwing darts at a dartboard when trying to decide which taxes to charge.
It’s most evident when you’re making a change to an award ticket. When you make a change taxes almost always change, even if it’s by a few cents. This is because on an international itinerary many of the taxes are calculated in local currencies, and they often fluctuate.
One incredibly obvious example would be an award itinerary with a flight originating in London. Last week I changed an award ticket from Los Angeles to London roundtrip to Los Angeles to Frankfurt roundtrip. The UK has a ~$200 air passenger duty (APD), making the taxes the highest in Europe. So there should have been a hefty refund when changing the destination to Germany (which still has high taxes, though not nearly as high). After the agent put me on hold for 20 minutes to have the rates desk recalculate the taxes, she comes back and says “okay, the taxes stay the same, it’s just the $150 change fee.” I don’t think so…
“This is Susie.”
If you call US Airways Dividend Miles the agent will answer the phone with “Hi, this is _____, I see you need help with making a new Dividend Miles reservation.” If you call Alaska they answer the phone with “hi, this is _____.” My gosh, you get a better greeting at Dominos.
Why don’t Delta miles expire?
Picking up on my point from earlier about Delta not charging close-in ticketing fees, why on earth do their miles not expire? Most US airlines’ miles expire after 18 months of inactivity, and I can totally see why they do that. There’s liability on their books for unredeemed miles, and if someone doesn’t have any sort of activity at least every 18 months they’re probably not at all engaged in your program or dead. But there’s still liability associated with those miles, no?
I mean, I think it’s great miles don’t expire, I just don’t get why. Because it’s really an improvement for those that aren’t interested in being engaged in the program, and not those customers you’d actually want.
Why doesn’t American allow free same day changes for Executive Platinum members?
Delta gives this benefit to their Gold, Platinum and Diamond members, and United gives this benefit to their Premier Gold, Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members. American, on the other hand, charges their top tier members $75 to make a same day flight change. It’s an area where they’re way behind.
Though I guess this is one of those complaints where I know the reason — they don’t have to provide it for free, since the program is sufficiently rewarding otherwise. Eight non-fare restricted systemwide upgrades? As long as they offer those, everything else is just a nice bonus.
Why does Alaska Airlines not charge their MVP Gold members to make changes to revenue tickets?
While most airlines don’t have ticketing or change fees for their top tier members on award tickets, Alaska takes it a step further and offers their MVP Gold members free changes on revenue tickets as well. That means you don’t pay any change fees on revenue tickets booked through Alaska, even if they’re for travel on a partner airline like American or Delta.
It’s an awesome benefit, though for the life of me I can’t figure out why. The Mileage Plan program is actually really rewarding and I think Alaska is in the fortunate position to not really have too much network-wide head-to-head competition. Yes, they have airlines competing with them in individual markets, but their route network is unique, and I think people fly with them because of that. Globally airlines made close to $23 billion in ancillary revenue in 2011, and I feel like Alaska is missing out a bit on their share of it by doing that. But of course I’d hate to see this policy change! Just something that’s surprising to me in this day and age of nickle and diming.
Why have Aeroplan/United still not fixed the way they display Lufthansa award availability?
Late last year Lufthansa started only releasing first class award space to their partner airlines 14 days out, yet Aeroplan and United have continued to show “phantom” award space further out than that. I suspect this results in a lot of lost productivity for them since they get calls from people over award space that’s not bookable online. And this makes me wonder why they haven’t fixed it. Or more accurately, where are Aeroplan and United pulling space from that shows it inaccurately, while ANA shows Lufthansa award space accurately?
Why does Hyatt do web check-in?
Hyatt allows web check-in, though I still haven’t figured out what purpose it serves. You still have to check-in as you usually would, so what exactly does it accomplish?
Anyway, those are a few of the things that make me scratch my head. Anyone else with me? What are some things in the travel industry that make you scratch your head?