Rookie Wednesday: Delta collects $400+ Million in fees Q1-2014 (great, just not from you or me)!

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RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.

delta air lines collects the most in fees and bag fees start of 2014

Wow. Oy. (blink-blink)! That means in 2130 hours that is the total number of hours in Q1 of this year, Delta made, according to this NBC NEWS piece, almost $200,000 each hour in fees. Yep, over 4 ½ million per day. That is just in fees, not in ticket prices! Stunning.

Guess what – that is just great & I love it! But, I don’t love it if YOU were part of that windfall. You and I don’t need to contribute to the mothership’s bottom line that way. No way no how! We already know there are many ways to avoid bag fees, even creative ones, but what about change fees? Is there a way to avoid those nasty fees too? You bet. Let’s take a look!

  • Schedule Changes
  • Weather/Other waivers
  • Your Elite status
  • 24h cancel rule
  • Million Milers
  • Your circumstances
  • Type of ticket you hold
  • Credit cards
  • What a rep says
  • Just ask!
  • Get an ETV

That is quite a long list. As we go through these, keep in mind some of these are just following the rules Delta has in place already. Others, sure we are gaming things a bit, but also keep in mind they don’t HAVE to listen to our requests; they can say, “pay up” end of story! Let’s look at each one of these.

Schedule Change. The schedule change rule is absolutely one of my favorites Delta has in place. It really is one of the most generous regulations Delta offers flyers. Depending on the changes or the rep you get a hold of there is some real leeway within the rule. Often times it is worth a call back to try a different rep if you want to be able to get a change free and rep one says no. Don’t forget the Asian call centers as an option as well.

Weather/Other waivers. Winter/Summer, strikes & other factors. There are SO many times there is something going on either from your departure city OR even in a city along the way to your destination. The reps may not tell you that you can get a free change but you can always ask if there is some kind of waiver that will affect your trip along the route to merit a free change!

Your Elite status. Your elite status can have a big impact on your ability to get fees waived. That is not to say when you are a Diamond or Platinum medallion Delta automatically waives all fees. I’ve had times where I have had to pay fees in the past but it’s been over two years since I’ve done so and I do fly a bit (#Winning). Your elite status and pressing the fact that you are requesting this to be waived as (whatever your status is) can have an impact. Worst case situation hang up, call back until you find a rep willing to waive the fee for you. After all, don’t they know who you are (or at lease who you think you are)!

24h cancel rule. The 24 hour free change rule, that applies to both revenue tickets and award tickets, is a wonderful way within the rules to avoid fees. The 24 hour rule is actually even more than 24 hours; you basically have until the close of business the next day. So let’s say you book at noon, you basically have until the end of the next day to cancel that ticket or change it free. Yes, you can do this again and again with each new ticket.

Million Milers. I have recently been talking about the perks of million milers, that is the sort of perks that are extended now and then. Many MM’er have said they really see no big extra perks. However, if you are a million miler there is no reason you can’t remind the airline when they want to charge you some sort of a fee that you are a valued million miler and could they not considered waiving the fee for a loyal customer like you. I am not a MM yet (am at .8MM) but I can promise you when I do reach that level I will be playing that trump card whenever I hear the word NO from Delta!

Your circumstances. Circumstances can have a big impact on fees. There is the notorious flat tire rule (Just Google if you don’t know it). There are many other unique circumstances that could pop up that you could with good reason explain to a rep the reason you should not be forced to pay some sort of fee. It is at least worth exploring if something unique is happening to you and see if you cannot get the rep to offer an exemption due to what has happened to you.

Type of ticket you hold. You should also check the type of ticket your have. Depending on the fair class you may not have to pay any fees. This is generally for a much more expensive ticket and know that a discounted business class ticket does not automatically give you free changes. But like with everything else there are ways you can ask for waived fees and remind them that you are after all on a business class ticket. I mean you have already paid a high price, can they not see past this small fee for whatever?!?

Credit cards. The Delta CO-branded American Express “Airline Travel Cards” are clearly a great way to avoid paying bag fees. Not just for you but those traveling with you even if they are on separate  itineraries but going to the same destination. As I talked about before with linking reservations, you should be able to, for you and up to eight more, get your first bag free again as long as you are traveling from point A to point B together. Plus, other cards like the AMEX Membership rewards Platinum has up to $200 / calendar year in fee reimbursements. US Bank FlexPerks when you spend points to buy a ticket gets you $25 credit. I like to use these latter perks to buy e-Gift cards but still they are an option for offsetting the cost of bag fees.

What a rep says. The next one really can be an advantage when a rep makes a mistake. I always take very careful notes when a rep says something that I know is maybe not quite right. I take note of the time of the call, who I spoke with and what was said. That way if I need a to make a change and want to avoid a fee I can bring up what the rep told me before as a leverage tool to have a fee waived. Always remember a rep is representing the company and what they say matters.

Just Ask! The last one really is quite simple. Why not just ask to have the fee waived. More than likely you will get NO but that doesn’t mean you can’t hang up call back and ask again (or call Asia – E9) or even try Twitter. It doesn’t mean you can’t be asked or ask to be transfer to the reissue desk and see if they will waive the fee. You can also ask for a supervisor and see if they will waive the fee. The bottom line is I guarantee you will have to pay the fee unless you ask if you do not have to pay the fee.

Get an ETV. Let’s say you just get NO-NO-NO after all these attempts. Nothing is working and you say have to cancel a ticket flat out. Say the ticket cost $175 and the change fee is $200. One last thing you can try for is getting not money back but just asking Delta to issue an ETV or electronic travel voucher for the full price of what you paid and cancel the ticket. Then you say thanks and hang up; next go online and just spend the ETV on a new ticket – problem mostly solved (yes I get the new ticket may cost more but still this helps a bit).

So while I’m all for Delta making all the millions of dollars an hour they can I just don’t want it to be on the backs of my readers or on my back. Let the “tourists” pay for all these bag and changes fees as the more they pay, the less we have to. Questions? Fire away – René
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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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