The other day I blogged about the possible risk of ending up in a Delta BASIC fare class without knowing you are buying such a ticket. In my limited testing, the worst offender I found was Chase Bank using Ultimate Rewards points that basically gave you no warning you were being dumped into such a fare class. I tweeted to Chase about this and, 3 days later, they responded with the above comment. As of this date, no changes have happened on their web site and you still can end up in Delta BASIC with little or no warning from the Chase booking site.
The issue here really boils down to the fight for fees and where you book matters to the airlines. Why? Consider just how important fees are to the airlines. They are the never ending “drug” of choice. If you think you are “over fee’d” right now then you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. In case you missed it, notice what Lufthansa started on the 1st of this month:
“As of 1 September 2015, the Lufthansa Group airlines will, therefore, include a surcharge, the “Distribution Cost Charge” (DCC) of EUR 16 for every ticket issued by a booking channel using GDS. The new charge will not be added to flight tickets purchased using own booking channels.”
If you are saying to yourself “so what” then you are not seeing the big picture. Delta already blocks access to places like Expert Flyer and Award Wallet that can provide so much useful data to frequent, and not so frequent, flyers. Do you not think they are carefully monitoring how the 16 EUR fee is going over and if it is driving more traffic directly to their site? Don’t you think Delta is thinking something like “can we get away with doing this as well”?
Why this really matters is because of the chance to sell you more. Each time you “try” to hang up the phone with a Delta rep you are asked if they can help you with hotel or car reservations and they check to see if you have a Delta AMEX card. Also, when you are buying a ticket on Delta.com you are bombarded with a litany of up-sell and add-on options. From on-board wifi & drinks to hotels and rental cars, all are there and Delta wants to make sure “they” are the one getting a cut from the sale for other parts of your trip.
Can you now see why it is so important? Can you see why Delta “warning” flyers about all the restrictions regarding BASIC fares is, not to protect the consumer, but to guide them into a fare and option to buy more each step along the way?
The general flying public seems to be sick and tired of airline fees but I think so many more are in store for us. I think Lufthansa’s 16 Euro GDS fee is just the tip of the iceberg and so much more is on the way.
When will it end? I doubt ever as each year all the airlines dream up more ways to tack on fees.
The solution, for you and me, is to find ways to fight back. Award travel and elite status (plus co-branded travel cards) really are ways to do this. I can tell you personally I have not paid a fee to Delta this year for a bag or a change or anything. I have had fees waived that could have been changed and only once paid a slightly higher fare “difference” to get a change done to an earlier flight. Even not so frequent flyers, if they fly enough, can use the perks of the Delta AMEX cards to avoid so much of what Delta tries to up-sell you.
What about other options like hotels and so on. No way I will ever book them from Delta. Mostly because there is no incentive to do so since all they can offer me are some bonus SkyMiles – yeah, no thanks! I can get better rewards starting at places like TopCashBack or BeFrugal and get nice rewards back. When it comes to hotels like SPG I would rather get bonus SPG points that are valuable to me. – Rene
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