When buying airline tickets, be sure you understand the fare rules prior to purchase.
Several major United States airlines, including American, Delta, and United Airlines have adopted a ‘Bare Bones’ fare option to compete with so-called ‘low cost’ carriers; a term I use loosely and is a topic for another article.
Ease and Comfort or Claustrophobia and Panic Attacks?
The Basic Economy rate structure drastically limits convenience, comfort, service, and should you have 'Middle Seat Fear Syndrome', which I certainly do, it elevates anxiety levels.
The Basic economy rates do not allow preassigned seats, even when families are traveling with young children. They WILL NOT help families sit with their children. They restrict carry-ons to one personal item, will penalize you for not prepaying for checked luggage at the time you purchase your tickets, and if you need to change for ANY reason, you’re out of luck. You may not change your ticket for ANY reason. If you miss your flight, the ticket has no residual value. That’s right, NO VALUE. Not just non-refundable, but NO VALUE.
The more flexible economy rates on the above-mentioned airlines are still relatively affordable and are usually worthy of the benefits you receive. Customer service is another story. You are provided with the ability to preassign your seat, upgrade to a more comfortable seat or cabin, change your itinerary if changing your schedule is necessary (plus a hefty fee), and in most cases, carry more than a purse or laptop on board the plane.
American has chosen to relax their 'Rules" (they are rules, not limitations) to compete with Delta's similar fare structure. I've listened to many clients who would rather just pay for an airline ticket and not receive an itemized bill which at the end of the day, is an insult to their customers and can ultimately be a costlier option.
Why not invest in customer care and kindly ask for the traveling public to do business with you, as opposed to handing travelers a list of rules filled with negative verbiage?
Wording and phrases such as; You cannot, Not Permitted, Penalized, Penalty, Non-Refundable, Not Changeable, No Value if canceled, Non-Transferable, Will Not, Restrictions, and did I say, “No, No, No, and No?”
The only other organization that comes to mind which has so many rules, regulations, and penalties when you give them money is the IRS. In both cases, you are sucked into their world and your opinion does not matter. The only difference is that with the airline, you are strapped into an uncomfortable seat in a metal tube for hours.
United, Delta, and American, please listen, I’m begging you. You will NEVER be able to compete with Southwest, Spirit, Frontier, or even Jet Blue. You ask, “Why?”
It’s because they created unique brands and business models which have not changed, they target a specific type of customer, and clearly state in simple terms what the consumer is going to receive in exchange for their money.
People do not know what they are going to get when they buy a ticket from you because you’re constantly changing your business model to see if something ‘sticks’.
You need to clearly define your brand, maintain your business model (repetition works), treat your customers with respect, and exhibit gratitude to them for doing business with you, and I don’t mean the Captain on the flight thanking the white-knuckled passengers after a rough landing when he safely delivers them to the gate.
If you all did any research whatsoever, you would know that Southwest’s fares are NOT always less. In fact, many times they are more expensive, however their target market gravitates to them because Southwest has done such an amazing job at:
Creating and maintaining their brand and repetition of this message works. (Has not changed)
Educating the consumer on what the inclusions are with the purchase of the ticket.
They have simple fare structures, affordable change fees when applicable, and do not charge hideous fees when a passenger is hospitalized and cannot make the flight.
Value has ALWAYS been a component of their image. It’s never changed.
Southwest includes two checked bags in the price of the ticket.
The rule on pre-assigned seats has not changed. No preassigned seats.
They have not changed because ‘the other airlines are doing it’. First or business class cabins have not been added to Southwest Airlines’ aircraft.
I can list more reasons, but we all have some place to be…
You will never be able to compete with Southwest or other low-cost carriers because you are not one. Stop imitating and identify who you are, who your customers are, do it better than any other direct competitor, and offer something unique, that no other carrier does. These are just suggestions, but hey, I’ve just been a Professional Travel Consultant for 27 years and my input has fallen on deaf ears ever since you stopped paying commissions for your free labor source in the ‘90’s.
Contact your travel professional or the airline directly to make sure you know exactly what you are paying for, even if you plan on buying the airline component of your vacation online. The rules and restrictions are cumbersome and it’s best to know and not have any surprises.
Lindsay Larrabee Heabel, CTA
Luxury Specialists Since 1991
Platinum Vacation Specialists
855 424-6588 Ext 710