Allegiant has quietly slipped a note into a federal filing that says it wants people to be able to pay for fuel price fluctuations after a plane ticket has already been bought. And I like it. I know, you think I’m insane for saying such a thing, but there are some very good reasons why I like this. It really is good for the gambler, er, traveler.
Let me start by saying that the idea that you can buy a ticket and then be forced to pay more if fuel goes up sounds awful in theory. I mean, people save up for their trips over time, and not having certainty around how much that would cost would really destroy a lot of plans. Had that really been Allegiant’s goal, then this probably would have earned a Cranky Jackass Award. But that’s not what they’re doing. Let me take a snippet from the filing with the DOT itself.
Allegiant is considering a new pricing option for use on its website: when making a purchase, consumers would be able to choose between a traditional “locked in” fare that would not fluctuate, and a lower fare that could change before the date of travel. That lower fare could be reduced further or could increase (up to a set maximum that would be clearly disclosed) depending on changes in fuel price between the booking and travel dates. This would be a non-compulsory alternative for consumers; it would provide them another option for potential substantial savings on their trip costs and would be clearly disclosed and explained prior to any purchase.
In other words, there would be two pricing options. Let’s just throw some numbers around for the heck of it. You could pay $100 for your flight to East Bumblef**k and never have to worry about the price changing. Or you could pay $90 and then have the price fluctuate with the price of oil after. So if oil goes down from when you bought, presumably the price would go down and you’d save money. If oil goes up, the price would go up and you’d lose money. This is perfect for an airline based in Vegas, because it’s a gambler’s dream. (I wonder if they’ll hand out those sad pamphlets about gambling addiction with the sun setting on the cover?)
So why is Allegiant talking about this in a federal filing? Well there’s a proposal that would make it illegal to have post-purchase price changes. Allegiant is arguing that it would be a good thing for consumers and that one of the alternative ways to deal with this issue that has been proposed should be accepted instead. That alternative would not just allow blanket price changes, but it would have three main requirements.
- The potential for the increase needs to be “conspicuously” disclosed to the buyer.
- The maximum potential amount of the increase must be shown.
- The customer would have to proactively agree to the arrangement before purchase.
Why does Allegiant want to do this? Because it allows the airline to sell a lower fare. And lower fares mean more people are willing to fly. As long as the disclosure is clear, then why not have this as an alternative? I can’t imagine myself ever wanting to take advantage of this option, but if others want to, then great. It lets Allegiant better match revenues with costs, and it gives customers the chance to decide if they want to play the game or not.