Cranky on the Web (May 26 – June 1)

Delta, Fares

Delta tests ‘basic economy’ fares on some flightsAtlanta Journal-Constitution
The AJC wrote about Delta’s Basic Economy fares out of Detroit and I was asked to comment.

An Argument in Favor of Fees for Aisle and Window SeatsConde Nast Daily Traveler
While people love to instantly hate on any fee, including the misguided Sen Chuck Schumer (D-NY), there is a reason to actually like the fees for choosing aisles and windows toward the front of the airplane.

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20 comments on “Cranky on the Web (May 26 – June 1)

  1. I understand the argument for seat fees, but what happens when there is a family traveling with kids? Have the airlines with such fees accommodated or does this turn into a “flying with minors fee” since airlines will not allow kids under 5 to sit by themselves. Plus, who wants a 7 or 8 y.o. to sit alone when there are parents a few rows over. Parents (or companions of special needs passengers) should not have to pay extra to be responsible citizens on the plane.

    Not completely unrelated, my wife flew on Spirit a week ago for the first time. She is not a seasoned traveler so I set her up with the bag fees and boarding pass info in advance thinking she wouldn’t know perceive a difference from other airlines. She was completely confused and frustrated at check-in (online) and at the airport because they kept trying to sell baggage fees and other items without any indication she had already paid or opted out. Very confusing and I think deceptive. I’m sure they are counting on a bit of forgetting about pre-payments and passengers double- paying of fees. This is a potential problem with the ultra-low cost model. Making money by confusing customers.

    1. Shane – The seat fees are for advanced seat assignments. If those are all taken up today, then families still face the same problem of dealing with that at the gate. With seat fees, it’s no different. If they can’t sit together in advance, then they will work it out at the airport and there won’t be a charge for that.

      1. Thanks for the clarification. I guess my bigger point was that this complication of the process can have I intended consequences. Just like bag fees which lead to passengers taking oversized and overweight bags on board without having to pay the fees and FA’s having to deal with many moreof said bags. Negative experiences all around. There is plenty of room for additional abuse by passengers and airlines alike. The unwitting or infrequent travelers are the ones who will not be able to keep track of these obscure fees and rules and will loose out in the end.

  2. No one will ever be happy with buying a tickeet and what you get for it. But while the airlines have been telling Congress not to think of them as money machines charging more/higher taxes, airlines need to stop thinking as the flying public as ATM machines.

    1. Perhaps the airlines will stop thinking of the flying public as ATM machines as soon as the public stops thinking of them as a commodity, thus forcing ticket prices down..

  3. The idea of charging for a better location is done all the time at sporting events. I have 35 yard-line lower level seats for the Arizona Cardinals. I pay quite a bit more than the guy whose seat is in a corner of the upper level. Why not have the same kind of pricing on airlines?

    1. If it was a matter of paying for a better section, I would agree. But there are some situations where the airline would possibly be saying (depending on implementation and policy) that you have to pay extra to sit with your youn child, and by the way it is the FAA regulation and our policy that you have to sit next to them. What I’d they said you can sit behind first base for $50 but if you want your kid to sit next to you their ticket if $75? That’s a closer analogy.

  4. Yay for the airlines! They’re getting something right. If the flying public wants rock-bottom fares, that’s fine. If I want a better seat, I can pay for it, that’s fine too. What could possibly be the problem?

  5. I’ll stay away from the argument about whether seat selection fees are a good idea or not, or whether they represent a family tax or not. My issue is, what happens when the airline, for one reason or another, refuses to honor an advance seat request that I paid for? This can happen for a multitude of reasons – equipment changes, schedule changes, or just plain “operational reasons” that seem to occur at random. If I pay $15 for an aisle seat in the front, and I get moved to a middle seat in the back, what are the chances that I get my money back? Given that airlines who currently charge the fees are quick to point out that seat fees are totally nonrefundable, I suspect the answer is I’m SOL, and will be told to complain to customer service if I don’t like it (in which case, I’ll be lucky to get some airline funny money or a couple thousand FF miles). To me, that’s the big problem, and what makes people angry – the airlines take your money, but are under no obligation to actually make good on the service you paid for.

    IMHO, if the airlines want to charge seat fees, they need to be willing to refund them if they can’t or won’t hold up their end of the bargain.

    1. MeanMeosh – Airlines are now required to refund seat fees (or any fee) if they can’t provide the service you paid for. So if you are displaced into a different cabin because of something the airline did, they will refund you.

  6. Delta is offering “Basic Economy” fares from Detroit becasue that face substantial competition in said city. Compare those fares to similar Delta routes originating from cities with little or no competition. The differences will blow your socks off (or a hole in your wallet)!

  7. Ha! I’m more concerned about the good Senator’s proposal that families (with runny-nosed children) be given Specail Treatment. If one wants to fly with a gaggle of children, (and wishes to sit with them) do the smart thing(s): Book well in advance, pay the modest fee for grouping your seats – or simply don’t fly. Waiting until the last instant to group your seats and then asking several other pax to more, because YOU did not plan well is not my problem. When load factors were in the 50% – 60% range, accommodating everyone was usually quite easy. In today’s environment, where load factors of >90% are common, accommodation is a very different story. As a general rule, I probably paid a lot more for my seat that you did for yours. I paid the extra fee to get the seat that I wanted and you can do the same. When I am asked to movev to a less comfortable seat, just to accommodate your lack of planning (and payment), am I offered a refund of the cost difference? No! Do I even get a ‘thank you’ from the family group? Most often, not; the view it as an entitlement and social graces are apprently foreign to them. In the future, my response to these requests will be a polite, but very firm, NO! “I will remain in the seat that I purchased.”

    1. Or fly Southwest and check in early. If there’s no seats next to each other when you board, do it the old-fashioned way and ask someone nicely. This whole issue is really overblown.

  8. I’d much rather prefer a middle between two thin people than a window or aisle next to a fat person. When will the airlines start charging for girth?

  9. Yes, it seems a win-win. Airlines are always trying to maximize revenue, and most pax seem to want a choice of seats and are willing to pay for it (a nuance of the classic 1st Class/coach, frankly.)
    Captain, A320

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