They say starting an airline is an abstract form of lighting money on fire. Fuel costs, multi million dollar airplanes, crew, landing slots, the list goes on. Sometimes I feel as if the only people spreading that rumor are the heads of large airlines. I too would discourage people from entering my business if I was making 875 million dollars a year in change fees. Oh yes, that is a figure for one airline, not all of them.
Unless you are among the perfect few who’ve never had to change an airline ticket you know that it’s a horrendous experience. There’s a mandatory change fee, which can fetch as high as $400 on some airlines, a difference in the original fare price, and a seemingly never ending list of loopholes which extract cash from your pocket. Along those lines I was absolutely gobsmacked to learn that Delta made an industry leading 875 million dollars in change fees last year. We’re not even counting checked bag fee! If you are equally floored, the worst part is that Delta are not alone! United, American and others all pulled in over 800 million last year with the American/US Airways merger bringing in a combined 874,565,000. Sorry, I had to just write out all the commas for illustrative purposes. So what’s the point? This is just a sharp reminder of the new scene. The fares are lower, but they’ll get you on everything else. If you’re booking travel do your best to weed out all the caveats and change needs in the first 24 hours of booking, where you are entitled to free cancellation or change. I’d also follow my essential pre flight booking check list! If you find a low fare and are faced with $250-500 in change fees it can occasionally be best to just abandon that ticket, cancel it and pursue a brand new ticket. If a new ticket is $300 why would you pay $500 to change it?
The thing that takes me aback is that these fees do not involve any airline operations. No planes, jet fuel, airports, maintenance crews or lounges, just a person with a phone connection who can take your credit card details. Anyone want to start an airline? I have a few ideas.
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