No, why don’t you pay us – we insist…

You rock up to the check in counter, ready take your first connecting flight, but after a few taps, there’s good news from the agent. The airline has instead offered you a free change to a direct flight, because the connecting flight you’re scheduled on is full, and they need to open up seats. It’s a win, win. After all, if you say no, they’ll likely need to bump someone and compensate them, so it only seems fair. American Airlines has figured out a devilish new way to tempt people into easier flight schedules, when it suits the airline, but rather than being free – it will cost $75.


$75 “Project Direct”

American Airlines knows travelers prefer direct flights, and on a case by case basis, their teams will identify reservations which may benefit from one. If your reservation is selected by American, you’ll be phoned up and offered to change from a connecting itinerary to a direct flight, for a flat fee of $75. It sounds good, doesn’t it? But here’s the thing – these changes are often offered for free in times of operational need anyway, and now they’re getting you to pay instead! American Airlines doesn’t offer this to every reservation, only ones they specifically select, so if you get an offer, you can rest assured that the need is more on their end than yours. And for now, this only applies to main cabin reservations.

Win X Lose

For some passengers, especially non price conscious passengers, this can be seen as a win. A direct flight is nice, and paying $75 isn’t unreasonable. But as of present day, on American and other airlines around the world, when it benefits an airline to move you to a direct flight, they do this for free anyway, because they need to. Airlines voluntarily move passengers to direct flights for free when they need to free up seats, because they’d otherwise face an oversold flight, where $1000’s in compensation vouchers must be dolled out to “bumped” passengers. This begs the question: why pay American Airlines to do them a favor?

Marketing

Is this a unilaterally evil move? Of course not. But unless it’s offered to all passengers, and not just reservations targeted by revenue management out of some sort of operational need, it’s a way to charge passengers for things which should – and may ultimately be free. Of course, many people will jump at the chance to move to a direct flight, but there’s certainly no one telling them “well it may be free if you just wait” on the other end of that phone. Maybe marketing is all about taking bad news and making it sound good, but it doesn’t mean we have to enjoy it. What’s next, raising baggage fees?